Sunday, January 17, 2021

Riviera Gold (Russell and Holmes #16) by Laurie R. King: Reading Room Review


A new Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes book from Laurie King is always a cause for celebration. For those of us who are rabid fans, or BEEKS, it is one of the reading events we live for. This series has inspired so many readers to expand their enjoyment of the Sherlock Holmes adventures. Laurie King has created an exciting extension of the Sherlock Holmes stories, giving him a young wife, who is equal to the challenge of solving mysteries and curbing the criminal element. The settings in the series have taken us from England to Jerusalem to Japan, and in Riviera Gold, we travel to the south of France and Monaco. 

Also included in the author’s extended world for Sherlock Holmes is the shaping of a life for the ubiquitous, but seemingly invisible, Mrs. Hudson. In the broadened world of Russell and Holmes, Mrs. Hudson is given an adventurous past with surprisingly unsavory elements. It is the fascinating past and present of Mrs. Hudson that this latest entry into the series goes, with the background being set up in the next-to-last book, The Murder of Mary Russell. I recommend that you read that book before this one.

Having finished their business in Venice (Island of the Mad), Sherlock takes off for Romania, but Mary joins in the sailing party with her good friend the Hon. Terry and his gang for the south of France. Mary has an ulterior motive for the trip, as she thinks it is to Monaco Mrs. Hudson traveled when she left Sussex and England forever. Mary arrives in the south of France and meets the Murphys, Gerald and Sara, who have a home in Antibes, where Mary and her friends are staying at a hotel. It is the Jazz Age (1920s) and the time of the Lost Generation, so it’s a time of great change and new direction. The gatherings at the Murphys are a who’s who in young artists and writers of that time—Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and more. Gerald and Sara Murphy have created an artistic haven for creative minds, which in itself is an amazing story.

And, the Murphys gathering on the beach with friends is where Mary, on her first full day on the French Riviera, runs into Mrs. Hudson. Mary shows great restraint when she’s surprised to find Mrs. Hudson so quickly, but she saves their reunion for when they’re alone. As it happens, Mrs. Hudson, who now appears as a woman of elegance and sophistication, will need Mary’s help and eventually Sherlock’s, too. Mrs. Hudson’s past is rearing its ugly head as well as its elegant one, and she finds herself suspected of a murder. Before answers can be found, there will be rumors of a lost fortune, the appearance of White Russians, and the delight of Lily Langtree. Add to that the arts community in neighboring Antibes, including a trip to a bronze pour, and the excitement is at an all-time high

One of the aspects of Riviera Gold I enjoyed the most was the independence that Mary shows in it. It is very much her book and her direction that guides the action of the story. Readers of the series are already cognizant of how valuable a team member Mary is in her and Sherlock’s sleuthing and missions, but this book shows Mary coming into her own, a freeing of the spirit in a sense. While Sherlock shows up and is a part of their investigation into the murder, it is Mary who shines. The evolution of the personal relationship between Russell and Holmes will be interesting to follow. 

Laurie King always gives readers a great story and great characters. She also does an enormous amount of research which flows smoothly through the historical details of her books. Riviera Gold was a goldmine of interesting historical connections that led me to do more reading myself. Gerald and Sara Murphy, who relocated from America to the French Riviera in the 1920s, were instrumental in furthering the careers of major writers and artists. I found myself fascinated by them and their Villa America and had to read more about them. The whole book is full of historical gems. 

I highly recommend this sixteenth addition to one of my favorite series. I’m looking forward to the continuing exploits of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.

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