Fiction: “The Moor” by Laurie R. King

the moorOh man — I thought I had most of this already typed up. Somehow this is all your fault, Caroline the Netbook. (Goal for the next three years: buy a new laptop. One that will always get Netflix without buffering. And will hold all of my music — although then I’d finally have to download the latest update for iTunes, and I’m currently still sporting version 10.something, so I’m not sure if that’s a great idea. Maybe I can keep Sydney and her Windows XP running indefinitely?)

ANYWAY — GODDAMMIT, MOM’S LAPTOP, WHY IS YOUR MOUSEPAD SO SENSITIVE (phrasing)?! *sigh* I’m staying over at my parents’ house tonight, and Mom graciously let me use her laptop to post this (I’m four books behind, guys – FOUR. THAT’S THE OPPOSITE OF GOOD), and a tiny sliver of my right thumb apparently keeps glancing on the mousepad, and so my typing will suddenly jump to a different part of the paragraph, effectively PISSING ME OFF.

ANY. WAY. I finished reading The Moor last month. As in August. Yeah, I suck. I’ve read a lot of books between now and then, and I’ve just been too busy (or lazy; mostly lazy) to post reviews.

The Moor takes place about a month or so after the end of A Letter of Mary. Mary has returned to Oxford and the Bodlean Library to work on her dissertation (or first book or whatever) when she receives the following telegram from her husband, Holmes:

RUSSELL NEED YOU IN DEVONSHIRE. IF FREE TAKE EARLIEST TRAIN CORYTON. IF NOT FREE COME ANYWAY. BRING COMPASS.
HOLMES

Mary ignores the cable and proceeds to stick her nose deeper in a book, and then …

Two hours later the girl interrupted my reading again, with another flimsy envelope. THis one read:

ALSO SIX INCH MAPS EXETER TAVISTOCK OKEHAMPTON, CLOSE YOUR BOOKS. LEAVE NOW.
HOLMES

Dam the man, he knew me far too well. [pp. 1-2]

So off Mary goes to Devnoshire and when she meets up with Holmes, he takes her to the house of the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, who looks down at Mary’s trousers and impatient ways and throws her off her game. Meanwhile, Holmes and Baring-Gould appear to get along quite well, which is odd when it comes to Holmes outside of Russell, Watson, and Mrs. Hudson.

The Rev. Baring-Gould has not-quite asked Holmes to investigate a series of odd events, which sound like an update to not only a classic legend, but also to one of Holmes’s greatest-known mysteries, The Hound of the Baskervilles. For Baring-Gould resides deep on The Moor, and only about twenty minutes’ drive away from Baskerville Hall, now owned by a boorish American former gold-rusher. The odd events? Residents of the Moor claim that they have seen a ghostly carriage made of bones careening around the countryside, accompanied by a spectral hound with glowing eyes.

Holmes is also on the Moor at the behest of his brother, Mycroft (who, now that I have watched the entirety of the BBC’s Sherlock, I am completely unable to separate from Mark Gatiss and his interpretation of the character), who believes there’s something hinky (my words) going on at the artillery range that also happens to be located here. It turns out there is a connection between the artillery range and the hound, but I’m not going to get into it too deeply here.

Holmes has Russell help him investigate by asking locals what they may have seen, and as one would expect, the stories are heaped in legends and Holmes and Russell have to sift through those legends and possible hallucinations for scraps of facts they can work with. Russell also finds …. not difficulty, exactly, but awkwardness in that as she goes around the countryside on horseback, asking questions and investigating, she’s known as Mrs. Holmes, or rather:

Finally, when I was tired and aching and seething with frustration, and thought it could not get any worse, it was brought to my attention that I had a nickname.  No: not even my own proper nickname, but a mere appendage to that of my husband. At two o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the house opened the door, gave me a beatific smile of welcome, and addressed me as Zherlock Mary.

Not even Snoop Mary, for God’s sake.  [p. 132]

Not sure if I mentioned it, but Mary’s helping Holmes out of duty, not necessarily out of interest.

I felt that there was a bit more depth in this novel as opposed to A Letter of Mary, but that’s not to say that I enjoyed A Letter of Mary less than this one. I feel that, in Letter of Mary, Russell was driven to solve the mystery of her murdered friend, and Holmes was helping her not only because he knew how important the solution would be to his wife, but also because he too felt a sense of loss. I feel that there was a strong thread of pro-feminism throughout that novel (as evidenced by the character that, even after having read the book twice, I still refer to as “Captain Misogyny“), and the mystery and … not agenda, but something akin though lesser than “agenda” forced the emotions to not be as explored. Whereas in The Moor, we are with Russell in solitude for a good amount of the book, and Holmes takes a backseat. This is the first mystery where Russell hasn’t really poked her nose in out of her own curiosity – she’s pulled into it by her husband, and this conflict is new. It’s resolved, and amicably and almost without any frustration at all, but the conflict is there. I appreciated this new avenue in the relationship between the characters of Holmes and Russell.

Again, I’m not saying that A Letter of Mary is a lesser book — far from it. But while they are in the same series, and one follows the other, I feel that they are rather different books.

Grade for The Moor: 4 stars

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