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by Laurie R King
Bantam, September 2012
288 pages
ISBN: 0553807994

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It is 1924 and Morocco is in the middle of a civil war of sorts. Both France and Spain have interests to protect and the factions for both sides are armed and dangerous. Mary Russell wakes up in Fez, dressed as a man, with no idea of where she is, how she got there, and scariest of all, no knowledge of who she is. Her instincts, and the years she spent working with Sherlock Holmes, keep her from doing anything terribly stupid. As she begins to explore her new world, memories flit in and out of her mind, some of them helpful and some just adding to her confusion.

While Mary is trying to get her bearings, Holmes is almost frantic with worry. He is supposed to meet Mary in Morocco, after the assignment with Fflytte Films is completed. When he gets to Morocco, Mary is not there. She left town in the company of a small child, destination unknown. Holmes wouldn't be as upset if Mary had left some word for him, some idea of where she was going and/or why. She failed to do that.

The story shifts between Holmes and Mary, with considerable discussion of the political situation confronting Morocco and the possible effect(s) this might have on the two of them, separately and jointly. King is adept at integrating the historical background into her story, as opposed to data dumps. While amnesia in a central character is certainly not new to the mystery genre, King has avoided most of the clichés one might expect. Her ability to capture a landscape in a sentence or two is enviable, as is her continuation of the personalities of Holmes and Russell. As characters, there is a central core that doesn't change, but each is willing to learn and change, at least a bit, as the series progresses. King makes no direct connections between the Middle East of today and Morocco's predicament; that would be difficult to do within the confines of a historical novel that wasn't also science fiction. But a reader who can ignore the similarities is not paying attention to what's going on in the Middle East today.

§ P.J. Coldren lives in northern lower Michigan where she reads and reviews widely across the mystery genre when she isn't working in her local hospital pharmacy.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, October 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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