Although O Jerusalem is Laurie King's fifth book in her Holmes-Russell series, it actually takes us back to the era of her first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Perhaps King was afraid that her characters, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, were becoming too cozy as an old married couple, and she wanted to recreate the edgy sexual tension of their first encounter.
It's 1918. Nineteen-year-old Mary and her fiftysomething mentor are forced to flee England to escape a deadly adversary. Sherlock's well-connected brother Mycroft sends them to Palestine to do some international sleuthing. Here, a series of murders threatens the fragile peace.
Laurie King connects us, through details of language, custom, history, and sensual impressions, to this very alien environment. Russell, Holmes, and two marvelously imagined Arab guides named Mahmoud and Ali trek through the desert and visit ancient monasteries clinging like anthills to cliffs. They also find time to take tea with the British military legend Allenby in Haifa and skulk through or under the streets of Jerusalem. King puts us into each scene so quickly and completely that her narrative flow never falters.
Stepping back in time also gives King a chance to show us Holmes through the eyes of a Russell not yet as full of love as a honeymooner, nor as complacent as a comfortable wife. "There it was--sardonic, superior, infuriating," Mary says about Holmes's voice at one point.
Wisdom is knowing when, and how much, to shake things up--even in a successful series. Laurie King is a wise woman indeed. --Dick Adler--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: Desert story leaves the reader with a terrible thirst!, July 31, 2003 Reviewer: Mark Savary from Seattle, WA Despite the low rating I have offered on this book, I have to admit that I enjoyed a good deal of it thanks mostly to Ms. King's wonderful ability to paint the story with detail and description that approaches the turn-of-the-century writing fitting for Holmes. Unfortunately, the excellent descriptive elements of the narrative are wasted due primarily to the creeping paralysis of modern social views that take over the story from time to time. The book strays a bit too often into the desert of political correctness, if not blatant feminism (why, *naturally* a nineteen year old girl can be the intellectual equal of Sherlock Holmes, beat up a man twice her size, properly enlighten Arabs on respecting women, etc.). Perhaps it is simply the author's personal need to speak out about the injustices of past history and lierature in the only way that she felt was open to her. While a noble cause (albeit somewhat misguided), I'd much prefer it be done on her own time and not on the time of those who enjoy a good Holmes story. Even if the reader is not nettled by the "enlightning" of characters set a century in the past, there are still other problems with the book. For example, the main character (Russell of course, not Holmes), seems drawn to prattling about her religion (another personal stake for the author?). Doesn't seem to fit a Holmes story, but that isn't what we really have with "O Jerusalem" anyway. The banner at the top of the paperback's cover reads: "A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and her partner Sherlock Holmes" (HER partner?! Holmes a second-stringer?!). Clearly this implies that Russell, not Holmes, is the star of the story (and she is), so why bother with Holmes at all? Why not just introduce the character and let her grow on her own as a 1920's detective? If the author desires to create a character such as Mary Russell, why not just do so? The answer is that what we have here is yet another writer attempting to graft their own, new characters into the already well-established world of Holmes, both for support as well as marketing. After all, unless an author has name value (such as a Stephen King or John Grisham), chances are a reader will purchase a new book with an established character like Holmes rather than take a chance on a new series with an unknown lead like Russell. If the new character being introduced has any worth at all (as the Russell character seems to have), then it should be able to stand on its own without the crutch of Holmes to support it. The fact that the author chose to tack on to her series the immortal name of Sherlock Holmes speaks more of a lack of faith in her new character rather than an honest desire to expand upon the world founded by Doyle. Compare this series to the excellent work of Quinn Fawcett and his Mycroft Holmes books, and you'll see what I mean. Fawcett obviously respects the characters as offered by Doyle, in the world offered by Doyle. He expands upon them in a proper and fitting way, while at the same time introducing his new characters into the story. At no time do any modern, pet personal causes of the author take over the narrative, and so there are no distractions from the late Victorian setting of the story. The pity is that Ms. King has a great talent for description and action that fits nicely with the style of Doyle. If only Ms. King would undertake to write a straight, old-fashioned Holmes/Watson mystery, rather than bowdlerizing the works of Doyle with modern viewpoints and characters, the Holmes audience would be much better served.