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

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

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. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553907544
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/06/2011
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series , #11
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 117,158
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen Mary Russell mysteries, five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, the Stuyvesant & Grey novels Touchstone and The Bones of Paris, and the acclaimed A Darker Place, Folly, and Keeping Watch. She lives in Northern California.

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.

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Pirate King 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 97 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.
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. :)
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.
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
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.
cyderry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Honestly, Holmes? Pirates?"The opening words of the latest installment of the Mary Russell series, show the reader that we are in for some fun rather than the heavy dramatic volumes of the last few books. We see again the frivolity of the earlier adventures even though Holmes doesn't really surface until mid story.How many of us have accepted just about any dutiful activity to avoid time with the in-laws? Mary Russell heads off to perform a favor for Inspector LeStrad to escape two weeks with Mycroft Holmes when he comes for a visit. She heads out to be the assistant to a filmmaker who is taking the story of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" and putting it on film. Rather than trying to film in London, the production is headed to Portugal to hire actors to be the pirates.Russell is overwhelmed with Stage mothers for the many little blonde actresses and the pirates that are hired to play actors who are playing pirates. When they arrive in Morocco however, they women are imprisoned separately from the men and here is where the fun begins.When I started this book I had great expectations but was disappointed as it progressed at the beginning however, once Mary Russell is joined by the magnificent Sherlock Holmes the book takes off. The dialogue was entertaining throughout and the situations were recollections of the old Russell and Holmes of the early adventures.The light hearted antics were a pleasant change from the previous books but I hope that Ms. King will return to the deeper mysteries showcasing Holmes and Russell's talents in the future.
Basbleu0 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like other readers, I was disappointed in this volume of Russell and Holmes' investigations. The sharp writing and deft characterisation shown in earlier outings seemed to have belonged to some other writer. I hope ther series has not run out of steam.
nocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I kind of got lost reading this, it's entertaining enough and I certainly didn't dislike it, but it didn't hold my attention as much as the recent Mary Russell books have done.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With the subject of the "Pirates of Penzance" combined with a silent film that is a story within a story, this novel takes on the feel of a farce so that the danger always seems a little unreal. The up-close view of silent film making was interesting, and just when I was beginning to wonder where in the heck Sherlock was, he showed up (yay!).
kmartin802 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an engaging episode of the long-running Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series that began with The Beekeeper's Apprentice in 1994 and continues in this eleventh story. This is a lighter episode than the previous one. Mary is asked by Inspector Lestrade to go undercover with a company making a pirate movie to discover the fate of a missing secretary. The film crew also seems to be followed by crimes that mirror the plots of the films - drugs, illegal arms sales, and rum running. Her immediate response is to refuse but then she recalls that Holmes' brother Mycroft is coming to stay at their home for two weeks. Suddenly, pirates and movie crews are much more appealing.Mary is quickly immersed in all the drama that surrounded the early days of silent film. She must deal with an extremely flamboyant director who is obsessed with realism, a bevy of demanding blonde actresses (and a few stage mothers), and pirates. The plot of the film is that a movie is being made of The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan. This leads to a lot of confusion as we have actors playing double roles as a character in The Pirates of Penzance and in the cast making the movie. Determined as he is on realism, Randolph St. John Warminster-Fflytte determines that the film will be shot in Portugal and Morocco. While many of the principal actors have been cast in England, including thirteen young ladies, Fflytte waited until he reached Portugal to cast his pirates. The Portuguese interpreter leads him to La Rocha and his crew of shady figures. This was a very entertaining story that also gives a glimpse of the early days of film-making. I liked Mary's interaction with the various actresses. I liked that she began investigating one crime but soon found herself involved in something more complex and more dangerous. My only regret was that Sherlock Holmes made a late appearance in the story and we didn't get to see as much of him as in earlier episodes. Those scenes with Sherlock and Mary were still wonderful glimpses of their marriage of equals. I recommend this book for fans of the series but do recommend that new readers wait to read this one until after they have caught up on the series. This one is for fans of historical, literary mysteries.
