Pirate King (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #11)

Pirate King (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #11)

2.9 62
by Laurie R. King

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In England’s young silent-film industry, the megalomaniacal Randolph Fflytte is king. But rumors of criminal activities swirl around his popular movie studio. At the request of Scotland Yard, Mary Russell travels undercover to the set of Fflytte’s latest cinematic extravaganza, Pirate King.…  See more details below


In England’s young silent-film industry, the megalomaniacal Randolph Fflytte is king. But rumors of criminal activities swirl around his popular movie studio. At the request of Scotland Yard, Mary Russell travels undercover to the set of Fflytte’s latest cinematic extravaganza, Pirate King. Based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, the project will either set the standard for moviemaking for a generation . . . or sink a boatload of careers.
As the company starts rehearsals in Lisbon, the thirteen blond-haired, blue-eyed actresses whom Mary is chaperoning meet the swarm of real buccaneers Fflytte has recruited to provide authenticity. But when the crew embarks for Morocco and the actual filming, Russell senses ominous currents of trouble: a derelict boat, a film crew with many secrets, decks awash with budding romance—and now the pirates are ignoring Fflytte and answering only to their outlaw leader. Where can Sherlock Holmes be? As movie make-believe becomes true terror, Russell and Holmes themselves may experience a final fadeout.
Features Laurie R. King’s short story, Beekeepers for Beginners,  and an excerpt from Laurie R. King's Garment of Shadows.

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Editorial Reviews

Yvonne Zipp
The plot is light on both deduction and Holmes, but it's pretty charming nonetheless.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In a foreword, King, to her credit, acknowledges the implausibility of her 11th Mary Russell novel (after The God of the Hive) by having her heroine declare, "I fear that the credulity of many readers will be stretched to the breaking point by the case's intricate and, shall we say, colourful complexity of events." If anything, this is an understatement. In the fall of 1924, Sherlock Holmes, Mary's husband, uses the threat of an impending visit from his brother, Mycroft, with whom she's at odds, to persuade Mary to travel to Lisbon, where she's ostensibly to serve as a production assistant for "a film about a film about The Pirates of Penzance." In fact, she's on covert assignment for the British government to investigate the studio behind the new film, whose releases appear to coincide with an upsurge in criminal activity. Sherlockians must wait more than half the book for Holmes to put in a cameo in this action-heavy, deduction-light installment. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“An engaging romp guaranteed to please . . . perfectly written in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”—USA Today
“Brilliant . . . [This] tangled web includes some very high comedy from Gilbert and Sullivan, pirates, and early moviemaking.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Fast-paced and funny.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Audacious.” —Los Angeles Times
“Delightful and creative.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Lively adventure in the very best of intellectual company.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Rousing . . . riveting . . . suspenseful.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Beguiling . . . tantalizing.” —The Boston Globe
Library Journal
In the latest volume of Mary Russell's memoirs (after God of the Hive), Sherlock Holmes's young wife is sent to Lisbon by Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade. Her mission: investigate possible criminal activities of the Fflytte Film Company and the whereabouts of the studio's one-time secretary. Mary's strong personality and wit, on which fans of the series have come to rely, serve her well as she makes her way through the day-to-day frustrations and calamities involved in film production. She is joined by Holmes as the company and her investigation wend their way to Morocco. Russell's encounters with the cast and crew of Pirate King, along with her dislike of all things Gilbert and Sullivan, provide humorous conflict, while her crime-solving collaboration with Holmes, as always, gives readers a taste of their sharp intellect and clever deductions. VERDICT Recommended for series fans as well as devotees of historical mysteries. [See Prepub Alert, 3/7/11; Bantam will release in July King's e-novella Beekeeping for Beginners, in which Holmes relates from his point of view Russell's first weeks with him.—Ed.]—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series , #11
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Random House
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3 MB

Read an Excerpt

Ship of Fools
November 6-22, 1924


Ruth: I did not catch the word aright, through being hard of hearing...I took and bound this promising boy apprentice to a pirate.

"Honestly, Holmes? Pirates?"

"That is what I said."

"You want me to go and work for pirates."

O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea, our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free...

"My dear Russell, someone your age should not behaving trouble with her hearing." Sherlock Holmes solicitous was Sherlock Holmes sarcastic.

"My dear Holmes, someone your age should not be overlooking incipient dementia. Why do you wish me to go and work for pirates?"

