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O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King

O Jerusalem (1999)

by Laurie R. King

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Title:O Jerusalem
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O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King (1999)

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I tend to think of this as one of the more educational Mary Russell books, but as for how much information on Palestine I actually retained, well, that's a different issue. ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
Anyone familiar with the Sherlock Holmes canon, or even just Christopher Morley's wonderful introduction to it, knows, one of Doyle's most delightfully infuriating tricks was to constantly open an adventure with a tantalizing hint of another one that never got written down.

Watson always had an acceptable excuse for this, of course. There simply wasn't enough time, or the details of the case were too classified or the mystery involved persons so distinguished the tale simply could not be put to paper during Watson's lifetime. Or the case notes were locked in a vault in bank.

Of course, we Holmesians (or Sherlockians, since no one seems to bother with the distinction anymore, irritatingly) loved Holmes and Watson all the more for it.

King has taken a different tack in the fifth installment of the Mary Russell Sherlock Holmes pastiche series, giving us an entire volume dedicated to an adventure only alluded to in The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

And it is a treat.

Much like in The Moor, Holmes and Russell spend much of the book wandering in early 20th century Palestine, drawn into a mystery that, naturally, brings us a glimpse of T.E. Lawrence, Gen. Edmund "Bull" Allenby and two spies-cum-Bedouin guides.

Both of Holmes' and Russell's guides are well developed characters, fascinating in and of themselves and keep the story going even during long, rather dry stretches of travel. They are used as vehicles to explain Arabic and Bedoiun culture, but never cross into caricatures of themselves, a tricky feat that King pulls off exceedingly well.

Those who have studied Middle Eastern history or culture (I should admit here that I did, both before and during college, and of course afterwards to the extent I can) will appreciate King's discernment in what she chooses to highlight and use during the course of her novel.

The mystery itself was pretty good, though not great by mystery reader standards, laden with international intrigue and coated with a likely bitter resentment that stems from the fallout of World War I. There is a delightful, but subtle, reference to Moriarty (though he has nothing to do with adventure, of course) that readers of the Canon will appreciate.

Perhaps because there is a cluster of four characters this time, or perhaps because it pre-dates Russell and Holmes' marriage, or quite possibly because I have been fascinated with the Middle East long before current events threw it into our headlines daily, I found this to be an wonderful, immersive reading experience.

All of King's usual skill – character creation and development, historical research blended artfully into a fictitious story, sweeping settings and vivid landscapes – are present in this book.

I found Sherlock to be, as usual, as close to himself as can be expected in a pastiche and Russell's religious devotion and passion softens the edges of both their cold, analytical minds. The passage in which Russell describes seeing the Dome of the Rock for the first time from a hill above Jerusalem, as a Jewish woman, is truly beautiful. But at no point is she proselytizing, either.

I have always found Russell's interest and academic devotion to theology, and her sincere comfort in religion, to be a wonderfully balancing counterpoint to Holmes' sometimes icy, but crystalline clear, vision of the world. It is one of the things that keeps me reading the series and in this book I found that attribute shone brilliantly.

Another of King's talents this installment illustrates more than others, I think, is her ability to keep the reader in the story using realistic detail in her character's stream of consciousness. For example, Russell has to get used to eating while in a kneeling position and, due to all the walking they do in desert, gets badly blistered feet. King never forgets these facts but doesn't dwell on them unduly, either. It helps gives a sense of time.

Though Mycroft is hinted at, the reader is disappointed. Sigh. Although Caleb Carr did an impressive job with Mycroft in The Italian Secretary, I would like to see how King handles him.

Perhaps the next installment. ( )
  Shutzie27 | Feb 9, 2014 |
Oh, I enjoyed this one a lot! It brought back college history classes from nearly twenty years ago and put a much more vivid spin on the Arab-Israeli conflict than the prof ever managed.

Unlike with The Moor, which had an actual disabled character (gasp!), the disability tag is used here for debilitating injuries being largely ignored, thanks to stupendous levels of stoicism. Granted, Holmes age is showing significantly, which is awesome and an appreciated nod to plausibility. *g*

I really am falling in love with crossdressing!Mary. And Holmes' nod to Ali and Mahmoud's relationship as being somewhat more and less than brotherly made me laugh and laugh. (The dry humor works for me, okay?)

Yeah, that was a satisfying adventure story. :) ( )
1 vote sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
My least favorite of the Russell/Holmes stories so far. While the setting is fascinating, the plot drags rather monotonously and since there's never really any doubt about what's going to happen, the book seems fairly pointless. ( )
  JBD1 | Nov 2, 2013 |

Well, that was disappointing. The thing I like the most about Laurie R. King is how she weaves her scholarly passion for faith and spirituality into all her books. She has made this an integral part of her novels but doesn't create situations where you feel left out or lacking. Except for this one.

Granted, putting your main character - a Jew - smack in the middle of Israel on her way to Jerusalem, creates for a certain kind of urgency on the part of the writer to explain everything about Judaism just so. But she describes every single part of Judaic tradition - no, strike that - every part of Judaic history in excruciating detail and without much explanation. Names and places fly past at the speed of your eye across the page, and by 2/3 of the way through I gave up squinting at them all and trying to understand how they fit in.

If you do that, it's not a bad story - Holmes and Russell dropped into a situation they are completely unprepared for with companions who despise them, off to save The Good British Commander and Liberator of Jerusalem. But even with that interesting thread, there is little Holmes-ish-ness and while Russell at least gets to chafe at the bonds that tie women down in the Middle East, it's not enough.

My guess is that King didn't know where to go next with her story, so plunked this down back in the storyline because it really was a one-off she didn't know how to do right. ( )
  khage | Oct 29, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
King, Laurie R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Dorothy Nicholl, and in memory of Donald, with love and gratitude.
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During the final week of December 1918, shortly before my nineteenth birthday, I vanished into British-occupied Palestine in the company of my friend and mentor Sherlock Holmes.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553581058, Mass Market Paperback)

Although O Jerusalem is Laurie King's fifth book in her Holmes-Russell series, it actually takes us back to the era of her first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Perhaps King was afraid that her characters, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, were becoming too cozy as an old married couple, and she wanted to recreate the edgy sexual tension of their first encounter.

It's 1918. Nineteen-year-old Mary and her fiftysomething mentor are forced to flee England to escape a deadly adversary. Sherlock's well-connected brother Mycroft sends them to Palestine to do some international sleuthing. Here, a series of murders threatens the fragile peace.

Laurie King connects us, through details of language, custom, history, and sensual impressions, to this very alien environment. Russell, Holmes, and two marvelously imagined Arab guides named Mahmoud and Ali trek through the desert and visit ancient monasteries clinging like anthills to cliffs. They also find time to take tea with the British military legend Allenby in Haifa and skulk through or under the streets of Jerusalem. King puts us into each scene so quickly and completely that her narrative flow never falters.

Stepping back in time also gives King a chance to show us Holmes through the eyes of a Russell not yet as full of love as a honeymooner, nor as complacent as a comfortable wife. "There it was--sardonic, superior, infuriating," Mary says about Holmes's voice at one point.

Wisdom is knowing when, and how much, to shake things up--even in a successful series. Laurie King is a wise woman indeed. --Dick Adler

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:11 -0400)

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Mary Russell once again teams up with Sherlock Holmes as they are pursued by murderous strangers through the bazaars of 1918 Jerusalem.

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