A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #2)

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Overview

Winner of the Nero Wolfe Award

 

It is 1921 and Mary Russell—Sherlock Holmes's brilliant apprentice, now an Oxford graduate with a degree in theology—is on the verge of acquiring a sizable inheritance. Independent at last, with a passion for divinity and detective work, her most baffling mystery may now involve Holmes and the burgeoning of a deeper affection between herself and the retired detective. Russell's attentions turn to the New Temple of God and its leader, Margery...

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A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #2)

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Overview

Winner of the Nero Wolfe Award

 

It is 1921 and Mary Russell—Sherlock Holmes's brilliant apprentice, now an Oxford graduate with a degree in theology—is on the verge of acquiring a sizable inheritance. Independent at last, with a passion for divinity and detective work, her most baffling mystery may now involve Holmes and the burgeoning of a deeper affection between herself and the retired detective. Russell's attentions turn to the New Temple of God and its leader, Margery Childe, a charismatic suffragette and a mystic, whose draw on the young theology scholar is irresistible. But when four bluestockings from the Temple turn up dead shortly after changing their wills, could sins of a capital nature be afoot? Holmes and Russell investigate, as their partnership takes a surprising turn.

The eagerly awaited sequel to The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Bored with family celebrations, Mary Russell follows Sherlock Holmes to London, meets a former Oxford classmate who is doing good work for a charismatic woman--a quasi-religious leader, quasi-early feminist--and becomes involved in some mysterious doings behind the spiritual scenes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The great marvel of King's series is that she's managed to preserve the integrity of Holmes's character and yet somehow conjure up a woman astute, edgy, and compelling enough to be the partner of his mind and as well as his heart. . . . Superb."—The Washington Post Book World

"As audacious as it is entertaining and moving . . . What gives Laurie R. King's books such a rich and original texture is the character of Mary—totally believable in her own right, a tall and gangling orphan with a restless intellect and a great store of moral and physical courage."—Chicago Tribune

"Mary Russell makes a triumphant return. . . . Thoroughly enjoyable."—Booklist

"Extraordinary . . . A delight."—The Washington Times

From the Publisher
"The great marvel of King's series is that she's managed to preserve the integrity of Holmes's character and yet somehow conjure up a woman astute, edgy, and compelling enough to be the partner of his mind and as well as his heart. . . . Superb."—The Washington Post Book World

"As audacious as it is entertaining and moving . . . What gives Laurie R. King's books such a rich and original texture is the character of Mary—totally believable in her own right, a tall and gangling orphan with a restless intellect and a great store of moral and physical courage."—Chicago Tribune

"Mary Russell makes a triumphant return. . . . Thoroughly enjoyable."—Booklist

"Extraordinary . . . A delight."—The Washington Times

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
King's second mystery tale of a young woman who's a protg of Sherlock Holmes. (Dec.)
Library Journal
King "found" this sequel to The Beekeeper's Apprentice (St. Martin's, 1994) in a trunk, presumably the property of narrator Mary Russell. Mary once again tells of her partnership with Sherlock Holmes, a juxtaposition of her youth (age almost 21) and Holmes's advanced middle age (59). Using disguise, guile, and ruse, Mary investigates murders in the inner clique of feminist preacher Margery Childe. Holmes assists, but the focus here is on Mary. The semiconvoluted, finely crafted late-Victorian prose is buttressed with exacting mots justes and surrounded by a nicely re-created 1920s London. A unique look at Holmes; for all collections.
School Library Journal
YA-Mary Russell, the apprentice to Sherlock Holmes first encountered in The Beekeeper's Apprentice (St. Martins, 1994), has established her own regime in and around Oxford just after World War I. Still drawn to Holmes, but seeking her own identity and the furtherance of women's rights, she pursues her studies as well as a case concerning wealthy young women and their spiritual mentor, Margery Childe. While captivated and encouraged by Margery's sermons and good works, Mary can't help wondering why several of these women have recently passed away, leaving much of their estates to Margery's association. She alternately seeks out and rebuffs Holmes. Mary has lost none of the spark and intelligence as well as individualism that so intrigued her mentor in the first book. Readers learn much of the condition of women, especially as the few remaining men return home from the war, and become aware of the class system and unequal social conditions of early 20th-century England, while engaged in a thoroughly entertaining romp through the meaner streets of London. A delight, and a worthy sequel.-Susan H. Woodcock, King's Park Library, Burke, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312427375
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 10/2/2007
  • Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series , #2
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 415,201
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurie R. King is the Edgar Award-winning author of four contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, eight acclaimed Mary Russell mysteries, and four stand-alone novels, including the highly praised A Darker Place. She lives in northern California.

