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

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

by Laurie R. King

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Overview

A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #2) by Laurie R. King

The dawn of 1921 finds Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes's brilliant youngapprentice, about to come into a considerable inheritance. Nevertheless, shestill enjoys her nighttime prowls in disguise through London's grimy streets,where one night she encounters an old friend, now a charity worker among thepoor. Veronica Beaconsfield introduces Russell to the New Temple of God, acurious amalgam of church and feminist movement, led by the enigmatic,electrifying Margery Childe. Part suffragette, part mystic, she lives quitewell for a woman of God from supposedly humble origins. Despite herself,Russell is drawn ever deeper into Childe's circle. When Veronica has anear-fatal accident—and turns out to be the fourth bluestocking in the groupto meet with misadventure after changing her will—Russell and Holmes launch aquiet investigation. But the Temple may bring the newly rich Russell farcloser to heaven than she would like...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553574562
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1996
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series , #2
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 330
Product dimensions: 4.16(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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

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.

Table of Contents

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.


Discussion Questions

1. Throughout the novel, Laurie King plays with the idea of religion fulfilling not just spiritual but earthly needs, e.g. in the way that Margery Childe responds to the political desires of independent women, and also in the brief passage in which Veronica recounts her time in Italy, and her crush on a handsome priest. What does King's novel say about the intersection of religious and secular life, or the relationship between the two? To what degree does each character know what they want, and how to get it?

2. Margery Childe gives more than one radical reading of the first lines of Genesis, exploring not only the power of creation but of love. While Mary is always keen to scrutinize Childe's theology, what is the deeper affect of Childe's sermons on Mary? In what ways does King play with the age-old struggle between faith and reason in the novel? Are "faith" and "reason" at play as well when a man and woman are falling in love?

3. Is a mystery novel propelled by the movement of its plot or the dimension of its characters? In A Monstrous Regiment of Women the characters arrive with considerable depth and pathos. Margery Childe is described: "She shut her eyes for a long moment. When she openedthem, the magic had gone out of her, and she was just a small, tired, disheveled woman in an expensive dress, with a much-needed drink and cigarette to hand." In what ways do such descriptions and depth enhance the mystery and suspense of the story?

4. Laurie King draws significantly upon the history of the feminist movement in England. Would you say the book itself has a political point of view? What do you see as the difference between the feminist movements of then and now?

5. The Great War brought with it considerable social upheaval. In what ways does King show the impact of the war upon her characters – From Miles, Ronnie's fiancé, to Mary Russell and to Holmes himself?

6. From the food, to the wall hangings, to the style of dress, to the social and political attitudes of each character, to the presence of narcotics, Laurie King adorns and enriches her story with much historical detail. In what ways do these details, both small and large, help evoke the world of the story? What details were the most surprising to you?

7. In the Conan Doyle books, Watson at times seems like a surrogate for the reader, whom Holmes guides through the intricacies of the mystery. Could the same be said of Mary Russell? What are the differences between how she and Watson tell a story?

8. Both Mary Russell and Margery Childe come into a great deal of money, and both certainly have a taste for luxury. What moral dilemma do they face each time they spend money? Is Laurie King saying something about the moral implications of wealth? Of charity?

9. Perhaps humanity's greatest mystery is that of its existence, and some would say that the Bible is the case file of that mystery. Discuss the theological point of view of Monstrous Regiment, and how Mary's journey deep into the Bible at once illuminates the novel's ideas – about money, love, faith, and charity – and how it helps to move the mystery forward.

10. At the end of this book, a twenty-one year old woman marries a fifty-nine year old man. Does this strike you as outside, or within, the social norms of the time? In what ways do Russell and Holmes seem to reflect the values of their age, and in what ways do they seem progressive or ahead of their time? Do you think that historical fiction sometimes tends to overstate the propriety of that day and age? What seems to be King's take?

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A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell Series #2) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Cher58 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
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.
siubhank on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Mary Russell is a week away from her 21st birthday and has finished her studies at Oxford. Finally at an age where she inherits her parents vast estate, she struggles with her newfound freedom, the burden of responsibility and starts to look at parts of herself and Holmes that she'd been able to avoid when she was a girl. In an effort to distance herself from him a bit, Mary renews an Oxford friendship and finds herself drawn to the charismatic leader of a feminist church/society movement, intellectually and spiritually. A series of deaths attached to the society sends Mary and by proxy, Holmes himself into the investigation. Mary is exposed to the seamiest sides of London as she tries to balance depending on Holmes with wanting to do things her own way. A lot has been made of the romance between Mary and Holmes -but the romance is still sparingly written and is actually kind of sweet. A reader looking for passionate clinches and sex is not going to find it in these books; even compared to the tamest of today's romance novels, the scenes here are the mildest of mild.
Kathy89 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Mary Russell turns 21 and inherits her fortune while studying for her final exams at Oxford. Through a friend she gets involved in a woman's religious movement and puts her life in danger. Sherlock Holmes to the rescue and they realize that they can not live without one another.I really enjoyed the pygmalion aspect of this book. This is my favorite of the Russell/Holmes series.
alanna1122 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I really enjoyed this book. I was nervous at first that I hadn't left enough time between this and my reading of "the beekeeper's apprentice" when the first chapter seemed a little *too* familiar... but it really picked up from there. I thought the plot was interesting and inventive. I didn't think the ending was too surprising... but in a way it was refreshing to have an ending that was not too contrived and made sense inthe contet of the book...I am looking forward to the next one!
Anonymous 10 months ago
Just reread it after a number of years for the pleasure of spending time with young Mary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the part where Russell was teasing Mrs. Hudson about wearing her apron to bed.
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It did have an intriging plot most of the time. It drifted some of the times.
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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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