Book Review: Dreaming Spies
By Laurie R. King
For years now, readers of the Russell Memoirs have wondered about the tantalizing mentions of Japan. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes had spent three weeks there, between India (The Game) and San Francisco (Locked Rooms). The time has finally come, to tell that story. It is 1925, and Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes arrive home to find…a stone. A stone with a name, which they last saw in the Tokyo garden of the future emperor of Japan. It is the first indication that the investigation they did for him in 1924 might not be as…complete as they had thought. In Japan there were spies, in Oxford there are dreams. In both places, there is a small, dark-haired woman, and danger. (Courtesy of goodread.com)
Adult Point of View
I was so confused starting this book! It is my own fault, I had not clued into the fact that this book went back in time and wasn’t following sequentially. If you haven’t read it, you are now warned that in sequence this would follow The Game which took place in India.
As with most series, I like some installments better than others. Dreaming Spies would fall in the category of not my favorite, but still far better than much of what is written. I think the main reason I didn’t love Dreaming Spies was because it jumps around. I would have liked to feel a more continuous flow. There was also references to pornographic material, which was part of the plot, but I still could have skipped it. However, I really liked several of the characters. The Japanese characters were particularly interesting because Mary views them as the foreigner in their environment. Mary notes that she is no longer completely comfortable on the train for tourists after spending time with the people of Japan. Another good point is seeing the travel of the 1920’s from steamer boat to trains and rickshaws. It helps me see why everything seemed so fast to them when previously travel wasn’t practical, and how much faster life is now – even at a frantic speed.
I was quite surprised by the introduction of ninjas into the story plot. I had to question if there ever had really been ninjas or if they were myths. My research matched the history of the ninja as explained by King. The only deviation I could find was there were no more ninjas in the 1920’s, but if they were a secret organization why not have ninjas available for the Emperor? I thought it was a fascinating bit of history to include and I enjoyed it.
Another interesting fact was the Chrysanthemum Stone, though I don’t know if the royalty of Japan had one in a garden, it is an actual phenomenon. It was first discovered in Japan, but is more commonly found in China and the United States. The stone is volcanic rock with calcite crystals that form the blooms. Some believe the stones have healing properties.
The Chrysanthemum Stone in Dreaming Spies was described as carved rather than a crystalline impression, as as being very faint. Some artists carve away the black stone to reveal the chrysanthemum in a more prominent way. Either way, it was very interesting to research.