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Read an Excerpt

The alarming dip of the cab caused the horse to snort and veer sharply, and a startled, moustachioed face appeared behind the cracked glass of the side window, scowling at me. Holmes redirected his tongue's wrath from the prostitute to the horse and, in the best tradition of London cabbies, cursed the animal soundly, imaginatively, and without a single manifest obscenity. He also more usefully snapped the horse's head back with one clean jerk on the reins, returning its attention to the job at hand, while continuing to pull me up and shooting a parting volley of affectionate and remarkably familiar remarks at the fading Annalisa. Holmes did so like to immerse himself fully in his roles, I reflected as I wedged myself into the one-person seat already occupied by the man and his garments.

"Good evening, Holmes," I greeted him politely.

"Good morning, Russell," he corrected me, and shook the horse back into a trot.

"Are you on a job, Holmes?" I had known as soon as his arm reached down for me that if case it were, it did not involve the current passengers, or he should merely have waved me off.

"My dear Russell, those Americanisms of yours," he tut-tutted. "How they do grate on the ear. 'On a job.' No, I am not occupied with a case, Russell, merely working at the maintenance of old skills."

"And are you having fun?"

"'Having fun'?" He pronounced the words with fastidious distaste and looked at me askance.

"Very well; Are you enjoying yourself?"

He raised one eyebrow at my clothes before turning back to the reins.

"I might ask the same of you, Russell."

"Yes," I replied. "As a matter of fact, I am enjoying myself, Holmes,very much, thank you." And I sat back as best I could to do so.

Traffic even in the middle of London tends to die down considerably by the close of what Christians mistakenly call the Sabbath, and the streets were about as quiet now as they ever were. It was very pleasant being jolted about in a swaying seat eight feet above the insalubrious cobblestones, next to my one true friend, through the ill lit streets that echoed the horse's hoofs and the grind of the wheels, on a night cold enough to kill the smells and keep the fog at bay, but not cold enough to damage exposed flesh and fingertips. I glanced down at my companion's begrimed fingers where they were poised, testing the heavy leather for signs of misbehaviour from the still-fractious beast with the same sensitivity they exhibited in all their activities, from delicate chemical experiments to the tactile exploration of a clue. I was struck by a thought.

"Holmes, do you find that the cold on a clear night exacerbates your rheumatism as much as the cold of a foggy night?"

He fixed me with a dubious eye, then turned back to the job, lips no doubt pursed beneath the scarfs. It was, I realised belatedly, an unconventional opening for a conversation, but surely Holmes, of all people, could not object to the eccentric.

"Russell," he said finally, "it is very good of you to have come up from Sussex and stood on cold street corners for half the night striking up inappropriate friendships and flirting with pneumonia in order to enquire after my health, but perhaps having found me, you might proceed with your intended purpose."

"I had no purpose," I protested, stung. "I finished my paper more quickly than I'd thought, felt like spending the rest of the day with you rather than listening to my relations shrieking and moaning downstairs, and, when I found you missing, decided on a whim to follow you here and see if I might track you down. It was merely a whim," I repeated firmly. Perhaps too firmly. I hastened to change the subject. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

"Driving a cab," he said in a voice that told me that he was neither distracted nor deceived. "Go on, Russell, you may as well ask your question; you've spent seven hours in getting here. Or perhaps I ought to say, six years?"

