Review: Lockdown by Laurie R. King

Review: Lockdown by Laurie R. KingLockdown: A Novel of Suspense by Laurie R. King
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, thriller
Pages: 336
Published by Bantam on June 13th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A classroom is held hostage by someone with a thirst for revenge in this stunningly intricate, ripped-from-the-headlines novel of rich psychological suspense from the New York Times bestselling author of the Mary Russell mysteries.
Career Day at Guadalupe Middle School: a day given to innocent hopes and youthful dreams. A day no one in attendance will ever forget.
New York Times bestselling author Laurie R. King is an award-winning master of combining rich atmospheric detail with riveting, keen-edged mystery. Now, in her newest standalone novel of psychological suspense, King turns her sharp eye to a moment torn from the headlines and a school under threat. A year ago, Principal Linda McDonald arrived at Guadalupe determined to overturn the school's reputation for truancy, gang violence, and neglect. One of her initiatives is Career Day--bringing together children, teachers, and community presenters in a celebration of the future. But there are some in attendance who reject McDonald's bright vision.
A principal with a secret. A husband with a murky past. A cop with too many questions. A kid under pressure to prove himself. A girl struggling to escape a mother's history. A young basketball player with an affection for guns.
Even the school janitor has a story he dare not reveal.
But no one at the gathering anticipates the shocking turn of events that will transform a day of possibilities into an expolsive confrontation.
Tense, poignant, and brilliantly paced, Laurie R. King's novel charts compelling characters on a collision course--a chain of interactions that locks together hidden lives, troubling secrets, and the bravest impulses of the human heart.

My Review:

Lockdown was a surprise. In the end, it was nothing like I expected. Also, in the end, absolutely fascinating. Just not in the way that I expected at the beginning.

I was not expecting Holmes and Russell. Not that I wouldn’t love another entry in that series, but I knew this wasn’t it.

Instead, Lockdown is a story that starts out slowly and picks up steam, much as Guadalupe Middle School Principal Linda McDonald starts her day out early but slowly and ends with an exhausted rush at the end of this long and very surprising day.

It’s Career Day at Guadalupe, and Linda expects something to go wrong. Because, well, middle school. Take a whole herd of sixth, seventh and eighth graders, all rushing headlong into puberty at varying rates, mix well and throw them all together into a single steaming pot. It’s a guaranteed recipe for trouble at the best of times and in the best of places. The San Felipe neighborhood that Guadalupe serves is neither. And the varying differences of circumstances and misery that surround the students reflects both on their hyper-hormonal age group and the mostly working class racial melting pot neighborhood that surrounds them.

And in the middle of it all are two long-simmering tragedies. At the beginning of the school year, sixth grader Bee Cuomo went missing, and has neither been found, seen or heard from in the months since. And last year gang-leader Taco Alvarez murdered Gloria Rivas in cold blood, witnessed by two of Guadalupe’s students – Gloria’s sister Sofia and her friend Danny Escobedo. As the school prepares for Career Day, Taco’s trial is also proceeding, while his young cousin, still a Guadalupe student, tries to figure out what he owes to a cousin he both fears and worships.

But as the day moves forward and winds up to its explosive conclusion, the story peeks into the lives of every standout character in the school. That exploration begins with the Principal and her husband, from their surprising meeting in the jungles of Papua New Guinea to his rather murky past as a gun-for-hire. But everyone involved has secrets of their own, from the janitor who keeps the school running in some mysterious ways to the Coach who tries his best to save young boys before their eyes go completely dead to the students themselves.

They say that all happy families are alike, but that unhappy families are each unhappy in their own ways. And we see that here as their worlds collide with explosive violence, and it all goes wrong. But some things, after all, go right.

Escape Rating A-: At first, I wasn’t sure where this story was going. Based on the blurbs, it was pretty obvious that it was going to end in a school shooting, but I’ll admit to being completely misled about the shooter and their motivation until the very end.

And it does go slowly at first. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of tiny, individual portraits to sort through. At the beginning it felt as if the only characters we lingered on long enough to get a clear picture were Linda McDonald and her very mysterious husband Gordon Kendrick. Through Linda’s memories, we see their first meeting, and it’s obvious from the very beginning that Gordon has a very big secret that is finally catching up with him. It takes a while before that secret finally bites him in the ass, and the way that it happens just adds to the drama.

There are a lot of threads to this story. As the focus shifts from person to person, we see the way the wind blows. But there is more than enough misdirection for the reader to think that the explosion is coming from a completely different direction than it actually is.

The school is faced with so many crises, and both the students and their guardians have so many violent secrets. It’s not surprising that something erupts, only the how and the when are mysterious. Even the why becomes a bit obvious early on, or at least the reader thinks it does.

I went down the wrong path for a long time, and at the end was forced to back up and see where I missed the fork in the road. The misdirection was very well done.

While in her Career Day speech McDonald focuses on all the threads that make up the school and its community, the story is about all the threads that make up the tragedy and its aftermath. Once Linda’s day, and the story, get going, it’s impossible to stop until the end.

So I didn’t.

