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Pirate King    by Laurie R. King order for
Pirate King
by Laurie R. King
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Pirate King is the eleventh (following The God of the Hive) in Laurie R. King's outstanding series starring retired detective and beekeeper, Sherlock Holmes, and his perfect match, young Mary Russell, whom he first mentored and then married.

This episode is mainly Mary's adventure. She goes undercover as a film producer's assistant (mainly to avoid a vist from Holmes' brother Mycroft). She's hired by Fflytte Films general manager Geoffrey Hale after his previous assistant goes missing. Hale is the lifelong friend and second cousin of Randolph Fflytte, who rules England's burgeoning silent-film industry. It seems that criminal activities surround Fflytte's projects and Chief Inspector Lestrade wants Mary to investigate. She tells us her job is 'to shepherd, protect, nurse, and browbeat into order some three dozen inmates of a mobile lunatic asylum.' Of course she does it with flair and finesse.

The current production, Pirate King, is about a film crew making a picture of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance in Lisbon, Portugal 'only to have their boat captured by actual pirates' who take them to Morocco. They will film there 'to capture the essence of a seventeenth century pirate kingdom within a nineteenth century comic opera for the edification and amusement of twentieth century house-maids, factory workers, and garage mechanics.' It's tremendous fun for everyone (including the reader) but Mary! In her letters home, she tells Holmes that it's hard to do her real job while performing her undercover one, 'which is rather that of a person attempting delicate surgery whilst standing in a hurricane.'

As you've probably guessed by now, truth in this story soon mirrors fiction. With the assistance of poet/translator Pessoa (and his multiple personas) in Lisbon, Fflytte unwittingly hires real pirates (including a violent pirate king), and Holmes gets in on the action which moves to Salé, Morocco. There, of course, the daring duo save the day once more, and Mary takes on a leading role in a subsequent Fflytte film, to Holmes' dismay.

As a long-term fan of both this Russell/Homes series and of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas, I was enthralled by Pirate King, which I highly recommend to you. I also thoroughly enjoyed the charming bonus short story at the back of the book, Beekeeping for Beginners, that tells 'how the great detective first met his match'. And there's a brief preview of the next episode in the series, Garment of Shadows; can't wait!

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