"What on earth are you talking about?" I was very cross at the threat of having my nice evening spoilt by his sardonic, all-knowing air, though God knows, I should have been used to it by then. "I am having a holiday from the holidays. I am relaxing, following the enforced merriment of the last week. An amusing diversion, Holmes, nothing else. At least it was, until your suspicious mind let fly with its sneering intimations of omniscience. Really, Holmes, you can be very irritating at times. "

He seemed not in the least put out by my ruffled feathers, and he arched his eyebrow and glanced sideways at me to let me know it. I put up my chin and looked in the other direction.

"So you did not 'track me down,' as you put it, for any express purpose, other than as an exercise in tracking?"

"And for the pleasurable exercise of freedom, yes."

"You are lying, Russell."

"Holmes, this is intolerable. If you wish to be rid of me, all you need do is slow down and let me jump off. You needn't be offensive to me. I'll go."

"Russell, Russell," he chided, and shook his head.

"Damn it, Holmes, what can you imagine was so urgent that I should come all the way here in order to confront you with it immediately? Which, you may have noticed, I have not done?"

"A question you finally nerved yourself up to ask, and the momentum carried you along," he answered coolly.

"And what question might that be?" I did leave myself right open for it, but once launched in a path, it is difficult to change direction.

"I expect you came to ask me to marry you."

I nearly fell off the back of the cab.
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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about A Monstrous Regiment of Women are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach A Monstrous Regiment of Women.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 64 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(31)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 64 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes- Expanded

    This second in the Mary Russell series gives the reader even more insight into the WWI era of Britain, in this case in particular the attitudes pertaining to and about women of the time. I found the mystery wrapped around the female "preacher" to be a great contrast to the murders that were happening around her. Laurie King's sense of timing enhances the relationship between the characters of Russell and Holmes. Anticipating the next repartee between these two is half the fun. I was reluctant at first to place Sherlock Holmes anywhere else but between the pages of Conan Doyle. Since reading three other books in the series I have found the partnership between Holmes and Russell to be an enhancement of Conan Doyles' masterpieces.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2007

    Not for Everyone

    If you are a Sherlock Holmes purist, I'd stay clear of this one. While it is well-written enough, its focus was clearly not on the science of deduction or the mystery itself (Which wasn't all that difficult for the reader to solve). Didn't Holmes often complain to Watson about deviation away from the science of the crime for the sake of sensationlism? Anyway, this yellow back novel is entertaining for the less strict fans who may not notice the out of character qualities in Holmes, and delightful for fans who've always had a crush on him. But for the most part, purists (Like myself) should just read Beekeeper's Apprentice and be done with it!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Just a 'middle book' after all

    This is a 'middle' book. What I mean by that is that it seems to be mostly about setting up further character and plot developments rather than completely being a story unto itself.
    We get to learn much more about Mary Russell, her coming of majority, her inheritance, and learning to deal with aspects of both.
    Interwoven in this is a mystery, Russell is met by an old Oxford chum on London's streets and asked for help with an ill fiance. She follows along to a worship service at 'the Temple' which preaches in conflict to standard mores of the times. Women are more than subservient and obedient to their male counterparts, intelligent and vital and worth just as much on their own. Into this arena falls the mystery. I won't give any more away because it IS worth the read to find out what goes on.
    Sherlock Holmes is a bit of a supporting character, sometimes only appearing in Russell's mental ponderings. Clearly it is she who is the 'star' of the tale.
    And the final surprise? After almost two books tip toeing around about the it is finally solved in an seemingly offhanded manner. "oh yes, and by the way...". Maybe I exaggerate a little, but that's how it felt.
    All that aside I DID enjoy the book and look forward to reading the next in the series "Letter of Mary". I think this was just a 'middle book' after all.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    It is no Beekeepers Apprentice

    I loved The Beekeepers Apprentice and when I finished it I immediately bought this book. I did not like this book. It was tedious, however I enjoyed learning more about Mary. I will buy the next book in the series and hope for better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An excellent sequel to a great start - definitely recommend the book and the series

    Find my full review at http://theokester.blogspot.com


    I jumped into this second book in the '<i>Mary Russell</i>' series, hoping it would be as good or better than the first novel, <i>The Beekeeper's Apprentice</i>. Beyond that, I really had no expectations.

