The latest of the Kate Martinelli series turned out to be a strong contender for favorite in the series, up against To Play the Fool, Book 2. I was highly interested in this one in no small part because it was billed as having a tie-in with Ms. King’s other renowned series, the Mary Russells–and unlike the disappointing tenuous tie between Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody and Vicky Bliss series, I found this one to work very well indeed. The best thing about it? King never came right out and tied the series together in any obvious way in the narrative, but to those familiar with both series, the link was very obvious.
Holmesiana is very strong in this book, nonetheless. The victim is a Holmes fanatic whose ardor for the great detective is so bright that he’s remodeled the entire first floor of his house to be in character for the Holmesian era, and he leads a Holmes fan club wherein the members indulge in dressing in period costumes, meeting to eat period meals, and discussing the works of Arthur Conan Doyle to their hearts’ content. Our victim is also a passionate collector of Holmes-related memorabilia, though, and may well have been killed over a mysterious manuscript that may–or may not!–be a previously undiscovered work by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The provenance of this manuscript, and the possible real-life secrets it reveals, are the driving force of this case. And, of course, this is where the tie to the Mary Russell series comes in. The adventure depicted in the manuscript, written out for the reader to enjoy along with the main story, slots in very nicely with the events in Locked Rooms. Most cleverly, the protagonist is never outright identified as Holmes himself, leaving it nicely dubious for Kate and the others investigating the case as to whether it’s a genuine Doyle manuscript.
Meanwhile, some lovely advancement has happened in Kate and Lee’s domestic life. This book’s set a few years after Book 4, and now Kate and Lee have a small daughter, a development that I found an absolutely beautiful counterpoint to the murder investigation. Over the top as the victim and his Holmes-obsessed compatriots are, the peaceful home life Kate is leading with her beloved and their little girl gives the story a rock-solid grounding.
Overall, highly recommended for fans of the Mary Russells. If you’re not already reading the Kate Martinellis, this one does stand decently apart from the preceding ones, so you wouldn’t do yourself too much of a disservice reading this one first. (But you should go back and read the previous four anyway!) Five stars.