Pirate King, by Laurie R. King [first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, Sept 23 2011]

Pirate King

by Laurie R. King

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Pirate King is Laurie R. King’s 13th entry in her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. The two are well-suited to each other, have been married three years. Mary has been inveigled, through a combination of Mycroft, Sherlock, and Lestrade, into investigating Fflytte Films as it gears up to filmThe Pirate King in Portugal. Allegations of financial fraud and drugs have pursued the company, and Mary is hired to replace their missing secretary, Lonnie Johns. The Pirate King is to be a film about the filming of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, or as Mr. Pessoa, the poet/translator hired in Portugal, remarks, “Pirates, both fantasy and authentic…. A picture with two layers of dream. A picture which is itself a dream? Artifice upon artifice….”

Once docked in Lisbon, locals are hired to portray pirates, notably La Rocha of the terrifying scar and his first mate, Samuel. Just as the film is to convey layers of stories, the plot of the novel Pirate King has more layers than a well-made strudel and is just as delectable. There’s even Rosie, the Marxist parrot, whose shrieked exhortations to the masses enlivens an already febrile situation.

Our narrator, Mary, has an ironic voice, and her wit is dry and penetrating (“however, knowing the House of Lords and its fondness for meddling in the lives of those who actually worked for a living…”); it is only the brilliance and bravery of her and her husband, Sherlock, that save the cast from a fate worse than, and also solve the mystery of why the subject of each Fflytte film is on conclusion replicated in reality. —Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard Books, and blogger at Still Working for Books

Discover: Laurie R. King’s 13th entry in her delightful Russell/Holmes series, with pirates, damsels in distress, a Marxist parrot and heroic, adroit feats by Mary Russell.

Bantam, $25 hardcover, 9780553807981
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