Mary Russell, wife of Sherlock Holmes, is called into service by Scotland Yard to investigate the possible criminal activity happening with the Fflytte Silent Film Production Company. While not enamored by the idea of the job, Russell is even less excited about the prospect of her brother-in-law coming to stay. So, she packs her bags and sets off for Portugal with a film crew that is creating a "realistic" movie about people performing The Pirates of Penzance.
As if the sheer chaos of shooting a film of a story within a story is not enough to contend with during a criminal investigation, the director's desire for "realism," thirteen actresses, fourteen pirates, a Portuguese translator, and a ship in questionable sailing shape all provide obstacles to Russell's successful completion of this highly bizarre case.
PIRATE KING is my first experience with Laurie King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. Even though it is the eleventh book in the series, I encountered no difficulties following the narrative - this book can easily stand alone. The story includes an entertaining plot, full of quirky characters befitting a Sherlock Holmes tale - from a creatively-dressed, Napoleon-like director to a soprano-voiced, scar-faced pirate to gum-chewing prima donna.
As Watson narrates the original Doyle stories, Russell narrates King's series. The smart, motivated and witty Russell is a captivating character; her commentary on the events as they unfold provide for colorful story-telling. Her spunk provides humor.
The plot of PIRATE KING contains well placed twists in addition to developing plot layers that work to build suspense throughout the novel. King throws in the occasional silent film subtitle block, reinforcing the movie motif, and the silence imagery extends out to language barriers between characters as well as secrets.
This novel is clever, suspenseful and fun. PIRATE KING is indeed a treasure to be discovered.
PIRATE KING will be available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-553-80798-1) from Bantam Books on September 6, 2011.