17. The God of the Hive, by Laurie R. King
If you read my review of King's last book, The Language of Bees, you'll understand why I approached this book with some trepidation. But after some initial concern, I found that my fears were unjustified.
For those unfamiliar with King's Mary Russell series, know that she has married off inveterate bachelor Sherlock Holmes to a woman much younger than, but just as intelligent as, he. In her last, she also gave him a son by Irene Adler, as well as a daughter-in-law and granddaughter. So purists need not apply! And if you haven't read the last book, and don't want to know, read no further, because I have to give away some of that plot to discuss The God of the Hive. You have been warned!
When we last saw Holmes and Russell, they had rescued his granddaughter and his wounded son Damian, leaving for dead (or so they thought) the cult leader who had murdered Damian's wife as well as several other people. Circumstances had made Damian a suspect, and a warrant had issued for his arrest, as well as for the arrests of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, and Mary Russell.
The tale continues, told from several points of view. Holmes has taken his son off by boat, picking up a stray female physician along the way, and gone to ground in Holland. Mary and the child Estelle have found their pilot, and are flying off, but someone shoots at the plane, wounds the pilot, and they are forced to land in a forested area where they meet, and are assisted by, an odd man who goes by the name of Robert Goodman. In London, meanwhile, Mycroft has been kidnapped, and is being held prisoner by persons unknown for reasons unknown.
All roads, in this case, lead to London, as Holmes and Mary try to re-connect via the agony column of the Times, staying one jump ahead of the evildoers trying to find them, while Mycroft tries to figure out where he is and why. All sorts of complications arise. If the plot sounds rather intricate, that's because it is, and if I have any criticism at all, it's that the plot is a mite confusing at times (but that's the Intelligence Service for you!), and there are rather too many new characters introduced, some of whom, if you've read Dr. Watson's memoirs, you may have heard of before.
But King is a master of misdirection, and of story-telling. In Robert Goodman particularly, King has created a very intriguing character, the disaffected scion of a noble family and shell-shocked veteran ("that old responsibility dream" as Peter Wimsey once said). Indeed, I think my favorite parts of this book were those with Mary, Estelle and Robert, learning more about him, and watching his easy play with the child.
So I'm happy to say that, unlike with her last, I did find this one satisfying, and can say that King is back on track, and I am looking forward to more, particularly if the end presages what I hope it does.