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Pirate KingProbably not the strongest entry in Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series, but still an entertaining read. Although I finished Pirate King late last night, I went to reach for it a couple times today, still looking forward to more of its tangle of real and make-believe pirates, silent film hijinks, and Mary’s intrepid feats of derring-do (escaping from the window of one building and then scaling the wall of an adjoining building using her trusty silken rope).

The “criminal investigation” that set this tale in motion was so flimsy that I’m still not sure whether there was actually a substantive reason behind any of it. But it gave King an excuse to put Mary undercover as an assistant to a film company making a film about the filming of the Pirates of Penzance (yes, that’s right: it’s not a typo). Mary travels to Lisbon, where she meets the poet Pessoa (an historical figure—once I read the acknowledgements I realized I’ve heard of him before);  then sails the high seas in a brigantine (memorizing every knot and nook); and finally is held for ransom (along with the thirteen actresses playing the daughters of the “Major General”) by real pirates (playing film pirates). Part of the fun is Mary’s literate, intelligent voice as she narrates her travails: she cannot quite believe what she’s gotten herself into (though we’re never worried that she won’t be able to get herself out with, perhaps, just a small bit of help from Holmes).

Obviously, King is so confident in her audience that she can spin this cotton candy, and we’ll cheerfully slurp it up. But I do wish she (and other authors) would be careful about the needless repetition of details. It’s painful to read the same lines of exposition more than once. Is it just sloppiness or do these authors assume we readers take weeks between chapters (or pages) and need regular refreshers?

Despite such quibbles, I’m always pleased to read more in the Russell-Holmes saga; I’ve also saved King’s e-book Beekeeping for Beginners on my iPad for a rainy reading day soon. And A Study in Sherlock (King is one of the editors) is on my list for 2012.