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.
–Laurie R. King - A monstrous regiment of women - c.1995
I’ve enjoyed the other books in this series that I’ve read, but this one I loved. Totally loved it.It is 1921 and our hero Mary Russell, has finished her undergraduate course at Oxford. She is also about to come into her inheritance. Her life on the brink of being totally her own. No longer a ward of her aunt’s; she will be able to live as she chooses. But how will she choose, and what does she want to do with her life? Will she pursue an academic career with her interest in theology? Or does her future lie with Holmes and the life of a detective?
I cannot over-praise this book. It really is great. Despite the fact that there is very little by way of action most of the novel revolves around Russell; her thoughts and ideas on who she is, what her future will bring, where Holmes will feature, and how much freedom she has. Where will her life take her? Many of these thoughts come to mind after she encounters an old college friend, Veronica Beaconsfield. She has ended her relationship with her fiancée. He returned from the war shell-shocked and a drug addict. Veronica introduces Russell to the world of the Temple of God, a feminist religious organisation devoted to helping women in all aspects of their lives. From providing shelter to health care to political activists, the Temple has it all, under the leadership of Margery Childe.
But is Childe the mystic she seems? Or are the recent deaths of wealthy members something more sinister than accidents?
The title of this novel is taken from a John Knox essay written in 1558 on the position of women in scripture, and how they should never be in a position of authority over men, it would be unnatural. And almost every chapter in the book begins with a quotation from some famous man about how women are less than men. Mary Russell does not share this opinion, and indeed it is directly addressed in the storyline, with a discussion about how translations of the bible have obscured the feminine aspects of god. I don’t know enough about theology to comment on that, but it does make for interesting reading.
And then of course there is the romance between Holmes and Russell. Which is so well done that it is almost left unmentioned.
As I said earlier, I loved this book. It just grabbed my attention from the opening chapter and never let go. Surprising that a book with so little action should be such a page-turner.