Rummanah Aasi
 Sherlock Holmes is back in pop culture, but for many he never left. While anxiously waiting for the new season premiere of the BBC Sherlock, I needed to get my sleuth fix. There are many series and books that feature Sherlock Holmes, but the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series are highly recommended and are well written. I read the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, which I really enjoyed and wanted to get back to this series. Note: If you are a Sherlockian purist, you may have issues with this series but I still think it's worth checking out.

Description: Looking for respite in London after a stupefying visit from relatives, Mary encounters a friend from Oxford. The young woman introduces Mary to her current enthusiasm, a strange and enigmatic woman named Margery Childe, who leads something called "The New Temple of God." It seems to be a charismatic sect involved in the post-World War I suffrage movement, with a feminist slant on Christianity. Mary is curious about the woman, and intrigued. Is the New Temple a front for something more sinister? When a series of murders claims members of the movement's wealthy young female volunteers and principal contributors, Mary, with Holmes in the background, begins to investigate. Things become more desperate than either of them expected as Mary's search plunges her into the worst danger she has yet faced.

Review: Monstrous Regiment of Women is the second book in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Though this book could be read without reading the first book, I would suggest reading the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice,  to get a firm grasp of the character development of Mary Russell and how Sherlock Holmes is portrayed. In this second book, Mary Russell has graduated and is about to debut her first Academic Article that is not attached to being a student. She is a full fledged, independent adult who get away from her distasteful, money grubbing Aunt whom has controlled her inheritance. Mary is going through many transitions as a student to a teacher, a child with an allowance to an heiress, girl to woman, and the strange tension between Sherlock Holmes and herself – she is no longer an apprentice and can she be trusted to handle a case on her own.
Mary finds herself in not just one but two mysteries in London while waiting to come into her inheritance. She runs into an old school friend, Veronica, who pulls Mary into her life. We learn of the first mystery involving Veronica's drug addicted fiance who has returned from the war. Veronica believes her fiance is a simply a drug addict, but Mary thinks there is a more serious problem but can't quite put her figure on it. The second mystery, which is more compelling, revolves around an organization called The Temple, which Veronica is a member of and holds it high regard.   

 The Temple is an organization run by a very smart and charismatic woman named Margaret, who is   rallying women who previously were nurses and running the country in the absence of the men sent to war. Now that the war is over these women are left without a place. There are simply too many women and few men returned. The men that did return, however, came back damaged and many weren’t choosing to marry, preferring to fall into paths of self-destruction. To fill the gap The Temple is giving these young women something to do: teaching women to read and build literacy, providing safety and supplies to battered women and their families, providing medical care, and working to increase women’s rights now that the vote has passed. The problem is when you have a large group of the disenfranchised that are being directed and utilized by a leader are their actions really charitable or could there be a deeper agenda at work? That is what Mary is trying to find out.
  The book is extremely well researched and written. I really liked how The Temple was constructed. It was easy to stand behind it and support its effort in helping women, which dangerously allows you to overlook the more sinister moves behind the curtains. I learned a lot regarding the time period, which was so clearly described and was sucked into the period concepts of class structure, feminism, gender roles, addiction, and PTSD. I believe King did a remarkable job exploring these subjects without being overly biased or sacrificing the pace of the book. Although this book had a lot of great ideas, I still feel conflicted about the twist at the end of the book. I prefer Sherlock the way he was originally created by Doyle and I'm having a hard time seeing him in this new light. I'm not sure if I can fully support it but I'm curious to see how it works out in later books.  
 I do recommend this book despite my issues with the ending, especially to anyone who enjoys mysteries that are well researched and have great characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are allusions to drug usage and sex. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  by Alan Bradley or A Letter of Mary (Book 2 of the Mary Russell series) by Laurie King or Another Scandal in Bohemia by Carole Nelson Douglas
3 Responses
  1. Hmmm even though this has a lot of things going for it, I am a reader that prefers to stay true to the original and I don't think I would like the twist you mentioned.

  2. Oh I think this sounds like something I would enjoy. I keep needing to watch that BBC show. Thanks for the reminder for that as well.

  3. Jenny Says:

    "I still feel conflicted about the twist at the end of the book. I prefer Sherlock the way he was originally created by Doyle and I'm having a hard time seeing him in this new light."

    Well now I'm just curious Rummanah! I haven't read the original so I wouldn't have much to compare this new Sherlock to, but I can't help but wonder at the differences! Glad that despite that issue, this one worked well for you overall:)

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