Author Laurie R. King dedicates her 12th novel in the Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series to “those who reach across boundaries with a hand of welcome.”
Those new to the series are in for a treat. This is by no means the Sherlock Holmes who is well-renowned for his infamous cases involving his partner Dr. John Watson. King’s books feature an elderly Holmes, long retired from detecting and now living a life as a bee-keeper and married to the much younger Mary Russell. Mary fills the void once held by Watson as Holmes partner and sidekick. Their adventures have taken them around the world with Holmes’ still brilliant mind often working through his wife as they outwit evil and bring justice where needed.
"Through the eyes, ears and unsurpassable wit of the Holmes/Russell team, this dangerous battle creates constant tension and a crisis that even their mighty minds and courageous spirit may not be able to overcome."
Much has happened since the last novel, PIRATE KING. Having left the film crew that got mixed up with real life Barbary Pirates, Russell and Holmes become separated. Russell is last seen in the company of a young child --- and then suddenly disappears. When GARMENT OF SHADOWS opens, we find Mary Russell in an amnesiac state not knowing who she is. More startling is that she is dressed like a Middle Eastern woman living a solitary life in the shadows of Morocco. How did she get here and why is the question that initially goes unanswered.
In addition to trying to piece together clues that will lead him to his missing wife, Holmes is also driven by close friends and a distant cousin, who have enlisted his aid in trying to stop a sudden conflagration. The revolt involves France, Spain and the Rif Republic, which is led by a Middle Eastern Robin Hood-like figure named Emir Abd el-Krim. War is looming over Moroccan city of Fez and will surprisingly bring Holmes near to where Mary Russell is living.
Meanwhile, Mary is battling her own inner demons and trying to figure not only who she is but why she has awakened garbed like a Moroccan with blood on her hands and angry guards pounding on her door. The symbolism of the title stands for many things --- in this situation, the strange garments in which Mary is clad and the shadows that cloud her mind. The amnesia bit goes on a tad too long, but fear not --- Russell and Holmes find each other amidst the beating war drums of the Rif Revolt, and not a moment too soon.
GARMENT OF SHADOWS strays far from the typical Sherlock Holmes mystery and jumps directly into the historical thriller genre. The actual Rif Revolt was a relatively short-lived affair eventually shut down by combined French and Spanish forces in 1926. Through the eyes, ears and unsurpassable wit of the Holmes/Russell team, this dangerous battle creates constant tension and a crisis that even their mighty minds and courageous spirit may not be able to overcome.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 5, 2012