    The book started out a little slower than I might have liked for a sequel. However, the genre and the way the book is set up essentially required a certain amount of buildup in order to set the plot for the newest mystery in the series.

    Thus, even though we already had a great deal of information about the relationship between Mary Russell and the famous Sherlock Holmes, it was vital that we learned more about Mary's studies, her "coming of majority" and receiving her inheritance, her interest in scripture/religion, and basically take the time to get to know her better.

    It's been a bit since I read the first book, but it seemed like this novel focused a lot more on Mary's character and let her come into the limelight a bit more. In <i>Beekeeper</i>, she did hold her own with Holmes in many ways, but he was often an overpowering factor. In <i>Monstrous Regiment</i>, the general setting (a feminist organization), Holmes was forced to take the passenger seat (he most definitely wasn't relegated to the back seat).

    Holmes was still very present with all of his precise observations and intense/eccentric behaviors. But Mary definitely came "of majority" both in terms of receiving her inheritance but also in terms of being a viable character and a force to be reckoned with.

    The mystery of the book was developed very gradually. Mary has a school friend who is having some 'man trouble' and seeks Mary's advice. Before we go too far into thinking that he will be at the heart of the plot, Mary is quickly invited to attend a 'service' at this "Regiment of Women" where she becomes very intrigued by the woman who controls the organization. Her intrigue grows to a combination of admiration, curiosity and finally suspicion. A handful of coincidental deaths lead Mary to dig deeper and to use some of Holmes's influence to utilize police (and other - Mycroft) records to investigate the society.

    The "man problems" subplot managed to stay in the periphery due to the man's drug addiction and I really liked the way King wove the drug addiction throughout the main plot as well. Her descriptions of the "high" and "low" points of addiction and recovery were very vivid and especially intriguing as Mary experienced some of that dark underworld.

    The final unraveling of the mystery happened a bit too quickly for me after the slow buildup. Fortunately there was an intense period towards the end that helped bridge the gap. The 'revelation' phase did work out pretty well, though part of me still felt like there were a number of unfair additions (primarily who the real villain was) but there was enough previous buildup to make it work.

    So overall, I really enjoyed this book. I had a lot of fun getting to know Russell a bit better and to learn more about her interactions with Holmes (there was on surprise referred to early on that then hangs over the entire book and partially resolves itself at the end.I'd heard rumors of this from my wife when she read the series, but the way Holmes presented this to Mary

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    New Look at Old Hero

    I've raved about King's first book in this series to everyone I know, and book two tops it. A narrower potential audience for this book, because it weaves in and out of early feminism. You are either into that or not. I'm not and I found the book thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, it was thought provoking. "Bee Keepers Apprentice" was also thought provoking but not to this extent, because the change from Victorian to Edwardian culture was less advanced in that first book.

    Also "Apprentice" did a lot more character establishment which begins to pay off in "Regiment." King masterfully sets both Character and plot in a perfect setting. Writing about Sherlock Holmes' apprentice turned paramour without broaching feminism would be like writing a book about Marry Todd Lincoln without mentioning slavery.

    This is not to say that the focus of the book is feminism. These books are about Holmes and Russell. Even the mysteries in them, though compelling, are not the main point. Its this aspect of the series I find most surprising. The Style reflects an English Cozy style novel more than Doyle's Gothic original style. So character, period, and writing style, are changed and yet Holmes is not. Superb!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2014

    I was severely disappointed by this second outing in the "B

    I was severely disappointed by this second outing in the "Beekeeper's Apprentice" series. There's much less of Holmes and much more of Mary Russell, who comes across very much as a "Mary Sue", a stand-in for the author's wish fulfillment fantasies, jammed into a Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

    While the first novel had a very Conan-Doyle type mystery to sustain its heroine's failings, this second novel really doesn't have much of a mystery at all, and the denouement is painfully obvious from about halfway through the book.

