Saturday, January 13, 2024

The Lantern's Dance: A Mary Russell Book by Laurie R. King To Open 2024

It may seem that I've been neglecting Flying High Reviews . I'd like to emphasize that this is a blog for strong female protagonists.  There actually were no strong female protagonists among the books I read in 2023 in my estimation.  I was hoping for one, but no female protagonist in the novels I read last year met my admittedly exacting standards.

 The Lantern's Dance got my immediate attention.  I was astonished to get an approval of a Laurie R. King novel from Net Galley at the end of last year.  I've never had an approval for such an eminent mystery author.


Mary Russell is one of my favorite female protagonists.  So I was disappointed to see her periodically de-emphasized in favor of characters I hadn't previously encountered. Mary Russell works with Sherlock Holmes. Both Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are fictional characters.  Sherlock Holmes was created by Arthur Conan Doyle and Mary Russell was created by Laurie R. King, the author of The Lantern's Dance.  It's the 18th book in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.

 There was a complex web of characters in The Lantern's Dance. I sometimes had to page back to where these characters were introduced to identify who they were.  Changes in perspective added to the complexity.  There was at least one moment of confusion about the viewpoint character that I recorded in my notes.

There is a reference to Monet's cataracts in this book.  This sent me to the Wikipedia article dealing with Claude Monet.  I had never focused on Monet because I couldn't recall seeing any of his work in person.  I actually had, but I didn't find it memorable.   So this is the first time I've looked up Monet and read something about his life.  It's tragic for a visual artist to develop cataracts.   

There was also a reference to a controversy over whether art should be decorative in The Lantern's Dance.  I have a comment in my handwritten notes on this novel dealing with seeing Picasso's "Guernica" in person.  "Guernica" had a strong impact on me.  In 10 Facts About Guernica  I learned that Picasso considered this painting to be centrally about fascism.  I conclude that for Picasso, art wasn't about being decorative.  If art is supposed to be decorative, then "Guernica", one of the most memorable pieces of art I've ever seen, is not art.  

Indigo and the Indian revolt against growing it in 1859 is mentioned in The Lantern's Dance. The British had forced Indians to grow indigo instead of a food crop.  I found a Wikipedia article about a play called Nil Darpan that deals with the revolt against growing indigo.  The play was controversial.  James Long, the man who published it in English, was charged with sedition and imprisoned.  I found the play in pdf  format at Nil Darpan on Internet Archive if you're interested in reading it.

The real artist, Horace Vernet, who is often referenced in The Lantern's Dance, had an 1835 self-portrait that Laurie R. King calls Holmesian in her Author's Note.  I am including this self-portrait below in a resized format that will fit on the page.  I agree that this image of  Vernet does resemble the way some might view Sherlock Holmes.  Since Laurie R. King is one of them, we must give serious consideration to her view.  

Here is the self portrait of Vernet in question:




The author notes that 2024 marks 30 years since the first  Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novel , The Beekeeper's Apprentice, appeared.  So I would like to wish Laurie R. King a happy anniversary and felicitations on publishing this very labyrinthine mystery.