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1 February 2012

Hardcover, published Bantam 2011. reviewed by Lyn McConchie.
I received this as a Christmas present, with delighted me as I have always enjoyed this sequence of King’s work. Pirate King is the eleventh in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series by the author. This one is a lighthearted romp with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance as background. It’s convoluted, slightly mad, and a lot of fun to read. The work is what I have called in the past ‘crime inconsequential.’ Meaning that while there can be crimes, even quite serious ones, the work doesn’t really focus on those so much as on the background and characters.
There certainly are crimes in Pirate King, with drugs and weapons sales, kidnapping, and a number of deaths. But the focus is on a movie company making a skewed film version of Pirates of Penzance. And the police have noticed that wherever this film company goes, sales of various illicit items follow. Mary and Sherlock are asked to look into it and it seems that the best method of doing this is for Mary to join the company as a secretary-assistant.
After that the company sails to France, becomes involves with a wide range of characters from the upright to the exceptionally dubious, and then sails for, first Portugal, and then to Rabat in Morocco where the company is promptly kidnapped by the men that had been hired to be ‘authentic’ pirates. They were all too authentic and now Mary is locked up with the other females of the cast, in a harem. How she escapes, and how she and Sherlock deal with the pirates, discover who has been using the film company as cover and selling illegal items, and how Mary may have discovered a second career, is great fun and a read that kept me hooked to the end. The author has described this book as a ‘Novel of Suspense,’ I would rather call it a divertissment, and I was certainly diverted.
I enjoy the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, they run the gamut from serious crime and spies backgrounds, through to this sort of froth and frolic, but all are well-written, backgrounds are solid, and often genuine – if sometimes quite obscure – characters sneak into the supporting cast. I recommend the series, since Laurie King manages to make Mary’s marriage to Sherlock believable and their verbal interchanges have a real ring of verisimilitude. Series Recommended.

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