Laurie R. King takes us to exotic India just after the dawn of the
new year in 1924 as she continues her series featuring Mary Russell
and her husband, Sherlock Holmes. Holmes, as crafty as ever ---
doubly so now, paired with Russell, whose skills are nearly as well
honed as his own --- sets about the task of finding Kimball O'Hara
(from Rudyard Kipling's tales), who has been missing for three
"He's real, then?"
"As real as I am," said Sherlock Holmes.
With scant time to prepare for their journey, the couple heads out,
first traveling by train, then boarding a cruise ship. Their slow
trip allows them time to formulate a strategy and observe their
fellow shipmates. One of the passengers, and his family, attracts
their attention. After a few days of observation, he seems worthy
of closer inspection. Fortunately, they have a British contact in
the country who handles research and provides a bit of political
Once off the ship, posing as gypsy magicians, Holmes and Russell
trudge across the countryside toward the state of Khanpur. Finally,
of necessity, they split up. Mary ingratiates herself with the
suspect family, having run into them unexpectedly, and travels in
style to visit Khanpur's maharaja while Holmes continues on the
road with his rickety wagon and a young assistant.
To Mary's surprise, the maharaja, a darkly handsome man with a
streak of the spoiled child in him, has many more --- and varied
--- guests than she would ever have guessed. As she watches him,
she marvels at his excesses, ranging from obscene feasts with
endless courses of clashing flavors to vast stores of unused toys.
He amuses himself with exotic animals, expensive airplanes and
human oddities. Living ever more on the edge, the maharaja finds
more dangerous games to challenge himself and his guests --- among
his favorites, a nasty sport called pig sticking. When asked to
join, Mary cannot resist the temptation and barely lives through
Laurie R. King gently warms her readers up, guiding them across the
rugged Indian landscape and diverting their attention with tricks
of juggling, levitation and sleight-of-hand. About the time you
start to think Holmes and Russell are no closer to finding O'Hara,
suddenly the story gathers speed and builds to a wild crescendo in
the last half. Rich in magic, mystery and intrigue, THE GAME is a
tantalizingly clever story.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011