Despite their considerable age difference, Mary Russell and Sherlock have been partners for many years and married for five—and their partnership is still going strong in this 16th installment in the series. Our detectives have been invited by Marie, Queen of Roumania, to the mysterious, imposing Castle Bran, which is being lovingly renovated by its queen. This isn’t a Transylvanian jaunt for the couple, though. There are weird, unexplained things happening in the village, and Marie, who is beloved by her adopted people, needs immediate help from Russell and Sherlock. It’s not just that Marie is worried about the townspeople; she believes that her teenage daughter Ileana’s safety, and perhaps her very life, is at stake.
Are there really strigoi? What is the source of the strange occurrences haunting the townspeople? Russell and Sherlock need to investigate to a conclusion.
In the land of historic figures like Vlad the Impaler and Elisabeth Bathory, and Stoker’s fictional Count Dracula, the atmospherics of this installment grab the reader immediately. Queen Marie, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, is intricately drawn by King, and her personality shines through. The relationship between Sherlock and the much younger Russell is explored in much more depth than in other installments; happily, Sherlock is willing to learn from Russell, particularly in the way she observes events and people, as much as she has been mentored by him.
Obviously this is one of my favorite installments in the series, entertaining us with Russell-Sherlock interplay while informing us with fascinating historical events and people. Highly recommended, although difficult to read purely as a stand-alone novel.