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A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R.…

A Monstrous Regiment of Women (original 1995; edition 2000)

by Laurie R. King

Series: Mary Russell (2), Mary Russell {Chronological Order} (December 1920-February 1921)

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2,801883,536 (3.96)146
Followers of the New Temple of God--all well-bred, well-heeled young women--are becoming targets for murder. With Sherlock Holmes at her side, Mary Russell plunges headlong into a dangerous investigation of life behind the sinister temple walls.
Title:A Monstrous Regiment of Women
Authors:Laurie R. King
Info:HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (2000), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (1995)

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  1. 50
    Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (zembla)
    zembla: Both feature good banter, a mystery set in a mostly-female environment, and a tentative romance between the sleuth protagonists.

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Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
I enjoy the books in this series. There is always a mystery, of course, but the secondary themes--relationship between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes--and Mary's studies of religion and, specifically, Judaism, add substantively to the overall experience. The mystery itself is quite an intricate unfolding. Very enjoyable. ( )
  TGPistole | Jun 20, 2020 |
"A Monstrous Regiment Of Woman" is well written, skillfully narrated, filled with memorable characters, and spiced with discussions of challenging ideas on religion and on the role of women.

In the first book, "The Beekeeper's Apprentice", Mary Russell was an "apprentice" to the Master Craftsman of detection, Sherlock Holmes. She was as young and as impressionable as she was passionate and talented.

In "A Monstrous Regiment Of Women" she comes into her majority in every way. She inherits her fortune, establishes her own household, prepares prestigious academic papers and gets her own "case" to pursue.

Holmes plays an important role in the book, Russell's relationship to him defines a great deal about her, but it Russell who is central. Her mind, her passions, her religious views, shape the events in this story and give it meaning.

One of the strengths of "A Monstrous Regiment Of Women" is how embedded it is in the period without being buried in historical detail. The book opens at Christmas 1920, when men, many of them damaged, had returned from the Great War to a land that was not "fit for heroes", when woman were being displaced from the jobs they performed while the men were at war and when the "doomed generation" haunted by death, and stalked by mental instability, sought relief in through sex and drugs and jazz music. The book captures the restless, fragmented spirit of the time beautifully by focusing on events around Margery Childe, a charismatic "Minister" who uses the bible to preach love and demonstrate the value of women while promoting pragmatic philanthropy. This opens up discussions on poverty, social inequity, misogyny, theology and mysticism.

I was fascinated by the effect that Childe had on Russell. Russel is a theological scholar, passionately devoted to studying the Jewish and Christian religious texts to learn their history and unravel the meaning their writers intended to convey. Childe is aware only of the St Jame's version of the Bible. She reads it to understand what God intends for the world. Russel's understanding of the text is superior to Childe's in every way except that Childe has the gift of deep, all-absorbing belief. Russell is suspicious of Childe. She is reluctant to accept that what she is seeing is a woman channeling God's grace. It is easier for her to believe that she is seeing a woman seeking power and perhaps wealth. Unfortunately for Russell she is too honest and her mind is too subtle to stop there. She has to confront the contrast between strength of Childe's belief and the depth of her own knowledge and wonder which of them is the poorer.

Childe's "sermons" are wonderful. Although I learned nothing new about the scriptures, I could feel the tug of her passion, the undertow of her belief. I understood the appeal of surrendering myself to it rather than swimming against that tide. That Russell did not surrender tells me a great deal about her.

One of the most memorable things about the book was the misogynistic quotes that open each chapter. King doesn't comment on them. She doesn't have to. Each one is breathtakingly appalling in its bigotry and anger. That these quotes come from educated men who were leaders in their time is astonishing. I have become so used to the aspiration on gender equality, no matter how seldom it is achieved, that I had allowed myself to forget the centuries of male thought and teaching that declared women to be less than fully human.

The quotes took the violence against the women in the book, especially Childe and Russell, and defined it not as some extraordinary melodramatic device but as part of the day to day world, an interpretation that is much more chilling.

I continued to enjoy the contrapuntal nature of the relationship between Russell and Holmes. She is a child of the twentieth century, a woman in a society where the old certainties on gender are starting to erode, a jew studying chemistry and theology with the same intellectual curiosity. He was raised to be a Victorian Gentleman, with all the advantages of gender and class on his side, has almost retreated from public life, has a passion for science but has no noticeable inclination towards theism. What binds them together is that they both see the world in a fundamentally analytical way, that allows them a clear view of the people around them while placing them at a distance from them. They both carry scars and guilt and both choose to retain their individuality even at the cost of living outside the bounds of respectability.