    As every "Mary Sue" must be, our Mary Russell is adored by all, and superhuman in intelligence, endurance, and in overcoming obstacles that lay low the laity. The other characters seem to be stock characters by comparison; her flighty but good-hearted friend Veronica, Veronica's battle-weary addict of a boyfriend, and the supposed antagonist of the piece, a feminist cult leader.

    There's some beautifully efficient writing in this book, but all too often in service of stock scenes that seem like bad Merchant Ivory movie footage that was wisely left on the cutting room floor.

    This period of time in world history was a fascinating breathing space between WW1 and WW2. In the midst of it, Fitzgerald gave us "The Great Gatsby". Looking back through the eyes of her "Mary Sue", King gives us a boring and pedantic look at Biblical scholarship, and avoids Women's Suffrage, the disruption to British life caused by the loss of millions of young men, and the beginning of the end of the British Empire itself.

    Instead, we focus on a female biblical scholar at Cambridge who magically and wholly unrealistically never encounters any chauvinism or boorishness at study. In reality, she probably would have been mooned at her dissertation.

    Conan Doyle succeeded by making Doctor Watson our stand-in, a man of intelligence, but not one who upstaged Holmes. Here Holmes is little more than romantic fodder for our "Mary Sue".

    Blah!

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    better than the 1st

    Love love love this series. I just started reading this series and I loved the 2nd one better than the 1st one. Great read and lots of fun.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    I loved this smartly written mystery with one foot in recent past and another in the world of Sherlock Holmes. The character of Mary Russell (Sherlock's colleague and love) is wonderful. From the very first page, I could not put it down and period mysteries are not usually my cup of tea. King is a very competent writer who seems to draft her plot in advance and not wait till the end to draft a finale.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Not quite as good as the first one

    It did have an intriging plot most of the time. It drifted some of the times.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2011

    An intertaining book. You will want to read more of Mary Russell.

    I found it fast moving and enough of a mystery that I kept reading it. I wanted more. There was history. I learned about Women's rights in England. Their fight for independence and rights was awesome. Young women will enjoy as well as all ages. It would make a great book club book. The discussions would be interesting and varied.

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  • Posted September 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A brilliant mystery

    This is the darkest book in the series, and one of my favorites. Holmes and Russell have been together for years now, and their relationship is going through another change. Russell is now an adult and ready to explore. When she takes a case of her her own, Holmes has to take a step back and let her go her own way. This book is the one that really sets the tone of their future partnership. Holmes' understated yet very intense emotions come even closer to the surface when Russell is threatened, adding another layer to their already complicated feelings.


    The character of Margery Childe is complex, unique and fascinating. She has such a mixture of passion, intelligence and ignorance. Her vibrant personality draws people to her like moths to a flame, including Russell. People around Margery are dying, but is she the one to blame? Margery's theological philosophy combined with Russell's expertise in the field lead to some interesting conversations that really get you thinking. Also, Margery is a wonderful illustration of both the pros and cons of extreme feminism.


    Drug use plays a very important role in the story. First with young Miles, the fiance of an old friend of Russell's who has returned damaged from the Great War. Then with Russell herself. Not wanting to give anything else away, I will just say that the latter half of this novel becomes deeply personal and painful for both Russell and Holmes.


    I became so engrossed in the characters of this novel, their flaws and imperfections, their emotions and reactions. This novel has some of the best character development I have ever seen. I would recommend this book to all lovers of mystery, historical fiction and well-written characters. It is not one to be missed.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

    Good read

    Started with the Bee Keepers Apprentice not realizing this was the start of a series. Books can be read individually without needing the books before or after to follow. Enjoyed the 1st so have read all but the last 3 and I'm working my way to the end.
    I enjoyed the story line, plot, locations and characters.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2003

    Love all the Mary Russell Stories!

    This is one of my favorites of the Mary Russell series. I am an avid Holmes fan,and unlike other Holmes pastiches, this one lives up to the original.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 21, 2010

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    Posted September 5, 2012

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    Posted February 24, 2011

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    Posted September 13, 2011

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