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A Letter of Mary: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes    by Laurie R. King order for
Letter of Mary
by Laurie R. King
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2007 (1996)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

When the action in A Letter to Mary begins, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (now living in Sussex in 1923 and having been married for two years) receive a unique gift from amateur archeologist Dorothy Ruskin: a small, intricately carved and inlaid box (perhaps Renaissance Italian) which contains within it a small roll of what is ostensibly a 1st century papyrus, and on that papyrus there is a letter written in Greek and Aramaic that - when translated - seems to be a letter from Mary, a woman calling herself an Apostle of the Anointed One. As Russell, Holmes, and Ruskin all realize, the implications of that letter - if genuine - are mind-boggling.

Shortly after Russell and Holmes receive the box and letter, however, a woman is mysteriously murdered, having been pushed into the path of a car on a London street. When Russell and Holmes become involved in investigating the hapless woman's death, they discover that their own home in Sussex - while they have been otherwise involved in the London investigation - has been ransacked by burglars and thieves who seem to have been intent upon finding just one thing: the gift from Dorothy Ruskin.

Quickly realizing the important connections between their murder investigation and the intrusion into their home, Russell and Holmes launch themselves into one of their most provocative and dangerous cases. They must look into 'death, and life, and the written word that binds them'; moreover, they soon understand that what they are dealing with could, if improperly used, 'set off a bitter' dispute that 'would shake the Christian world to its foundations.' But even more dangers threaten Russell and Holmes: in particular, the relatively recently married Russell finds that she must confront unanticipated emotional and romantic challenges that will cause her to seriously question her relationship with her husband.

Originally published in 1996, Laurie R. King's A Letter of Mary is the third in her phenomenally successful Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series (following The Beekeeper's Apprentice and A Monstrous Regiment of Women). Now reissued by Picador (St. Martin's Press), A Letter of Mary gives readers another opportunity to enjoy a terrific, highly recommended whodunit that is most remarkable because of its intricate plot, compelling characterizations, provocative themes, and careful attention to historic detail.

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