The Barnes & Noble Review
My dictionary defines "pastiche" as "a literary piece made up of selections from various works." "Homage" is sort of the same thing. But "lazy writing" is an even more precise way of putting it. It's too easy, in many cases, to write a novel using famous literary heroes without bringing anything of your own to the process. For instance, there have been many lame Sherlock Holmes pastiches this century. Even writers as gifted as John Dickson Carr couldn't effectively take us back to Conan Doyle's London. In the '60s and '70s, the Holmes pastiche subgenre got especially hot. Some good books were written, especially by Nicholas Meyer. But not until Laurie R. King came along in 1994 with her Mary Russell novels did one see how seriously a pastiche could be handled.
Mary Russell is a young Englishwoman who is a Sherlock wannabe. Brainwise, as the advertising folk would say, she is even superior in certain respects. Or so, at least, it seems to me. (I know not everybody will agree I guess it's just because she's so fetching, she seems brighter.) Holmes and Mary get along immediately, and she joins him as an apprentice of sorts in his crime solving.
Singular and fresh as the setup is, it could quickly degenerate into sitcom formula. But King doesn't let it. In her new Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes novel, King takes us to Jerusalem circa 1918, where we see that the historical Jerusalem had its own problems, many of which were not unlike those of the Middle East today.
Here, Mycroft Holmes asks brother Sherlock to help him solve a very serious political intrigue. Andit'shere that King's superior skills as a novelist are on full display. She creates a fully detailed portrait of time and place, while never failing to fully exploit the charming relationship of Mary and Sherlock. It's a book with something for everybody. I learned a lot about Middle Eastern history, and I had a great time doing it.
Laurie R. King is a major new voice in mystery fiction. If you have any doubt of that, pick up O Jerusalem. It works on every level.
O Jerusalem marks the fifth appearance of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (The Moor, LJ 12/97). This time around they have fled to Palestine on a mission for Mycroft Holmes. Disguised as itinerant Muslims and paired with two Arab spies, Russell and Holmes travel through the Holy Land trying to figure out exactly why Mycroft has sent them. A pair of seemingly unrelated murders sets them on the track of a brilliant and power-hungry killer. Only Holmes and Russell (along with some unexpected allies) can stop their adversary from destroying Jerusalem--if they can get to him in time. King's clear prose and her vivid depiction of a British-occupied Palestine torn between opposing cultures are the book's main strengths. A bit slow at the start, the action gradually builds to a satisfying and dramatic conclusion. Strongly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/99.]--Laurel Bliss, New Haven, CT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Feisty Mary Russell and frosty Sherlock Holmes in a fifth adventure (The Moor, 1998, etc.)this one retroactive. Under cover of night, the two have been smuggled into British- occupied Palestine to do a job for MycroftMycroft Holmes, that is, the great detective's older (and some say smarter) brother. It's 1919, which shoves the Russell-Holmes saga back four years. Full-fledged partnership lies in the future since Mary, at 19, is still wet behind the ears as a ratiocinator. Marriage merely shimmers before them, an outcome with as little substance at this point as a Negev Desert mirage. True, Holmes does like the look of his young apprentice, but he is also twice her age. The why of the backward flip has to do with manuscript material newly available, but what really matters is Mycroft's mission. It seems that Edmund Allenbythe military hero whose tactical brilliance smashed Turkey's centuries-long control over Jerusalemis in danger. Mycroft, a consummate danger-sniffer on behalf of the Commonwealth, is convinced of Allenby's imminent peril but unable to isolate or better define the circumstances. It's up to Russell-Holmes to give the threat shape. Which they do, thanks to the help of two remarkable British agents posing as Arabs, but only after numerous setbacks at the hands of fanatical adversaries. One is an unreconstructed Turk, as devious as he is sadistic; another is a villainous Englishman, mistakenly trusted in high places. Will Russell-Holmes repay Mycroft's faith in them by rising to the challenge? A bit thin as to plotand sedate as to pacebut Holmes gets to strut his stuff now and again so fans of the series aren't likely to complain.
"Part spy story, Part murder mystery...and part thriller moving to an explosive climax."—Booknews from The Poisoned Pen
“Inspired.” —Chicago Tribune
"Fascinating...[King has] stepped onto the sacred literary preserve of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, poached Holmes, and brilliantly brought him to life again...a standout."—Washington Post Book World