Review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King + Giveaway

Review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King + GiveawayThe Murder of Mary Russell (Mary Russell, #14) by Laurie R. King
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss, publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical mystery
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #14
Pages: 384
Published by Bantam on April 5th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Laurie R. King’s bestselling Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes series weaves rich historical detail and provocative themes with intriguing characters and enthralling suspense. Russell and Holmes have become one of modern literature’s most beloved teams. But does this adventure end it all?

Mary Russell is used to dark secrets—her own, and those of her famous partner and husband, Sherlock Holmes. Trust is a thing slowly given, but over the course of a decade together, the two have forged an indissoluble bond.

And what of the other person to whom Mary Russell has opened her heart: the couple’s longtime housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson? Russell’s faith and affection are suddenly shattered when a man arrives on the doorstep claiming to be Mrs. Hudson’s son.

What Samuel Hudson tells Russell cannot possibly be true, yet she believes him—as surely as she believes the threat of the gun in his hand. In a devastating instant, everything changes. And when the scene is discovered—a pool of blood on the floor, the smell of gunpowder in the air—the most shocking revelation of all is that the grim clues point directly to Clara Hudson.

Or rather to Clarissa, the woman she was before Baker Street.

The key to Russell’s sacrifice lies in Mrs. Hudson’s past. To uncover the truth, a frantic Sherlock Holmes must put aside his anguish and push deep into his housekeeper’s secrets—to a time before her disguise was assumed, before her crimes were buried away.

There is death here, and murder, and trust betrayed.

And nothing will ever be the same.

My Review:

This book felt like two stories for the price of one. With part of a third thrown in for added body and spice.

The first 55% of this book details the life of times of Mrs. Hudson before she became Mrs. Hudson. In the Holmes’ Canon, Mrs. Hudson springs fully-formed, as if from the Head of Zeus. Or Arthur Conan Doyle. In the first half of The Murder of Mary Russell, we finally get to know who she was before she became Holmes’ and Watson’s mostly unflappable landlady – and what a story it is.

As Mary finally discovers, the woman that Clara Hudson really is, well, is a much different person than the one that Mary has loved and taken for granted these last ten years. We never see our parental figures as they see themselves, but Mrs. Hudson’s revelations are much more of a surprise than the usual. Then again, little turns out to be usual in Sherlock Holmes’ and Mary Russell’s world.

Sherlock Holmes in "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott", which appeared in The Strand Magazine in April, 1893. Original caption was "'HUDSON IT IS, SIR,' SAID THE SEAMAN."
Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott”, which appeared in The Strand Magazine in April, 1893. Original caption was “‘HUDSON IT IS, SIR,’ SAID THE SEAMAN.”

But as we read about Clara’s early life, and as Mary eventually discovers, beneath the plaster saint that Mary has somewhat assumed Mrs. Hudson to be, there beats the heart of an adventuress.

In addition to the story of Mrs. Hudson’s early life, and the true tale of how she first met the young Sherlock Holmes, we also dive back into Holmes’ first case, The Adventure of the Gloria Scott. A whole lot of people get much-needed closure in this old case of bank fraud, mutiny and murder on the high seas, and blackmail.

But the resolution of that old case is part of the second half of the story, as Mrs. Hudson’s former life comes crashing into her current life, with nearly devastating results for everyone involved. When the smoke clears, a life is over.

Escape Rating A-: The Murder of Mary Russell, in spite of its alarming title, does not appear to be the end of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. But it certainly closes a chapter.

beekeepers apprentice by laurie r king new coverIt is also not the best place to start the series. If you have not had the pleasure, I enthusiastically recommend starting with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, where Sherlock Holmes meets a 15-year old orphan on the Sussex Downs, and first mistakes her for a boy. And second takes her as his apprentice.

But The Murder of Mary Russell does reach back into the past, and a past long before Mary herself comes into the picture. The story of Mrs. Hudson’s early life, while incredibly illuminating as regards a central figure in both the original stories and the Russell Kanon, just doesn’t have the same flair as is usual for this series. The complete and often sad story is necessary for the rest of the book, but it just doesn’t “sing”, or maybe that’s “zing” the way that Russell and Holmes usually do when they are together. When a very young Sherlock Holmes enters the story, just past the halfway point, the book suddenly picks up the dramatic pace, much as Holmes runs non-stop when he’s on the scent.

In other words, the first half of the story was interesting but a bit slow. The second half ran away with me, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished. Once all the players are finally together, the game is not merely afoot, but seems to sprint towards its climactic finish. The story, and the life and times of Mrs. Clara Hudson, wrap themselves up with both a literal and figurative “bang”.

For those who have followed this series from its beginnings, the end of this book, and the end of this chapter in all of their lives, is surprising and satisfying and sets the stage gloriously for more adventures yet to come.

I can hardly wait.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

This is my birthday book. As in, when I saw the release date, I just about squeed in delight, because I have been waiting for this next book in the Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series since the minute I finished the previous book, Dreaming Spies, last year. Because my birthday just happens to fall on a Tuesday, The Murder of Mary Russell is being released on my birthday. And what a marvelous present it turned out to be!

As part of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration, the publisher agreed to let me give away a copy of The Murder of Mary Russell to one lucky U.S. commenter. I love this series and hope that you do, or will, too!

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