Sherlock Holmes and his new assistant Mary Russell are back in the second volume of the saga created by Laurie R. King.
Thanks to Read Publisher it’s time to go back to investigating in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes and above all of Mary Russell, the young pupil to whom the Baker Street hound is passing down his speculative art. While in the United States the pupil saga has now reached its fourteenth chapter, in Italy the second volume is available for the first time in a beautiful paperback edition.
If with the first novel Laurie R. King built the foundations of the relationship between Holmes and Russell, decisively going beyond that sort of misogyny that has often characterized Conan Doyle’s creature, with The New Temple of God the writer shifts the focus to the figure of the young heiress, the protagonist of a plot much more action-oriented than the investigation typical of the yellow novel.
Mary has now reached adulthood, the one that allows her to give the well-served to the archaic aunt who has administered her patrimony for a long time and can passionately devote herself to theological studies, while in the background the particular relationship with Sherlock Holmes causes her to reflect on her own feelings and fears for the future. Her occasional encounter with an old Oxford companion will bring her into the presence of Margery Childe, charismatic figure of the “New Temple of God”, an institution straddling the world of the suffragettes and a street spirituality made up of proselytism and substantial donations. Precisely the latter seem to be the motive for a series of murders which Mary cannot help but investigate, ending up involving Sherlock Holmes as well.
Compared to the first volume, this time the figure of the investigator has a minor role, at least in terms of action, although his presence is still crucial, especially for the choices made by Russell. Once again, the enormous quality of King’s writing is positively striking, capable of narrating post-World War I London with surprising attention to detail, with particular attention to the social, political and religious aspects of the period. Ideally divisible into two parts, the first is the accurate account of the historical dimension, the second a dizzying race towards the solution of the mystery, while Mary Russell grows up and acquires greater awareness of her own talents and of the role that Holmes will have in her life.
A novel that certainly deviates from the “canon” and that could also make purists turn up their noses. However, a “feminist” vision of Sherlock Holmes is an extremely interesting literary operation which, in King’s case, skilfully combines story verisimilitude with abundant doses of inventiveness and a high-level literary quality.
At the end is the story “The Marriage of Mary Russell”, also unpublished in Italy. A short story that tries to shed light on the enigmatic past of Sherlock Holmes and his family.
The New Temple of God. Sherlock Holmes’ Pupil Vol.2 by Laurie R. King, 2022, Leggere Editore (Fanucci Group), 348 pages, paperback, Euro 18.00 – Translation by Francesca Gallo