I have said elsewhere how much I enjoy the Mary Russell series of books by Laurie R King so will not repeat myself unnecessarily here; pleased to say that Pirate King is no exception to that rule and was a lovely fun read after a run of dark and creepy novels.

This is the eleventh in the series and although it does refer back to previous adventures it does so in a non-spoilerish way so would be a good place to start if you have never read a Mary Russell novel before. It is certainly much more light-hearted in many ways than the others and gives a good insight into Mary’s character and her relationship to her famous husband Sherlock Holmes.

So, bit of plot. Mary is persuaded by the imminent arrival of her brother-in-law Mycroft (with whom she’s had a bit of a falling out) to take on the role of assistant to a film crew to investigate the disappearance of her predecessor (was it foul play or had she just had enough) and the distinct air of criminality which follows each of the company’s productions (gun running, drugs etc.) This leads to a trip to Lisbon and then Morocco in what turns out to be a bit of a romp (and that’s a word I normally avoid though it seems appropriate here).

This is huge fun. There are pirates and ingenues and megalomaniacal film directors and chaperones and secret agents and disguises and all manner of derring do set against the backdrop of a silent film production, in this case a film about the making of a film about The Pirates of Penzance. I love stories about early movie making (Bride of the Rat God (sadly out of print it seems) and Hollywood being two that spring to mind, though very different of course) and the technical problems and practicalities of making a movie in the 1920s really spring to life here without being heavy-handed, which has always been one of this author’s strengths for me.

And as much as I love Mary on her own it’s always better when Holmes himself gets involved; the dynamics of their relationship are one of the joys of the series, so I was very pleased whenever he turned up.

A very enjoyable read all round, and I can’t wait for the next one.

I considered listing this as an RIP read because there is mystery and peril galore but it was just too light-hearted to sit alongside my reading this for that challenge.

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