It’s rather fitting that we’re reading O Jerusalem now, not only because the heat here in Chicago today is so blisteringly unbearable that it puts daylight in the Negev desert to shame, but also because it just so happens that I was actually in the Holy Land exactly five years ago today. Granted, instead of masquerading as a Bedouin traveler, I spent my time there being chauffeured around on an air-conditioned coach bus, so I can’t entirely claim to have a shared experience with Mary and Sherlock, but I think it’s quite a nice coincidence nonetheless.
Speaking of Mary and Sherlock, I’m very happy to have them back in my life. Our foray into Scottish Noir had its charms, and I may return to the world of John Rebus someday, but for now, I’m quite happy being reacquainted with our old friends from The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Laurie R. King has many strengths as an author, but I daresay that her ability to create a sense of intimacy between the character and the reader is perhaps her finest. O Jerusalem may technically be the fifth book in the Mary Russell series, but thus far, it still reads as smartly as the first.
The onset of O Jerusalem was perhaps a bit slower than its aforementioned predecessor, but since the story still maintained a solid sense of purpose, I wasn’t bothered much by the more languid pace, and now that I’ve just finished Chapter 5, I think it’s probably safe to assume that the tempo will only get speedier from here.
I think, above all else, that I am most intrigued now by Ali and Mahmoud, Mary and Sherlock’s mysterious guides, who are possibly Arabic, but more likely English, and possibly brothers, but more likely friends. Who exactly are these curious men, and why do they feel the need to carry on their likely charade in front of our heroes when it’s already been revealed that they’re spies for the British command? I’m looking forward to finding out.
How is the read coming along for you? When we read Beekeeper’s Apprentice, you declared that it was just as delightful the second time around as it had been the first. Are you feeling the same way about O Jerusalem? And does knowing what comes between the two books now change your opinion of the story in any way? Also, how’s your Arabic? And will you buy me a kaftan in an open air Middle Eastern market if I stare at it longingly for a spell? I eagerly await your answers.
P.S. If you ask nicely, I might be willing to show you a photograph of yours truly in the Holy Land riding a camel.