Kirconnell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wish that I could say that I enjoyed this book as much as I loved the rest of the Mary Russell series, but I can't. Sherlock Holmes is just as clever and Mary Russell is just as courageous, but the plot simply doesn't go anywhere. I feel as if I am on a sailing ship becalmed at sea. There are exotic locations and characters. In fact , I am drowning in characterizations some good and some mediocre, but the story still lags. When I reached the end of the book I was so disappointed. However, I can't fault Ms. King's writing ; it is wonderful as always. I hope that the next release is more satisfying. Recommended if you want to carry on with the series otherwise no.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What do you get when you combine Shakespeare's play within a play within a play, Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" and Fernando Pessoa as translator/anarchist/poet/philosopher? Why what could it possibly be but the 11th installment of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. Mary finds herself "awash in a sea of megalomaniacs" and having a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure. I really enjoyed King's witty writing and chuckled out loud several times. You don't have to have read the earlier novels, but I think they are worth reading and just enhance the level of enjoyment, particularly in terms of the Russell-Holmes interactions. Fun read!
mysterymax on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Did [[Laurie King]] actually write this book? By Chapter Six I was hoping that it started to get better soon. By Chapter Nine I was wondering why I was reading it. By Chapter Twelve I figured I would skim parts. By Chapter Fifteen I decided to look ahead to see if Holmes would ever show up. When I found the place where he does, I just didn't care anymore.This has been such an enjoyable series. I'm not sure why King decided to go off and try this type of story, but it is not what I pick up her books for. Even if it had been a stand-alone story I wouldn't have enjoyed it. It was slow, without compelling force and one of the disappointments of my reading this year. There was little, or no, mystery. There were no characters that you could care about in the slightest and even Mary Russell seemed to have lost her luster.
Kathy89 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a sedative for me. I'm finding Mary Russell very abrasive and not likeable in her more recent books. Does she love her husband? Anyway, Mary is acting as a crew member on a movie set filming the making of a movie, Pirates of Penzence. She agrees to do this to avoid Mycroft's visit and Sherlock doesn't join the case of the missing secretary and real life pirates until 3/4 of the way through.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Step right up, folks, to the latest in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. In this her 11th full-length book, King has, as usual, written a book that is completely different from its predecessors; it¿s one of her great strengths as a writer that she can do so, and just about flawlessly.This time, she¿s written farce.Holmes has been contacted by Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard about crimes that have been associated with films produced by England¿s premier film company, Fflyte Films. Lestrade wants Holmes to go undercover to accompany the film company as it sets out on its latest production: a film of a film (yes, you read correctly) about Gilbert and Sullivan¿s operetta, The Pirates of Penzance. Because of Randolph Fflyte¿s (Fflytes of Fancy!) fanatic devotion to realism, no, it won¿t be filmed on the Cornwall coast, because Englishmen are not swarthy enough to be pirates! So, Realism dictates that the cast to Lisbon Portugal must go in search of the correct skin tone and Realism. Russell, who is posing effectively as the executive producer¿s amanuensis, comes very swiftly to loathe the word.And so it goes, with an overflowing cast of characters (13 daughters, 13 pirates, and 6 constables, not to mention others),, a bare wisp of a plot, and lots of Russell-style ironic humor.The look at the silent film industry is superficial but fun, the view of 1924 Portugal is superficial but fun, and the depiction of Fernando Pessoa, Portugal¿s premier poet (and multiple personality) is also superficial but fun.In fact, that¿s the operative adjective. The book is extremely lightweight but fun, a rollicking good time for all with a story line that could itself be the subject of a comic operetta. If you¿re not expecting the seriousness and weight of previous books such as The God of the Hive and just let yourself relax and let go, you will enjoy yourself immensely in this tongue-in-cheek bit of froth from an outstanding author.Highly recommended.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was loads of fun! A book, about a film company producing a film which needs pirates, about a film company producing a film which needs pirates (no, that's not a duplicate typo) to produce a film about a stage company producing a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, in which, at several levels, the pirates get out of hand and behave like pirates! Yes, it is. I love the tone of this, very in keeping with G&S, a lovely relief from the last two Russell and Holmes books which were so very serious. I reveled in this tale from beginning to end. Thank you Ms. King!