Guest Post by Hamlette: Book review of “Garment of Shadows”

When “Garment of Shadows” opens, Mary Russell wakes up alone in a strange room, wearing strange clothes (okay, unfamiliar — she has a habit of wearing “strange” clothes, you know), and with no idea how she got there. Or who she is.

I will admit here and now that I am a fan of amnesia stories. I love Robert Ludlum’s “The Bourne Identity.” And “While You Were Sleeping” is one of my favorite movies. I will also admit that a lot of books involving amnesia are trite, overwrought, and cliched. It is my opinion that Ms. King has avoided all those pitfalls.

Anyone who has read a book or two (or ten) in this series knows that Mary Russell is not a woman who is easily discombobulated. So when her inability to recall her identity or past sends her reeling, it has a similarly disorienting effect on readers as well. I whipped through this book at all possible speed, nearly as anxious as Russell herself for her memory to return. And I think my favorite aspect of this book was watching Sherlock Holmes watch his wife reconnect herself, puzzling piece by puzzling piece.

I’m having a hard time figuring out a way to describe this book’s plot in ways that don’t spoil it completely, so let me just say that it involves French colonists, two dear friends of the Russell-Holmeses, and a lot of middle-eastern political intrigue. The ending surprised me with a very unforeseen plot twist that had me rereading a few paragraphs and saying, “What?! Really!?! No!!!” in a way that warranted every bit of that seemingly superfluous punctuation I just used.

All in all, a very satisfying addition to this series, and one that returns it to a more serious tone after the recent, lighter-hearted jaunt that was “Pirate King.”

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