Happy Thursday everyone!
I’ve been meaning to have this review posted since last week, but life kept interfering. With any luck, it won’t be the only one up today.
DISCLAIMER: O Jerusalem is the fifth book in the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King, but isn’t the fifth chronologically so there’s little chance for spoilers series wise, though there are potential ones for the first book. Ye be warned…
Sherlock Holmes and his nineteen-year-old apprentice Mary Russell enter British-occupied Palestine under the auspices of Holmes’s enigmatic brother, Mycroft. Their arrival coincides with a rash of unsolved murders that has baffled the authorities and seems unrelated to the growing tensions in the area among Jew, Moslem, and Christian. Still, no one is too pleased at Holmes’s insistence on reconstructing the most recent homicide in the desert gully where it occurred.
What they unexpectedly uncover will lead Russell and Holmes through an exotic gauntlet of labyrinthine bazaars, verminous hovels, cliff-hung monasteries—and into mortal danger. In the jewel-like city of Jerusalem, they will at last meet their adversary, whose lust for power could reduce the city’s most ancient and sacred place to rubble and ignite a tinderbox of hostilities just waiting for a spark.…
As aforementioned, O Jerusalem was the fifth novel published in the Mary Russell series, but is itself not a sequel but a midquel (TBH: had to look up the proper term, but even them I’m uncertain that this is the right idea – there are so many – look out for a potential post on the numbers ‘quels’ in the future!). Much like how A Horse and His Boy is a separate novel whose narrative fits into a gap within The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ classic Chronicles of Narnia, O Jerusalem tells a story that is set within a gap that transpires in the first novel’s original storyline. Confused yet ;P
Without going into too much detail and potentially spoiling The Beekeeper’s Apprentice for you, just know that O Jerusalem is set within the time frame of the that novel.
As always, King proves her ability to create vivid images, this time bringing to life the world of Palestine. With captivating detail, she draws a picture of Jerusalem, honouring it through her words. It’s enough to inspire my desire to visit the Holy City even more!
And yet, I left this novel feeling a little less than satisfied. Some of you know that The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is one of my favourite books. I’m a big Sherlock fan. That’s an understatement. And I love the twist of bringing in a fresh female character who isn’t a Mary Sue, but an intelligent yet flawed character with a tragic past and a can-do spirit! Mary Russell is a stellar protagonist. And yet, O Jerusalem does very little to build her character until the very end.
The biggest problem for me was that it felt that most of the novel’s beginning had Sherlock and Mary being dragged through the plot, instead of being in charge of it. Perhaps the issue is the necessary cultural ramifications of having a woman in Palestine, but the plot still felt lacking in proper stakes and conflict at times.
The last 100 pages or so were much better than the rest of the novel, focusing more on Holmes and Russell and giving them a chance to take ownership of the narrative. I wish there could have been more of it throughout.
I still really enjoy this series as a whole and know that I’ll read the next one (I ordered it two days ago because they don’t have it in stock at Chapters). I just hope that these later novels recapture the delight I felt when I read the first book.
If you haven’t read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I highly recommend you do. It’s not only a great mystery, but Mary is such a wonderful character, full of spunk and wit!
May inspiration flow like ink upon your quill,