Old friends and old times have been on my radar these last few days. How does that saying go? Something like it was the best of times; it was the worst of times, etc. What it was, was college, which was a microcosm of society where random people are thrown together for a few years and for us, that time was the mid to late 70’s. My class was part of the in-between group; not the rabble rousers a few years before us, or the more conservative crowd that followed us once the pendulum started to swing back. What was most memorable about us is that we had fun. Oh yea, and somehow we still managed to get a terrific education. Now, from this slightly older angle, it has been quite fun to chat about our various memories...at least what we actually do remember!
Speaking of old friends, I was happy to see that the latest book from one of my favorite series was available at the library this weekend; The Pirate King by Laurie R King. An old friend indeed, given that this is the eleventh book I’ve read in the series. In this latest book, the stars of the show include pirates, the film industry in its infancy, a few insane actors and directors in addition to what appears to be a Portuguese poet with multiple personalities. Like reminiscing with my old college buddies, it has been great fun. How it ends is anyone's guess!
It all began with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, set in 1915 with the character of Mary Russell as the young protagonist and continued through to the current one, set in 1924. Just who is this beekeeper she is an apprentice to? None other than Sherlock Holmes himself! Though she is quite young in the first book, she is a quick study for the elder statesman of mystery. Together, they get into all sorts of trouble while they solve the great crimes of the time.
The novels do touch on some of the history of the time, like WWI, as well as some of the social issues, like women’s rights, but essentially they are mostly entertainment; a nice comfortable read. Like those days when all the things you have to do are done, you’re sitting in your favorite reading chair with a nice cup of tea at hand, something warm and inviting is simmering on the stove and perhaps there’s even a little low key jazz playing in the background. That’s what these books are to me; a lovely foray into the world of Holmes and Russell.
There's a little fun, a little intrigue, a crime or two and of course, some Sherlock thrown in for good measure. And I do love all things Sherlock! I love the old traditional Sherlock, I love the modern day Sherlock, recently shown on PBS, complete with texting, and I even love the Robert Downey Jr. version that’s been out in the theaters. You know I had to stop by the Sherlock museum in London when I was there. How could I not? All this for a fictional character!
In this book series, though his presence is still felt, Sherlock is the secondary character. Mary Russell is the main character and she's pretty complex and a good match for him. I went to the author’s website to see what she had to say. Her take is that Mary is who Holmes would be if he were young, female, and of the twentieth century. Mary’s character is a resilient woman who doesn’t pay much attention when told what she can’t do. She just forges ahead in her own way.
The fact that she knows how to pick locks doesn’t hurt.