The second in the series of mysteries solved by the retired Sherlock Holmes and his young, sharp, eagle-eyed female assistant, no, make that coequal, Mary Russell. The first World War has just ended, the influenza pandemic is receding, shell-shocked soldiers are returning from the front, and British women having recently received access to suffrage but are disappointed that their advancements in the workforce during the war are now in deep recession. Women’s rights are not what they hoped they would be.
Marjery Childe, a charismatic lay-preacher at the primarily-for-women New Temple of God, holds sway over hundreds of disillusioned women with the oratory skill of a revivalist pulpit banger. Mary Russell, who it turns out is Jewish, finds herself carried along, but suspicious, becoming more so as accidents, some of them mortal, befall Marjery’s disciples.
So much time is setting the scene that half a book needs to be finished before a crime is clearly in need of investigation and all the while Sherlock is mostly away on vacation removing the most engrossing part of these mysteries: the interplay of Holmes and Russell as they connive and deduce. I would read the next in the series because the characters and writing are so appealing, but it’s going to be awhile, because this book was reaching in so many directions at once it stumbled and tripped into a street puddle on a foggy London night.