King, Laurie R.: (05-07) O Jerusalem; Justice Hall; The Game

Three of Laurie R. King’s Russell/Holmes novels, originally read a while ago and now re-read in anticipation of getting the latest, Locked Rooms, out of the library soon: O Jerusalem, Justice Hall, and The Game.

O Jerusalem is a flashback novel, set chronologically during the first, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Russell and Holmes go to Jerusalem to hide from their Beekeeper’s adversary, and have adventures with two apparent-nomads, the Hazrs. This is exciting and absorbing, with a vivid portrayal of the setting; it should be noted, however, that it is primarily about adventuring rather than detecting.

Justice Hall is set after The Moor, the fourth Russell/Holmes novel, but closely concerns characters from O Jerusalem in a way that generates more than a little whiplash (and not just because King had a better idea about their first names between Beekeeper’s and here). I think this may be my favorite to date, a solid and moving exploration of family secrets and obligations in an English manor house whose inhabitants are still feeling the effects of WWI. For those who care about such things, there is very little Holmes in this novel.

The Game is King’s homage to Kipling’s Kim, as Russell and Holmes hunt for a missing Kimball O’Hara. This is much like O Jerusalem, except in India of course, as Russell and Holmes see the country and have adventures and do little in the way of detecting. It is also engrossing, sensual, and fun, but I was slightly concerned on three fronts: first, the prologue suggests that the framing device, that someone is sending Russell’s manuscripts to King, is being dropped; second, there are some unresolved questions and loose ends; and third, Russell and Holmes are going to have nervous breakdowns from having three cases in a row with basically no recovery time! (It’s my guess that Locked Rooms will address some or all of these, though not always as I’d like—I am concerned at reports that it is partly in third-person Holmes POV. Well, we’ll see when a library copy becomes available.)

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  1. You’ve summed up my feelings here quite well.

    O Jerusalem is a fine adventure novel, and furthers the characterizations. It even has a bit of Secret History, which I am overly fond of.

    Justice Hall is an exceptional novel, completely independent of the ongoing characters and their portrayals/growth. For me, it justifies the entire series (if it needed any justification).

    The Game was a bad idea, too much hommage and not enough novel. It nearly lessens the characters (and author) in my eyes. And I agree completely that dropping the framing device was an incredibly poor choice—it had such potential! I fear, from the sample chapters of Locked Rooms available online, that the framing device is gone forever. How sad.

  2. I haven’t read Kim; I thought about it, but when I flipped through it in the library, it felt like homework, so I put it back down.

    One needn’t have read Kim to understand The Game, I think, but perhaps that is better, if Kim is the diminished character you’re referring to. I thought it had some lovely creepy moments, at least.

    I wouldn’t want a framing device to be a straightjacket on the stories an author wants to tell, but the move away from it in The Game felt like just self-indulgence. And Holmes POV strikes me as an appallingly chancy thing to do.

    Oh well, I have a request in at the library and we’ll see.

  3. I didn’t even miss the framing device in The Game, perhaps because I don’t tend to like framing devices in general.

    Glad to know there is a new one coming in what is one of my favorite series: even if I am still squicked about the age difference.

  4. Elaine: I have seen Locked Rooms in stores now, in hardcover.

  5. I’ve now read all of Locked Rooms, and I was wrong about the framing device. It wasn’t shown in the sample snippet online, but there is a token reference to the framing story in the print book. I’m satisfied. 🙂

    Overall, a fine premise, decently executed, but [criticism edited to avoid spoilers]. I’ll be happy to comment after you’ve posted about it.

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