Holmes and Russel, again

Another adventure with Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, this time mostly at a huge estate on the English countryside, in "Justice Hall" by Laurie R King. To give you an idea of the atmosphere, think of films like Altman´s "Gosford Park", the recent tv-series "Downton Abbey" or perhaps a Poirot-mystery. As far as I can tell, King has done some fine research on the manners of the upper classes, the fashions and the spirit of the time, just a few years after the Great War.

Russell and Holmes are just come home from Dartmoor, have hardly had time to set their bags down, have a bath, and let mrs Hudson serve them tea and crumpets, when there´s a knock on the door. And back into their lives comes their two Arab brothers Mahmoud and Ali Hazr, from their adventure in "O Jerusalem", and puts a case at their feet that is rather surprising, considering. Can´t tell you more, without spoiling the surprise.

A quick trip to Lyons, an equally fast journey to Canada (by boat and train, no regular airtraffic for the masses at this time!) does not really affect the atmosphere of the Big House, not even flashbacks to the trenches in France and Belgium during the war. Between the investigations Russell is mostly concerned with topics of conversation, the etiquette of fowl hunting and, yes indeed, "Holmes! Whatever shall I do? I haven´t a thing to wear."

King is very good at spicing her 1920´s-brew with small references of things that are so familiar to us now, but were quite new then. Some things are just fads, others stick, and there´s no telling at the time what is which. And some of what was considered eternal before the Great War, disappeared so very quickly, both institutions and ideas. Of course, without the actual use of a time machine there is no way of knowing if she´s got it right, but it feels right. Absolutely right.

Holmes has become, I think, less and less a main character in these stories, and more Russell´s husband. She contributes as much, sometimes more, to the investigations, and, as some people keep pointing out to her, he´s getting on a bit. But he is the apple of her eye, for sure, and for some reason he is constantly getting in and out of a bath, standing in his bare stockings and fiddling with his shirt buttons as he´s getting dressed for dinner. And isn´t this a loving description of a husband: "Holmes slumped down into the hard chair and prepared to listen, fingers steepled over his waistcoat, eyes half closed and glittering in the firelight like those of an observant snake."

Do I need to say I warmly recommend this?

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