Looking at it again, though, I find it weighted down by the enforced gravitas of the subject matter, the uneasy balance of international affairs in the time between the two world wars (after the War to End All Wars). Somehow this translates to the writing, which is as heavy and ponderous as the subject. Here's a sample, picked by opening the book to a random page:
"The following ten months had been fraught with the knowledge that time was short, that life would never be the same, that their friends and family were being swallowed up in the carnage across the Channel. And finally, in July 1915, Bennett had come to her house, wearing his uniform and an expression of manly apprehension. She had wept; he had laid his hand across her shoulders and pulled her to his woolen chest, then given her a clean handkerchief and vowed that he would come back to her."
I mean, really. You have to wonder if Laurie decided it was time for her to write a "serious" book after all those frivolous mysteries. Maybe getting the Lambda prize for the latest Kate Martinelli stirred it up in her. I don't know. But she needs to get back in the entertainment business, because this kind of writing does not become her.
I want the Laurie I love back. The Laurie who writes like this (the following is from the random page I opened to when I opened up the Mary Russell book The Moor):
"'Come along, Russell. You mustn't avoid your host simply because he is a rude old man. Besides which, he has quite taken to you.'
'I'd hate to see how he expresses real dislike, then.'
'He becomes very polite but rather inattentive,' he said, holding the door open for me. 'Precisely as you do, as a matter of fact.'"
Michael Chabon points out in his essay "Fan Fictions on Sherlock Holmes" (included in Maps and Legends), that "fans and nonbelievers alike seem to feel compelled to try to explain Sherlock Holmes' lasting appeal" and after his own (quite satisfactory) effort to explain it, he concludes that "all novels are sequels; influence is bliss."
That's what I'm missing from you, Laurie. Take yourself less seriously. Let me love you again.
Laurie King's Mary Russell books:
- The Beekeeper's Apprentice (1994)
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women (1995)
- A Letter of Mary (1997)
- The Moor (1998)
- O Jerusalem (1999)
- Justice Hall (2002)
- The Game (2004)
- Locked Rooms (2005)
Kate Martinelli mysteries
- A Grave Talent (1993)
- To Play the Fool (1995)
- With Child (1996)
- Night Work (2000)
- The Art of Detection (2006)