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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

Title:  Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #13)

Author: Laurie R. King
Publisher: 17 th February 2015 by Bantam
ISBN: 0345531809 (ISBN13: 9780345531803)
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, cultural Japan
My Rating:  two crowns


For years now, readers of the Russell Memoirs have wondered about the tantalizing mentions of Japan. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes had spent three weeks there, between India (The Game) and San Francisco (Locked Rooms). The time has finally come, to tell that story.
It is 1925, and Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes arrive home to find…a stone. A stone with a name, which they last saw in the Tokyo garden of the future emperor of Japan. It is the first indication that the investigation they did for him in 1924 might not be as…complete as they had thought. In Japan there were spies, in Oxford there are dreams. In both places, there is a small, dark-haired woman, and danger.

My thoughts:

This was my first book by Laurie R. King and sad to say, it will be my last. I was excited by the premise and pictured myself immersed in a thought provoking Sherlock Holmes suspenseful mystery – not to be. Reading more like a travelogue and FULL of detail that lent so very little to the wafer thin plot as it stood, I could not wait for the tale to be over.

The fact that the emphasis was on Mary and not Sherlock Holmes did not concern me, but surely using that name as a point of reference would lend some depth to the tale?  Yet the relevance of so many conversations and details were highly questionable and the fact that I had to read 50% of the book before I found out what the whole purpose was all about was ridiculous. Halfway through and finally:

“What is the thing your young Emperor-to-be wants us to retrieve”.

I almost wanted to give up on the book but because of my faith in Sherlock mysteries, I decided to stick with it. Still, it has to be said that wading through half a book with a whole lot of nuthin’ is really hard going without a skerrick of actual detective work. There were entire paragraphs dedicated to describing cuff links:

“The cufflinks I had chosen for him were oval, and two millimeters larger than his usual studs. Their shiny black surface was circled by a pencil-thin line of red enamel and set with a ruby in approximately one millimetre….”
(And it went on further in the description)

In all fairness, there is obviously a contingency of people who love this series (it is number 13 – she must be doing something right?) and it is clear that the factual material in this book was well researched. However due to that amount of detail in describing scenes and historical events, it began to read more like a travelogue. There were far too many pages dedicated to descriptions and minute details for my liking. There was a lot to read about cruise ships and cultural Japan in the 1920s and it's not that it's not interesting; it's just that it took away from the of laying foundations for a strong Holmes type mystery.

“A universal characteristic of the Japanese people, I had discovered, was their energy. This industrious nation seemed never to pause”.

 The story has little action and even less serious mystery. Sentences are long and difficult to wade through and, sadly, it became a real chore to read. Due to the slow pacing of the story, I would skim parts, but truth be spoken, not miss a thing:

“A long corridor hugged the inner wall of the U, with paintings and doors on one side and windows to a formal courtyard garden on the other. A short length of side corridor across from the stairway ended in the big arched window over the portico, making the U of hallway more of a Y. This truncated corridor… .”
 (And on it went further in the description)

If you are a fan of the Mary Russell series and enjoy reading about cruising and Japan in the 1920s – at a very leisurely pace – then this is the book for you.  Readers, like myself, who are expecting to have a mystery to solve, will become impatient and bored.

For me, this book was a challenge and I would recommend abandoning ship:

“Our initial intention, to abandon ship at the earliest opportunity, was rendered less urgent by this unexpected series of challenges”.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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