In this latest adventure featuring the intrepid Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, New York Times bestselling author Laurie R. King takes readers into the frenetic world of silent films—where the pirates are real and the shooting isn’t all done with cameras.
In England’s young silent-film industry, the megalomaniacal Randolph Fflytte is king. Nevertheless, at the request of Scotland Yard, Mary Russell is dispatched to investigate rumors of criminal activities that swirl around Fflytte’s popular movie studio. So Russell is traveling undercover to Portugal, along with the film crew that is gearing up to shoot a cinematic extravaganza, Pirate King. Based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, the project will either set the standard for moviemaking for a generation . . . or sink a boatload of careers.
Nothing seems amiss until the enormous company starts rehearsals in Lisbon, where the thirteen blond-haired, blue-eyed actresses whom Mary is bemusedly chaperoning meet the swarm of real buccaneers Fflytte has recruited to provide authenticity. But when the crew embarks for Morocco and the actual filming, Russell feels a building storm of trouble: a derelict boat, a film crew with secrets, ominous currents between the pirates, decks awash with budding romance—and now the pirates are ignoring Fflytte and answering only to their dangerous outlaw leader. Plus, there’s a spy on board. Where can Sherlock Holmes be? As movie make-believe becomes true terror, Russell and Holmes themselves may experience a final fadeout.
Pirate King is a Laurie King treasure chest—thrilling, intelligent, romantic, a swiftly unreeling masterpiece of suspense.
This novel had me doubled up with laughter multiple times. While most books in this series deal with darker and more serious themes, this one is downright silly at times. Mary Russell, esteemed scholar, detective and wife of the infamous Sherlock Holmes, is willing to do nearly anything to avoid her brother-in-law, including, reluctantly, joining the film crew of one of the most ridiculous productions ever. The motion picture is to be about a film crew making The Pirates of Penzance only to encounter real life pirates. So, of course, the makers of the film based on people making a film about pirates and encountering real pirates, encounter real pirates. Can't you just see the potential in such a plot?
This book featured a rich cast of unique and entertaining characters. Mr. Flytte, the director, is quirky, obsessed and very short. His second cousin, Geoffrey Hale, is the more sensible one. Then there is La Rocha, the piratical Portuguese man they hired to play the Pirate King...but is he really acting? And is he really Portuguese? Also, there is the plethora of blonde girls running around with fake constables and perhaps not so fake pirates. My favorite new character by far was Mr. Pessoa, the poet with multiple personality disorder and many names. He was actually a real poet, so I may have to go find some of his work now...
The story went along at a good pace and there was so much going on that I never knew what was going to happen next, though I did figure out the villain fairly early (or at least one of them). The clues were subtle and well-hidden throughout the plot. I loved the Byron quotes that kept cropping up, much to Russell's irritation. I do wish that Holmes had made more of an appearance in the story, but when he finally joined in the fun truly started. His disguise put his musical talents to very good use, and that is all I am going to tell you.
This book continues Ms. King's tradition of wonderful writing and complex characters and yet still manages to be completely unique. I would recommend it to lovers of mystery, light-hearted farce, pirates, film-making, poetry and...well, there is something in it for everyone. :)