Castle Shade

by Laurie R. King

“Your mother says you like detective stories.”

“I do. They’re so clever, people like Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown. However, I have to tell you my heart belongs to Bulldog Drummond, said the future Queen.

“Good choice.”

Conversation between Mary Russell and Ileana, Royal Princess of Roumania

Once again, Laurie R. King smoothly melds real historical figures with the latest adventure featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. In this tale, we have Queen Marie of Romania, her daughter Ileana and her lover and great Romanian patriot, Barbu Stirbey. It is set primarily at Castle Bran, Marie’s beloved home and supposedly the setting of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But we also travel throughout Romania and Transylvania.

Mary and Holmes are asked to investigate some strange happenings at Bran Castle. Mycroft suspects they are political orchestrations to undermine the Queen who is rightly much beloved by the Romanian people. There seems to be an effort to tie sinister happenings around the castle and the town such as abductions, dead people coming to life, witchy doings, and even vampirism to the Queen. Having done my due diligence and read up on the political situation and Marie’s relationship to her feckless son, Carol, a political explanation of the mystery seemed credible indeed. I will only say that it is much more interesting than that.

There is plenty of adventure and action as well as mystery, as Mary survives abduction and attack, discovers the source of a ghost-like presence in a secret room, and, with Holmes, races to save the life of a likable local girl. As always, there is amusing banter between Holmes and Mary, and intriguing and titillating insights into their unique relationship. We also get a rare glimpse into Holmes’ inner thoughts regarding his wife, his marriage, and the challenges of his brother Mycroft’s presence in their lives.

Four and a half years of being married to Mary Judith Russell, and he was still finding the adjustment difficult.
For his entire adult life, until the night he signed his full name upon a church register, Sherlock Holmes had been accountable to no one….when he judged it necessary, he had bullied, ignored, and lied, even to his friend Watson, without hesitation.
But not to a wife. A wife meant a contract of a different sort….Serving the needs of brother and Britain had become increasingly incompatible with his partnership with Russell.

It looks like things might be coming to a head between Mycroft, Holmes, and Mary. By the end of this book, you have not only been on an adventure, but feel like you’ve been a guest in Dracula’s Castle, come to know important, compelling, if little known personages in history, and traveled through the countryside and villages of Transylvania and Romania. It’s maybe not for everyone, but I welcome each book in this series. I always feel a little more enlightened about something.**4 stars out of 5**

June 23, 2021

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