Friday, September 27, 2013

O, Jerusalem

Book: O, Jerusalem by Laurie R. King

Country: Israel

Description: O, Jerusalem is the fifth book in an ongoing series about Sherlock Holmes and his student, Mary Russell. They were forced to flee England because of a case there, and take refuge in the Holy Land, acting as spies for Holmes' brother Mycroft while disguised as native Arabs. While there, they begin to discover disturbing patterns, and must discover the mastermind behind these incidents... if they can.

My Thoughts: This should clearly be the point where I admit that I love the Mary Russell series, and that this is most definitely not my first time reading O, Jerusalem. Russell is a fascinating character, if a bit unrealistic for the time: a Jewish feminist Oxford scholar who also works with Sherlock Holmes to solve cases? Ah, well. She's great fun to read about when disbelief is suspended, and snarky to boot.

King is adept at creating a sense of place in her novels. They are some of the few novels I've read where I felt as if I knew more about the setting, almost the feel of the place--probably because Russell and Holmes invariably abandon their high-class clothes and setting and venture out dressed as a true inhabitant would be. And so they visit the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, and deserts and cities and monasteries and have entirely different experiences than they would have as tourists. Perhaps that is why I chose to review O, Jerusalem first on my newly-redesigned blog: because it was suffused with a sense of wonder for the Holy Land. Russell is a Jew, after all, and an extraordinarily knowledgeable one at that. O, Jerusalem is full of history of the land of Israel, from early Biblical events up to what was known as the Great War. That knowledge colors her, and therefore our, view of the land she travels through. And the wonder of the Holy Land is what sparked my reread of the book, since it was being covered in my Old Testament class, and I wanted to immerse myself in the land. Although the novel comes from a more secular point of view (there is really no mention of God, or of the possibility of His existence), King clearly respects the history of the land, and I find it a fascinating view of the Holy Land.

Although technically a mystery novel, solving the mystery is second to their travels for most of the book, and it is an odd mix of mystery, adventure, and travel novel. Odd, but certainly enjoyable and well-done.

A perfect novel to curl up with when one wants something light, entertaining, but also educational on the land of Israel.

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