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Justice Hall    by Laurie R. King order for
Justice Hall
by Laurie R. King
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2002 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This sixth book in Laurie King's Mary Russell series is another winner. King weaves an intriguing mystery into a fascinating account of life in England in the aftermath of the Great War. The heir to the title of Duke of Beauville and the country estate of Justice Hall is executed by firing squad for dereliction of duty during that conflict. The current Duke questions the validity of the execution and Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes travel to the Berkshire estate to lend their assistance in the matter.

Holmes is at his expected best, but the story is told through Russell's eyes. And what she sees is described in delightful detail. The mammoth, elegant estate is in the care of the present, reluctant Duke. He prefers to live life as an Arab in swirling robes with intrigue and danger following at his heels. But he feels he must fulfill his role in life for the sake of Justice Hall and those who depend on it for a living. Also he is determined to preserve the Dukedom for the next in line.

Along with a window into the laces and silks and partying of 1920s England, King takes us back in time to the battlefields of France and the war that was waged there. Her knowledge of that period of time presents to the reader a picture that is hard to erase from one's mind after the book is put down. Holmes' deductive reasoning plays a role in this book, but Mary Russell is a match for her famous husband. She is as adept at changing appearances as he is. She puts this skill to good use as she and Holmes endeavor to ascertain who wants the present Duke dead.

A scene of a shooting party on the great estate seemed overly long to me, although I enjoyed the accompanying descriptions of the surrounding country and the perambulations of the targeted birds. Then the whole setting erupts into action that carries the tale onward. This is a story to savor. The concept of Mary being Sherlock's wife is audacious enough. The writer has to be very good to pull this off, and Laurie R. King succeeds as well in Justice Hall as in the earlier five episodes in this series. Treat yourself. Pick up a copy.

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