"Think of it as an adventure, Russell."

"May I point out that this past year has been nothing but adventure? Ten back-to-back cases between us in the past fifteen months, stretched over, what, eight countries? Ten, if one acknowledges the independence of Scotland and Wales. What I need is a few weeks with nothing more demanding than my books."

"You should, of course, feel welcome to remain here."

The words seemed to contain a weight beyond their surface meaning. A dark and inauspicious weight. A Mariner's albatross sort of a weight. I replied with caution. "This being my home, I generally do feel welcome."

"Ah. Did I not mention that Mycroft is coming to stay?"

"Mycroft? Why on earth would Mycroft come here? In all the years I've lived in Sussex, he's visited only once."

"Twice, although the other occasion was while you were away. However, he's about to have the builders in, and he needs a quiet retreat."

"He can afford an hotel room."

"This is my brother, Russell," he chided.

Yes, exactly: my husband's brother, Mycroft Holmes. Whom I had thwarted-blatantly, with malice aforethought, and with what promised to be heavy consequences-scant weeks earlier. Whose history, I now knew, held events that soured my attitude towards him. Who wielded enormous if invisible power within the British government. And who was capable of making life uncomfortable for me until he had tamped me back down into my position of sister-in-law.

"How long?" I asked.

"He thought two weeks."

Fourteen days: 336 hours: 20,160 minutes, of first-hand opportunity to revenge himself on me verbally, psychologically, or (surely not?) physically. Mycroft was a master of the subtlest of poisons-I speak metaphorically, of course-and fourteen days would be plenty to work his vengeance and drive me to the edge of madness.

And only the previous afternoon, I had learnt that my alternate lodgings in Oxford had been flooded by a broken pipe. Information that now crept forward in my mind, bringing a note of dour suspicion.

No, Holmes was right: best to be away if I could.

Which circled the discussion around to its beginnings.

"Why should I wish to go work with pirates?" I repeated.

"You would, of course, be undercover."

"Naturally. With a cutlass between my teeth."

"I should think you would be more likely to wear a night-dress."

"A night-dress." Oh, this was getting better and better.

"As I remember, there are few parts for females among the pirates. Although they may decide to place you among the support staff."

"Pirates have support staff?" I set my tea-cup back into its saucer, that I might lean forward and examine my husband's face. I could see no overt indications of lunacy. No more than usual.

He ignored me, turning over a page of the letter he had been reading, keeping it on his knee beneath the level of the table. I could not see the writing-which was, I thought, no accident.

"I should imagine they have a considerable number of personnel behind the scenes," he replied.

"Are we talking about pirates-on-the-high-seas, or piracy-as-violation-of-copyright-law?"

"Definitely the cutlass rather than the pen. Although Gilbert might have argued for the literary element."

"Gilbert?" Two seconds later, the awful light of revelation flashed through my brain; at the same instant, Holmes tossed the letter onto the table so I could see its heading.

Headings, plural, for the missive contained two separate letters folded together. The first was from Scotland Yard. The second was emblazoned with the words, D'Oyly Carte Opera.

I reared back, far more alarmed by the stationery than by the thought of climbing storm-tossed rigging in the company of cut-throats.

"Gilbert and Sullivan?" I exclaimed."Pirates as in Penzance? Light opera and heavy humour? No. Absolutely not. Whatever Inspector Lestrade has in mind, I refuse."

"One gathers," Holmes reflected, reaching for another slice of toast, "that the title originally did hold a double entendre, Gilbert's dig at the habit of American companies to flout the niceties of British copyright law."

He was not about to divert me by historical tidbits or an insult against my American heritage: This was one threat against which my homeland would have to mount its own defence.

"You've dragged your sleeve in the butter." I got to my feet, picking up my half-emptied plate to underscore my refusal.

"It would not be a singing part," he said.

I walked out of the room.

He raised his voice. "I would do it myself, but I need to be here for Mycroft, to help him tidy up after the Goodman case."

Answer gave I none.

"It shouldn't take you more than two weeks, three at the most. You'd probably find the solution before arriving in Lisbon."

"Why-" I cut the question short; it did not matter in the least why the D'Oyly Carte company wished me to go to Lisbon. I poked my head back into the room. "Holmes: no. I have an entire academic year to catch up on. I have no interest whatsoever in the entertainment of hoipolloi. The entire thing sounds like a headache. I am not going to Lisbon, or even London. I'm not going anywhere. No."


