I won this book, to my intense delight, from LibraryThing’s Early Readers giveaway – many thanks.
I did a read-through of most of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novels (how funny that Holmes takes second billing) in preparation for reading my shiny, exciting advance readers copy of Pirate King – so it was almost a jolt to open it and find it so very light-hearted. It seems Laurie R. (Arr) King felt that the reader and Mary Russell both needed a break from the wrought, high intensity stories that came before, and went all out to provide one. Pirate King is just this side of farce, anchored on this side by Mary Russell’s incredulous character, some very real danger faced by the main characters, and the knowledge that yes, the silent movie biz in the Roaring 20’s really was kind of that insane (one of the most outrageously outré characters was, in fact, a real person). It’s fast and funny, it’s very different, and it’s a great deal of fun.
The premise – something strange is going on amongst the cast and/or crew of a production company in which the royal family has invested, making he problems of national concern – sends Russell off on her own (after, as usual, about a minute at home) to investigate. Fflyte Films is making a movie about a production company making a movie based on The Pirates of Penzance, and while filming the movie within the movie the film crew within the film will be taken by real pirates. (Savvy?) The logical outcome for the book, of course, is that the real film crew filming the antics of the fictional film crew filming the antics of the actors playing actors will, of course, run into real pirates … And that doesn’t even touch on the issue Mary Russell was sent to investigate.
I think, told from any other point of view than Russell’s first person narrative, this might have suffered. But it is suffused with Russell’s overriding emotion of oh you have got to be joking along with the hurried, harried, harassed state that has her in the middle of situations before she can even recognize them, and it is wonderfully funny. I think in any hands besides Laurie R. King’s this would have been an almighty mess.
The occasional use of silent film title screens is beautiful. Russell is herself, only perhaps moreso as she is kept off-balance through so much of the story. And her reunion with Holmes is a joy. Nothing is as it seems, nothing seems as it is, and it is, it is a pretty glorious thing to read the Pirate King.
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