Well, it's a sequel. 2.5 stars
--The descriptions of the time and place. Loved them.
--The side characters are good: the farm manager and the maid/butler couple, in particular. (And Watson, as always.)
--The discussions of the role of women in religion and the society of the time were illuminating, and I liked learning more about the Jewish scholarly tradition.
--The writing itself was very good.
--Too bad that Mary's middle name is Judith, because this is the Mary Sue to end all Mary Sues: She's brilliant, rich, independent, so strong-willed she can shake off heroin addiction, tall, thin, is universally loved, and suffers no consequences for flouting the societal conventions of the time. Right. She even has long, luxurious hair. Where are the flaws? Somebody who has everything (except self-doubt and humility, apparently) is not somebody I want to spend much time with. That's why I stopped watching "House." I do appreciate that she occasionally tries to help people, and I won't go so far as to say that she helps only to suit her own purposes--that's not accurate. But the character just doesn't appeal to me in this one.
--Also as in House, I don't really see any character evolution over the course of the story here. Mary and Holmes finish as they start out, with the exception of the change in their relationship. And may I just say "ew," if he was interested in her from the get-go? She was 15, for crying out loud.
--This one was much more melodramatic than the debut novel, moving well away from the defining characteristic of both main characters: their ability to deduce. You almost expect the "bad guy" to turn out to be Snidely Whiplash himself. /datingmyself.
--The story is poorly paced, and the denouement comes with very little setup. Feels like a cheap ending.
I might try one more, to see whether this one was just a victim of sequelitis. But the story needs to be stronger and more consistent, and the characters need to show signs of growth, for me to continue with the series.