Pirate king: I don't think much of our profession, but, contrasted with respectability, it is comparatively honest.

My steamer lurched into Lisbon on a horrible sleet-blown November morning.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Pirate King 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Felicia Gudger More than 1 year ago
Counted down with her website for its release...started reading and felt I downloaded the wrong book. King is brilliant, but this story had no purpose. Why put Russell on a boat with actors? I have read every Russell novel because the character is smart and has such a wonderful and funny relationship with Sherlock Holmes. Look forward to the next book without pirates.
FormerFanDT More than 1 year ago
I have bought and enjoyed every previous Holmes/Russel novel and looked forward to this one but after reading 2/3 of this book I am about to throw it away. The author warns us in the introduction that this may strain the reader's credulity to the breaking point, but I have been unable to find anything interesting or entertaining in this mish-mash. I hate to think that this series has run out of steam but if future novels wander around a plot-line like this one, I am done.
Grey-Paladin More than 1 year ago
This is a painfully bad entry in an otherwise great series. Frankly, I skipped over MASSIVE parts of the book, *literally*-- and lost not a bit of the actual story. I read the actual briefing on the problem, then got bored out of my MIND over the next ten pages, and skipped ahead to where Holmes actually entered the story. It says a lot about the book that *I did not lose track of the actual story by doing so!* So, what, around 150 pages? I skipped about 150 pages of *utterly unnecessary dreck!* I've enjoyed the majority of books in this series immensely (the other failure being, for me, "the Game"), but this? It read like a bad crossover fanfiction of Russell & Holmes with "the Pirates of Penzance." And maybe a bit of "Keystone Kops," too.... If the next entry isn't a significant improvement, I'm not going to continue with the series. Also, there was almost no mystery here at all-- and what there was was solved by NOTHING that either Russell or Holmes did. While I realize the the cover says "a novel of suspense," well... if you aren't bright enough to put an actual *MYSTERY* in a novel involving Sherlock Holmes? You probably have no business writing the character!
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
I just could not finish this book. I got about 1/4 through and could not keep interested. There were a couple of good moments but not many and I had to abandon it.
Bedelia More than 1 year ago
Not nearly as good as her earlier mysteries. Not a lot of Holmes in this one and really not much of a mystery either. Way too much detail on "Hollywood" type film making and little things that really don't matter that much to the mystery. Just didn't care for this book. King's last two have disappointed and I am a big fan of her writing.
LiederMadchen More than 1 year ago
This novel had me doubled up with laughter multiple times. While most books in this series deal with darker and more serious themes, this one is downright silly at times. Mary Russell, esteemed scholar, detective and wife of the infamous Sherlock Holmes, is willing to do nearly anything to avoid her brother-in-law, including, reluctantly, joining the film crew of one of the most ridiculous productions ever. The motion picture is to be about a film crew making The Pirates of Penzance only to encounter real life pirates. So, of course, the makers of the film based on people making a film about pirates and encountering real pirates, encounter real pirates. Can't you just see the potential in such a plot? This book featured a rich cast of unique and entertaining characters. Mr. Flytte, the director, is quirky, obsessed and very short. His second cousin, Geoffrey Hale, is the more sensible one. Then there is La Rocha, the piratical Portuguese man they hired to play the Pirate King...but is he really acting? And is he really Portuguese? Also, there is the plethora of blonde girls running around with fake constables and perhaps not so fake pirates. My favorite new character by far was Mr. Pessoa, the poet with multiple personality disorder and many names. He was actually a real poet, so I may have to go find some of his work now... The story went along at a good pace and there was so much going on that I never knew what was going to happen next, though I did figure out the villain fairly early (or at least one of them). The clues were subtle and well-hidden throughout the plot. I loved the Byron quotes that kept cropping um, much to Russell's irritation. I do wish that Holmes had made more of an appearance in the story, but when he finally joined in the fun truly started. His disguise put his musical talents to very good use, and that is all I am going to tell you. This book continues Ms. King's tradition of wonderful writing and complex characters and yet still manages to be completely unique. I would recommend it to lovers of mystery, light-hearted farce, pirates, film-making, poetry and...well, there is something in it for everyone. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a relief to read the other negative reviews of Pirate King, all echoing my own reaction to this latest Mary Russell novel. I've enjoyed all the other books in the series, but this one represents a surprising departure in quality. Was there no one involved in the editorial process to remark upon the deficiencies so obvious to more than half Ms. King's readers on this site alone?
karellee More than 1 year ago
