I approached this second book in the Mary Russell series with a certain apprehension - after enjoying the first one so much, I wasn't at all sure if the next books in the series, by necessity different in tone, would give me as much enjoyment.
It did and it didn't.
I thought the book excellent - it was certainly a much more coherent narrative, focusing more on one single storyline (as opposed to the multiple plots, interconnected as they were, in the first book) and without the hops and jumps in time. I also found the theological parts more coherent and easier for a completely non-religious person such as myself to follow - either they were explained better, or they just made more sense in the narrative, being a necessary part of it.
While yes, this was a murder mystery, with chases, kidnappings, injuries and deaths, the feminist (and theological) aspects were, to me, much more pronounced and important than the mystery plot, which felt almost incidental, there to support the deeper ruminations of the characters. This, even more than the first book, felt like Mary's coming to age tale, and while my main complaint (and a major reason of rating this a mere four stars instead of five) is that there wasn't enough Holmes in here for my preferences, I do think that after the more introductory nature of the first book, this one was needed to establish Mary as a capable, intelligent and independent adult, able to function and work also without Holmes' continuous presence by her side.
He was always there though, of course, in her thoughts, and I loved the development of that relationship, through the awkward parts of mutual - if unspoken - understanding of the nature of things changing, the frustration, the apprehension of letting their relationship change into something else, something more, with the potential to destroy that existing partnership of best friends.
I'm certainly curious to see how things will change now that they're married and this tentative, careful pre-romantic relationship part is over.