We lusted after war, and by God, we were given the trenches.
Where to begin with Justice Hall. I began this book immediately after closing O Jerusalem. I can't stress enough how much I think that this is the best way to read this one. Mary and Holmes say goodbye to Ali Hazr in the Middle East at the end of O Jerusalem, and then he collapses at their front door in England mere paragraphs into this one. This is amazing plotting by Laurie King. Do not read Justice Hall first. You will miss so much.
As those of you who follow my blog know, I've been reading a fair amount of WWI fiction this year. I've also been listening to a Great Courses on WWI that I downloaded from audible. I think, therefore, that I have a better than average understanding of the complexities and horrors of WWI. WWI has always figured prominently in the Holmes/Russell books because of the time period in which they are set - right on the heels of the war, as England is recovering from the national trauma.
This book, though, this one, puts it all into perspective. And the perspective is haunting and awful and raw and extraordinary. The book centers around the death of the heir to a historically significant English dukedom. As it turns out - and here there be spoilers, so beware - Mahmoud Hazr is actually Maurice Hughenfort. When the war began, he was not in the line of succession. With the death of his older brother, Henry, and Henry's son, Gabriel, a young English officer, Maurice has suddenly inherited to dukedom.
There are twists and turns galore. Marsh has a lesbian wife, who was a marriage of convenience. Gabriel, it appears, has been executed for cowardice. And Mahmoud desperately wants to return to his life as a Bedouin, but unless the succession can be established to exclude him, that's just not going to happen. Ali has arrived on the Holmes/Russell doorstep seeking their help.
I don't want to go into a lot of detail about the plot, because it's so well-done. There is one gasp-worthy moment, where you might laugh and say "I knew it!." There are heart-wrenching journal entries from Gabriel, and the truth of his death is enough to leave the reader stunned. And all of it, from the perspective of someone who has spent the last year learning about WWI, is 100% believable and historically convincing.
In the preceding five books of this series, I developed a healthy respect for Ms. King's writing skills, her ability to build character, and her research. This book left me in absolute awe. The way that she weaves together history and plot and character and emotion was staggering. I finished this book devastated.
I've been asked that question, that we are all asked at some point or another: "is there a series that you would really like to see adapted for film?"
Yes. This one. Always Mary Russell.