When I finished King’s second novel in this series, ‘A Monstrous Regiment of Women,’ I was left a bit uncomfortable and unhappy. King had always kept Mary and Sherlock’s relationship as a mentor and one of a guardian. At the end of that book Sherlock proposes. Their relationship while strained and questioning in the book hadn’t been romantic, but Mary had turned 21 and their relationship caused questions, especially when traveling together.
My first response was that King was throwing in a needless romance and I was unhappy. Reading this series for me, however, is a family affair. My ever practical and precocious niece was put in the position where she had to educate her aunt(kindly of course.) She reminded me that I was judging the time of the book by present day values. I needed to remember that Sherlock and Mary could not continue working together without causing scandal and destroying Mary’s reputation. A marriage between a twenty-one year old woman and a fifty year old confirmed bachelor out of mutual respect rather than love was far more respectable than working alone together unchaperoned. My niece, of course, was absolutely correct. This, then thirteen year old is extremely smart, and her valuable insight allowed me to once again respect King’s skill and intelligence as a writer.
This settled, I picked up ‘A Letter to Marry,’ with an audible sigh of contentment. This book starts with a visit from an elderly scholar and friend they had met in Palestine in book one. She gave a generous gift of a papyrus believed to have genuinely been written by Mary Magdalene. You can imagine how this would enrage and turn the academic community upside down if validated. Shortly, after their friend departs company she did in an automobile accident and dies. Foul play can not be ruled out, and Sherlock weedles Mary away from her research to investigate the cause of death.
King did a wonderful job. I read mysteries frequently to escape. I’m not generally looking for an overly intelligent masterpiece but King is an exception to that rule. She provides an intelligent and exciting read. She creates a mystery I rarely guess the outcome of and a fabulously accurate piece of historical fiction as well. If you like Sherlock Holmes pick this up; if you enjoy pre WW II historical fiction pick this up; if you enjoy a fictionalized study of sociological gender roles and the human mind pick this up. I’m sounding like a broken record. I recommend you read it, but remember the series starts with ‘The Beekeepers Apprentice.’