What in the world do you do with a man who is an incurable know-it-all but also kinda sexy? In particular, what do you do with him if he just happens to be that most accomplished, effective and famous of know-it-alls, Sherlock Holmes? If you're Mary Russell, the brilliant and acerbic star of Laurie King's series, you become his protégée, learn everything he knows and then...well...you marry him, and start solving some crimes on your own.
In the first of nine books in the series, Mary, an orphaned heiress, has been deprived of her own money by a stingy aunt. One day, she's walking in Sussex to avoid said relative when she happens upon the retired Sherlock Holmes. Holmes has his own problems: boredom and cocaine addiction. Inspired by an intellect that matches his own (Mary is the kind of 15-year-old who wanders about with complex Latin texts in her pocket), he takes her under his wing and trains her as a detective. In our favorite book, A Monstrous Regiment of Women (points for the great title), she initially is enthralled by a pseudo-religious organization headed by the charismatic Margery Childe. Hailed as a prophet by her hordes of female followers, Margery preaches proto-feminist readings of the Bible, advocates women's suffrage and works with her followers to establish services for poor women and children in London. It all seems wonderfully utopian until a string of women connected to the movement turn up dead, at which point, at the behest of a friend, Mary begins to investigate. The moral dilemma of the case—How can an organization that's so good cause so much evil?—as well as the fistfights in the streets and the numerous twists involved in catching the murderer, make for a deliciously tantalizing and witty read. How did one writer finally figure out that all a good-looking, arrogant fellow like Holmes needed was a woman to keep him in check? Elementary, my dear Watson.—Nathalie Gorman