King’s sixth Russell/Holmes mystery involves the couple in the travails of friends from an earlier volume in the series (O Jerusalem), Ali and Mahmoud, who, we learn, are actually petty royalty named Alistair and Maurice (Marsh) Hughenfort. Marsh has returned from the desert to his ancestral home, Justice Hall, to become the seventh Duke in his line since there appears to be no other living successor to the title.
Holmes and Russell (Sherlock and Mary just won’t do here!) decide that, if their brotherhood with Mahmoud/Marsh means anything, they must find an heir and relieve him of the horrendous burden of living out his life as a titled gentleman. Someone else has the same idea but intends to eliminate Marsh permanently.
While they search, Holmes and Russell encounter the typical cast of eccentrics, including Marsh’s lesbian wife, Iris, Marsh’s uppity sister Philidda, and her Nazi-loving husband, all of whom, at one time or another, raise suspicion.
A strange cast of characters? Not in the least, if you’re a King aficionado. It’s the eccentricity of the characters that makes the Holmes/Russell series so entertaining, present volume included. It’s clear that King has done her research, particularly in retelling the horrors of World War I. This is made all the more poignant by the story of Gabriel, who would have been the next Duke.
King is a wonderful writer. Enjoy.