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The Game    by Laurie R. King order for
by Laurie R. King
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A new entry in the highly entertaining historical series featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes! I wanted to savor it slowly, but the story pulled me in and wouldn't let go, as my favorite team of adventurers were dispatched by Sherlock's ailing brother Mycroft to colonial India. Their task? To discover the fate of the hero of Kipling's Kim ('Little friend of all the world'), a past master of the Great Game of spycraft played in that time between England and the Russian Bear.

King has obviously had fun blending together a mix of Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle, and spicing it all up with a plot reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There's a mad maharajah with a chamber of horrors, a mysterious American with Communist sympathies, a wily Indian urchin, an English sahib spymaster - and, of course, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, separately and together, in a variety of roles and guises, that put their lives in danger on more than one occasion.

We learn a little more of Holmes' history too, as it seems that he spent time before with Kim O'Hara in India and Tibet, after his supposed death in 1891. Disguised as travelling Moslem magician and apprentice, Holmes and Russell travel slowly north to the strategically located principality of Khanpur. I love Mary Russell's description of India close up ... 'I had stepped into the painting, which mixed Breughel's activity with Persia's colours, with just a touch of Bosch horrors.'

Mary is a wonderful character, brilliant and brave, equally adept at 'Jewel Game' and wielding 'pig-sticker', tough when she needs to be - as when she gets fed up with 'arguing Jesuitical minutiae with an Irish Buddhist spy' and cuts the argument short with her revolver. King gives us a remarkable romp through Kipling's India in The Game, which she calls 'a humble and profoundly felt homage to Rudyard Kipling's Kim, one of the great novels of the English language.'

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