A Monstrous Regiment of women is the second in a series of book by Laurie R. King featuring the character of Mary Russell, an independent young woman who has become the friend and disciple of a Mr. Sherlock Holmes. I have always loved Holmes in all his incarnations from the original stories, to the black and white Basil Rathbone movies, to Jeremy Brett’s Granda television series, to… well you get the idea. Reading about Holmes is like getting reacquainted with an old friend. But while the books are set in his universe, they aren’t really about Holmes. They’re really about the next generation. Mary Russell is the intellectual equal of Holmes and just as fascinating a character. She’s fiercely independent, plucky, and well able to look after herself.
In A Monstrous Regiment, Mary has graduated college and is about to come into her inheritance. She’s introduced by a friend to Margery Childe, a charismatic mystic who runs a temple and women’s shelter. Mary’s degrees are in Theology and Chemistry and she finds herself both fascinated and drawn to Margery. As she begins to learn more about the temple some tries to kill her friend. The attempt reveals a pattern of murder centered on Margery and the temple which Mary sets her will on resolving.
Laurie R. King does a wonderful job of bringing nineteen twenties England to life as we watch Mary trying to unravel the mystery. It’s a good book to curl up with when you have a pot of tea on and a long evening ahead of you, because you are not going to want to go anywhere till it’s finished.