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Kirkus ReviewsOxford theologian Mary Russell, now living quietly in Sussex with her husband Sherlock Holmes, is thunderstruck with the explosive potential of a document her old acquaintance, amateur archeologist Dorothy Ruskin, brings her from a dig in Palestine: a letter from one Mariam of Magdala identifying herself as an apostle of Jesus. What would the Church say to the possibility of a woman having been a full-fledged apostle? What might the letter do for our understanding of Mary Magdalene? And what to make of the persistently unvoiced parallels between Russell and her storied progenitor? Soon after leaving Russell and Holmes, Dorothy Ruskin is killed in a traffic accident her hosts prove was murder as they fall into a scramble for Miss Ruskin's meager possessions—and into a long, keen disappointment for fans of King's distinctively feminist Sherlockian pastiches (A Monstrous Regiment of Women, 1995, etc.). Plotting has never been King's strong suit (as it never was Conan Doyle's), but, here, her episodic story—Russell and Holmes going as spies into the houses of suspects whose personalities pale before the richness of the inspectors' before allowing Holmes to produce one of his most gratuitous final coups—is surprisingly unworthy of her richly suggestive premise.
Fans will find all of King's accustomed literacy and empathy on display. But, like Amanda Cross, she seems bent this time on crossing the line from the detective story to the discursive essay. Even Holmes is muffled.