I think Laurie King is a fabulous writer and have read and enjoyed every book in the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series: Unfortunately I can't say the same for Pirate King. The writing is not up to Ms. King's caliber, the story line drags and at times is silly. While some of the characters are entertaining most of them are not. I could not finish the book it was so bad and when I read the last chapter to find out how it ended I'm sure my neighbors heard me exclaim "Is she for real?" Sorry, Ms. King, but even your loyal readers ( like me) should not waste the time or money on this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being a fan of Laurie King's Sherlock & Mary Russell series, I was disappointed in this one. The first half of the book is minutia and fluff -- no action, no crime. Yes, finally a crime is attempted near the end, and there is a little action. Oh hum.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What happened to the Laurie King I love so well? I have ALL her books- even signed copies I drove to Santa Cruz to purchase. This one was so awful I forced myself to finish it to be fair. AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the banter between Holmes and Russell in previous novels by King so this book was really dissappointing to me. The characters are flat, the storyline is convoluted and there is no spark to Russell's discriptions of movie moguls, actors, pirates or travel in this memoir. It took me weeks to finish instead of the usual two or three days. I wish I had given up on it half way. If you are determined to try it, don't waste your money, check it out from a library first. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for better storylines involving Holmes and Russell in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I waited so long to read this that I was very disapointed almost from the start. It was boring and not at all what I came to expect from the author. Usually the stories are fun and involve Mary and Holmes and they make me want to read more. But I was barely able to finish and only did finish it out of loyalty to the other stories. I hope that Ms King goes back to the previous style of the better novels that she produced in the past. What a waste.
MaryKingsley More than 1 year ago
This is a tremendously funny book. While I have always enjoyed all of the Mary Russell books, I don't remember laughing out loud before.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1924 Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade sends Mary Russell to investigate rumored criminal activity by the Fflytte Film Company. Her husband Sherlock Holmes supports her going to Portugal to keep his wife and his soon to be visiting brother Mycroft from another combative round. Mary arrives in Lisbon where she obtains a position as an Assistant's assistant on the documentary about The Pirates of Penzance so she can make her inquiries undercover. She detests Gilbert and Sullivan so the chore of working that production is difficult, but so are the day to day operations with so many pratfalls. Holmes joins her as they cross the Mediterranean on the road to Morocco. As MRH says in the Author's Forward to the latest Russell memoirs (see The God of the Hive): "I fear that the credulity of many readers will be stretched to the breaking point" proves accurate as the exciting story line is over the top of the pirate ship's mast. Holmes arrives late (this is his wife's memoir), but Baker Street fans will enjoy his spouse's Peninsular adventures as this is an entertaining historical with Mary working the Pirate's King caper and dealing with a Gilbert and Sullivan production. Harriet Klausner
LarryMason More than 1 year ago
This wasn't Laurie R. King's best novel in this series, by far. The story line was a bit far-fetched, and for me at least, I never did fully accept the plot. Or care deeply about it, frankly. But, if you are into the series, I'd go ahead and read it. #12, up next, carries on from 11.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nothing much actually happened.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of Mary Russell stories, don't waste your money on this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading several negative reviews of this book, I was reluctant to purchase it. However, as I've read all the other ten books in the series (so far), I thought I would give it a try. I found it an entertaining, easy to read story. A bit far-fetched, but which of the other Mary Russell books aren't?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After a novel as strong as GOD OF THE HIVE, which followed many other excellent Russell-Holmes texts, this was a poor, poor encounter for me. Laurie King has a terrific background in religious history, political history, plot construction, etc.--how could something like this have happened!? The lightness of the operetta at its core has infected the novel, and humor is not King's strength. Characters and plot and concerns are uninteresting and frivolous--no serious purpose here. It is a difficult novel to keep reading. I'm hoping that GARMENT OF SHADOWS returns us to the best of this series and its author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This may be a bit of a clunker, but "Pirate King" is a welcome batch of humor after the intensity of its predecessors (particularly "The Language of Bees" and "The God of the Hive"). The very last paragraph had me laughing for a good ten minutes after I finished.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this was either ghost written or just dashed together to meet a deadline. It certainly was not up to the usual standards one expects from this series. I will read the next in the series but if it's no better I will assume that Ms. King has become bored with her subjects.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago