A Monstrous Regiment of Women has to be one of the more unique names in the history of mystery fiction and appropriately so coming from Laurie R. King who also gave us The Beekeeper's Apprentice. A Monstrous Regiment of Women is the second in King's series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches featuring Mary R. Russell the teen girl who is a match for Holmes in every way imaginable. As with the previous novel we join Mary at an important moment in her life as she has just finished her first serious academic paper to be delivered before the dons of Oxford and she is about to attain her age of majority and thereby come into the fortune left to her by her father. As with her previous Holmes pastiche King gives the reader credit by using a style and structure and florid expression of the day rather than the more pedestrian prose that passes for creativity in contemporary fiction.
This time out Mary is in a bit of an emotional turmoil with many ideas roiling about her not the least of which is her relationship with Holmes and her feelings towards the man not the intellect. Mary runs into an old acquaintance Ronnie Beaconsfield from whom she was marginally estranged as she proceeded with her studies at Oxford and Ronnie went on to work in the war effort. Ronnie has become part of The New Temple in God a religious organization lead by the appropriately named, charismatic diminutive, pale and blond Margery Childe. Naturally enough it would not be much of a mystery if bodies devoid of life did not soon crop up and such is the case in The New Temple in God where there seems to have been a steady though curiously unnoticed pile up of bodies of young, wealthy women.
Mary Russell of course sees the possible connection between the church's prosperity and the demise of some of its more wealthy participants and embeds herself into the organization while getting some outside help from Holmes. This is not a Holmes story this is a Russell story and while Holmes is instrumental in the solution he is not the protagonist he is merely a player. King has done well by both Russell and Holmes in A Monstrous Regiment of Women. Both characters are given the chance to grow and mature. There is a bit of a surprise ending with one of the more outright funny lines every to come out of Holmes mouth on the second to last page of the second to last chapter (if you count the postscript as the last chapter) you will have to find the line for yourself.
A Monstrous Regiment of Women belongs on the bookshelf of any fan of Laurie. R. King, Holmes lover or fan of extremely well written cozys.