A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King

A Monstrous Regiment of Women This is the second in Laurie R. King’s series of novels featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. It’s been almost exactly two years since I read the first in the series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and I really didn’t mean to leave it so long before reading the next one. However, when I picked this book up and started reading a few days ago, I was pleased to find that I’d inadvertently chosen the perfect time to read it because the story is set during the Christmas and New Year period of 1920/1921 – although it’s not a typical festive read as Mary makes it clear in the first chapter that she sees Christmas as something to be survived rather than enjoyed!

At the beginning of the book, Mary is awaiting her twenty-first birthday when she will receive her inheritance and her freedom from her aunt. She is also struggling with her feelings for her friend, the detective Sherlock Holmes. While she’s trying to avoid Holmes, she meets another old friend who introduces her to Margery Childe, the charismatic feminist leader of The New Temple of God. Mary herself is a student of theology at Oxford and is instantly drawn to Margery, fascinated by her interpretations of the Bible and impressed by the work she and her church are doing to help women in need. But at the same time, Mary feels uneasy and when she discovers that several young women from the Temple have recently died under suspicious circumstances, she decides to investigate.

Before beginning this book I had been curious to see how the relationship between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes was going to develop. I don’t have a problem with the thirty-nine year age difference (they are both adults and Mary has matured a lot since she first met Holmes as a teenager in the previous book) and I love all of their interactions and conversations. My favourite scenes are the ones in which they are both together, so I was disappointed that there weren’t more of them in this book – although I do understand the reasons why they are working separately for such long periods of the story. The focus is on Mary and her personal development as well as on the development of her romance with Holmes.

The actual mystery seemed to take a long time to get started and I didn’t find the plot very exciting until the second half of the book, but it was still interesting to read about 1920s society and the way life had been affected by the end of the Great War, the changing roles of women as a result of the war and the suffrage movement, and the work of Margery’s church. The title of the novel refers to a 16th century pamphlet by John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women, an attack on the rule of female monarchs (specifically Mary of Guise, the Queen Dowager of Scotland, and Mary I of England) and the subjects of feminism and religion both form part of the story.

I did enjoy this book, but not as much as The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which I loved. I’m looking forward to reading the next one in the series – and will try not to wait another two years!

14 thoughts on “A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King

  1. Lisa says:

    I enjoy so many things about this book, particularly Mary’s night on her own in London, and Margery’s church. I have a little trouble with the age gap between the two, but they have a wonderful partnership.

    • Helen says:

      I didn’t like this one as much as the first book but yes, there were still lots of things to enjoy about it. I’m looking forward to seeing how the partnership between Mary and Holmes continues to develop in the rest of the series.

    • Helen says:

      I found the age gap more disturbing in the first book when Mary was only fifteen, but now that she’s a bit older I don’t really think about it as much.

  2. Alex says:

    I’ve enjoyed the early books in this series but haven’t found the later ones so engaging. Have you tried King’s Kate Martinelli Series? These are my personal favourites and I wish she would go back to them. having said that I’ve heard great things about the Touchstone novels and really must get round to trying those.

    • Helen says:

      No, I haven’t read anything by Laurie King apart from the first two Mary Russell books. I hadn’t heard of the Kate Martinelli series but I’m intrigued now you’ve said they’re your favourites.

  3. Lark says:

    My sister owns these books, but I’ve never read one. Guess I know what books I’ll be borrowing from her next. Your review of Book 2 makes me anxious to read Book 1…if that makes any sense. 🙂 Great post, as always. P.S. Have a Happy New Year!

  4. Christy says:

    I’ve read the first eight in the series and the first book is still by far my favorite, though later books are still interesting. (Justice Hall and The Moor were weaker entries, IMO).

  5. gaskella says:

    I read and loved the first a couple of years ago, but am waiting for the second and third novels to come back into print at the end of Jan 14 – Yay!

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