The Sunday Salon: Of A Mind to Read

My southern grandmother often used the expression, “I’ve a mind to…” to mean she intended to do something, or felt like doing something.  I’ve not had much of a mind  for writing lately, but I’ve taken a mind to read quite a bit.   I’ve just finished my third book in Laurie King’s series about Mary Russell, a brilliant young Oxford scholar who joins forces with Sherlock Holmes to solve mysteries both literal and figurative.  In this volume,  A Letter of Mary, an archaeologist friend of Russell’s presents her with an ancient papyrus which appears to be  a letter from Mary Magdalene, in which she refers to herself as a “disciple” of Jesus. 

Now, the very idea of a woman being one of the chosen 12 sends a chilling thrill up Russell’s spine.  Since theology is her field of study, and since she is nothing if not an ardent feminist, the idea of setting the theological hierarchy on its head by disclosing this letter is very appealing.  However, the precipitate murder of the friend who gave her the letter, followed by the complete ransacking of Russell’s own home, distracts her and Holmes long enough to allow her to rethink this move.

So the pair of detectives (now a married couple) join forces to solve the murder.  Once again, King weaves a multitude of story lines into the plot…women’s rights in the 1920’s, the use of hypnosis in traumatic amnesia,  the role of women in the early Christian church.  And she deftly uses all these themes to illustrate the growth in Russell and Holmes’ relationship.

While the subject  matter sounds weighty, King has just the right touch with humor, the kind of dry, slightly sarcastic wit you would expect of Holmes and a young woman of Russell’s inherent genius and education. 

I particularly enjoyed this passage, a description of Russell’s enforced attendance at Sunday Service…

It was precisely as I had envisioned it, a nominally Anglican service conducted in an ugly Victorian monstrosity with no open windows, packed with overdressed enthusiasts, and complete with a sweating, roaring sermon based on an unspecified text but touching on topics ranging from employment problems to women’s suffrage to the duties of an imperial power.  The sermon was one of the longest I have ever had the misfortune to be subjected to, and as the man could not cite his biblical references properly,  I did not feel it incumbent upon me to listen properly.  I let myself sink into a light hypnotic trance, fiixed an attentive look on my face, and reviewed irregular verbs.  I worked my way through Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German, French, and Italian, and had begun on Spanish when the sermon thundered to its foregone conclusion.  We paid our silver, sang a few more thumping hymns, and were give a blessed release.

 I’m really growing to love this series, and I’m so pleased there are quite a few more which I can look forward to reading.

As for today, a good portion of this afternoon will be spent on my porch with Pat Conroy’s  new novel South of Broad.

Now tell me, what are you reading this Sunday?


18 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Of A Mind to Read

    • I really enjoyed Digging into America, and have been meaning to re-read it. Did you like it? I despise having nothing left to read…how in the world did that happen to you?

      You must try the Mary Russell series. I think you’d really enjoy them.

  1. This series sound so interesting. I loved the excerpt you shared. This Sunday I’m not sure if I’ll get much reading done. I’ve spent the morning thus far watching An Affair to Remember with my mother – I’ve never watched the whole thing through – so I’m finally getting to watch it.

  2. I just reread this one a few months ago. 🙂 It’s great, especially since this time around I ‘knew’ the archaelogist since I’d already read ‘O Jerusalem.’ Next up for you is The Moor-one of my faves in the series!

  3. I am a huge fan of the Mary Russell series, and always glad to meet another. Sometimes I think that so many of us that have loved the Holmes stories have always secretly craved a female equivalent. Happy reading!

    • It is fun to see Holmes meet his match occasionally with a female. I quite like the interplay between the two, and it’s fun to see their relationship develop as husband and wife. At first, it didn’t quite believable, but King is doing a good job of bringing them closer in each successive book.

  4. Off-topic, but my mum also uses the expressions, “I’ve a mind to…”, and she is from the north-east of England. I’ve noticed a lot of English expressions end up in the south of the US, but not the north (off the top of my head I can only think of “I reckon”).

  5. Hmm. I wasn’t familiar with this series before your post, but it does sound intriguing, especially about women’s rights in the 20s and women’s role in the church. Interesting. But how many books are in the series I wonder? I’m always put off by long series of books, no matter how fascinating the subject matter. Thanks for bringing it to my attention though!

  6. Drat. Today I’m reading the transcript of a murder trial — which isn’t the same as fiction, but dismal and sad. Still, it’s good to know you liked the Holmes books! xo

  7. I’m waiting for the first of the Mary Russell books to turn up in my library pile. After what my blogging friends have said about them I really want to get to know her, but I’m obsessive about reading series in the right order. I must pop over to the library site and see if there is a reason for the hold-up.

  8. That sounds like a delightful read! I have never heard of it before, but the writing is very nice. I’ve been reading Fledgling, a vampire-type novel. I’m at the point where I’m deciding whether or not I like it. If not, I’ll be moving right on to The Hunger Games.

  9. Not heard of this series before. Something to keep in mind (along with the thousands of other suggestions I get on all these blogs!)

    I just finished a different trip to another time and another culture: 19th century China during the Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion, “My Splendid Concubine,” by Lloyd Lofthouse. It explores the dark side of both Western and Eastern culture, with the conclusion — nothing is perfect and we are all humans with human emotions and flaws. A good read.

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