I'm hooked on this series now that it is clear that Russell is not the new Watson. I'm looking forward to the rest of the books. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
~seriously, an even better novel than the 1st one. I love this series!

Mary Russell is the perfect woman for Holmes, even at her young age. Smart, thoughtful and kind, she can even "fight like a man". The plot was engaging, thorough and well-planned, and the background exquisitely researched - which makes me happier than anything else in the world!

there were no boring parts anywhere, and I could NOT wait to finish the book; I even took it with me when I left the house, to read in the car. The fact that (SPOILERS) Mary Russell and Holmes kissed near the end? Pure icing on the cake!!
I cannot wait to get through the rest of the series, and I am SO glad someone on Amazon.com sold them each for a song.. Happy Birthday to ME!!

too bad I have to go to bed now... lol ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
A bit slow at first but sure enough there were plenty of murders and kidnappings to come. ( )
  alyssajp | Jul 29, 2019 |
Mary has graduated from Oxford and is just about to turn twenty-one and finally claim her inheritance and independence from her despised aunt when she encounters old friend Ronnie Beaconsfield in London. Ronnie introduces her to Margery Childe who is running a religious, feminist, charitable organization.

Mary is fascinated when she hears Margery speak and is intrigued by her take on theology. She is also intrigued by the various charitable and political activities of temple since they fit into her feminist viewpoints. But things are not all wonderful. There have been a series of deaths of women associated with the Temple who just happen to have included the Temple in their wills for substantial amounts.

When Ronnie is almost a victim of a fatal accident, Mary begins to put things together to investigate who might have a reason to want to collect these young women's gifts long before they should. She cannot suspect Margery herself but those around her are certainly suspects.

When Mary herself is kidnapped and held by a kidnapper who tries to addict her to heroin, it takes a while for Sherlock to realize she is missing and then to find her. Mary's kidnapping certainly clarified her feelings for Holmes and his for her which had been a source of stress for both of them since Mary had grown up.

I loved the historical setting and the intriguing information about theology that is included in the book. I also loved seeing the aftereffects of World War I both on the men who fought it and the women who stayed at home. Women who had substantial roles in work and society weren't going to be stuffed back into their roles as subordinate to men and confined to household duties.

This is quite an intriguing and thought-provoking historical mystery where the mystery plays equally with the other themes of social change and religion. ( )
  kmartin802 | Jun 16, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laurie R. Kingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For who can deny that is repugnant to nature that the blind shall be appointed to lead and conduct such as do see, that the weak, the sick and the impotent shall nourish and keep the whole and the strong, and, finally, that the foolish, mad, and frenetic shall govern the discrete and give counsel to such as be sober of mind? And such be all women compared to man in bearing of authority.

--JOHN KNOX (1505-1572)

The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (published in 1558 against Mary Tudor; later applied to Mary Stuart. Regiment is used in the sense of régime.)
for Zoe
το φωζ των ανθρωπων
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I sat back in my chair, jabbed the cap onto my pen, threw it into the drawer, and abandoned myself to the flood of satisfaction, relief and anticipation that was let loose by that simple action.
In a minute, she jumped up again and began a prowl around the perimeter of the room, and so strong was the image of cat that I should not have been greatly surprised had she leapt up on the sideboard and threaded her way between the bottles.
At that moment, something entered the room, a thing compounded of the memory of our argument atop the hansom, of the intimacy of the hour and the place, of my thin and clinging blouse and his long legs stretched out towards the fire and of my growing sense of womanliness.
My red herring had performed its function, but I knew that this particular old hound would not be misled for long before backtracking to the main scent.
Then I sat and listened as a very different silence lowered itself onto the room.
The walls closed in, and the quiet was loud, and I was far from sleep.
I had met Sherlock Holmes at a time when adolescence and the devastating circumstances of my orphaning had left me with an exterior toughness and an interior that was malleable to the personality of anyone willing to listen to me and take me seriously. Had Holmes been a cat burglar or forger, no doubt I should have come into adulthood learning to walk parapets at night or concocting arcane inks.
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Followers of the New Temple of God--all well-bred, well-heeled young women--are becoming targets for murder. With Sherlock Holmes at her side, Mary Russell plunges headlong into a dangerous investigation of life behind the sinister temple walls.

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Average: (3.96)
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