Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Murder of Mary Russell - Laurie R. King


It seems that I’ve done it again, finally blundered my way into another new-to-me author’s back catalog. This time it’s Laurie R. King and her Russell and Holmes series that caught my eye — and it only happened because someone left a copy of The Murder of Mary Russell on the floor of my local library branch. After almost tripping over the book, I decided to re-shelve it before someone else had the same, or worse, experience, but a funny thing happened…the book ended up coming home with me. And now I’m hooked on both the author and the series. If The Murder of Mary Russell is any indication, this is going to be fun, so my thanks go to whomever it was that was too lazy to pick the book up from the floor that day. 


Even better, it appears that The Murder of Mary Russell could be the perfect spot for late arrivals to the Russell and Holmes series to jump in. The novel is set in 1925, but in long flashbacks it explores the backstories (as envisioned by King) of Holmes, Mary Russell, and especially Mrs. Hudson. King makes all three of these main characters, along with several side characters, vividly come to life as the younger versions of Holmes, Hudson, and Russell meet for the first time and become the more familiar older versions of themselves we have come to know so well. 


When a strange young man from Australia shows up on the Holmes doorstep one day claiming to be Mrs. Hudson’s son, Mary Russell reluctantly invites him inside to see what she can make of the shocking revelation. She justifies her decision, one that will place her and everyone she loves in great danger, this way:


“Would most young women accept such a claim without question? Perhaps. And perhaps most young women would be justified in their na├»ve acceptance. However, I was married to Sherlock Holmes, had known him only a few hours longer than I’d known Mrs. Hudson, and the basic fact of life with Holmes was: the world is filled with enemies.”


And this particular enemy, Samuel Hudson, is here for one reason only: payback. 


As Mary listens to what Samuel Hudson has to say about Mrs. Hudson, she starts to believe him despite how badly she wants not to. The man is looking for something, and Mary can tell that the more frustrated he becomes in his failed efforts to find it among Mrs. Hudson’s things, the more likely it is that he will pull the trigger of the gun in his hand. But if one of them has to die, Mary is determined that it will not be her…or will it be? All Mrs. Hudson can later tell Holmes is that she found substantial pools of blood on the floor when she returned to the unexpectedly empty house. And, as Holmes quickly learns, the blood on the floor is of the same type as his wife’s. Holmes hopes that his wife is being held for ransom, but the amount of blood on the floor tells him how unlikely that is. Is Mary Russell already dead?


Bottom Line: It is easy to see why fans of Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories have so readily taken to Laurie R. King’s Holmes pastiches. King has been doing them so long now (this is the fourteenth of seventeen books in the series) that she knows the characters as well as anyone ever has, and if this book is at all typical of others in the series, she writes a first-rate historical thriller, to boot. This will definitely not be my last Russell and Holmes novel. 


Laurie R. King

15 comments:

  1. I've read the very first book in this series and quite enjoyed it. I just haven't gotten around to reading any of the others. Story of my life! :)

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  2. I made a quick stop to one of the B&N stores nearby yesterday and picked up a hardcover edition of "Island of the Mad," the one that follows this one, for $5 from the remainders table. I planned to read one of the older books next, but since I have this one around, it will probably be next.

    We just can't read 'em all, can we?

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  3. This is one author I always meant to try and never have. I'm sure I own several of her books on my Kindle from too good to pass up Amazon deals. I smiled at your almost trip and fall experience but, glad it turned out well in the end.

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    1. It's my first experience (I think) with her books, too, but I don't think it will be the last. She is a very good storyteller. No telling what's hiding on your kindle. :-)

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  4. Laurie King is a quality writer and no mistake. I think I've read 5 and must get back to them as they were excellent. One of them has Kim, from the book by Rudyard Kipling, in it... not that I've read that one yet. My favourite so far was book 4, The Moor, which is set on Dartmoor, the setting for The Hound of the Baskervilles of course.

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    1. The one featuring Kim is intriguing, Cath. I'll have to look for that one for sure. This doesn't sound like one of those series best read in order, so I plan to do some picking and choosing as I work more of them in to my schedule.

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  5. I haven't read this one. In fact, the last one I read was the one just before this which I read a few years ago. This one sounds like a worthy successor.

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    1. I don't have a lot to go on other than what you guys are telling me, but I really like this one a lot. Makes me want to know more about King and read more of her books.

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  6. My response is like Lark's. I read the first one and haven't continued. That was about 10 years ago. I do have books 2 and 3 that I can read when I have time. I have read and enjoyed 3 books from King's Kate Martinelli series, set in San Francisco, and Touchstone, another historical mystery.

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    1. I want to try the Kate Martinelli books at some point, too. These days it's so easy to learn about new book and new-to-me authors that I just can't read everything I want to read. Hard to believe that a few decades ago, I was always searching for a book I wanted to read...and actually worried that I wouldn't find something. Times have really changed.

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  7. I followed this series for years, but it has been a while since I've read a Mary Russell. It would be fun to catch up on the books I've missed. I think the last Laurie King I read was introducing a new series.

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    1. I wonder if that's the Kate Martinelli books that Tracy mentioned. King has been around for a long time, so I wonder how in the world this is the first of her books I remember reading.

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  8. I need to get back to this series because I really enjoy it. I love whenever King comes to The Poisoned Pen. She and Barbara Peters are good friends and have gone traveling to places like Japan and Transylvania together which makes for a very fun and interesting event.

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    1. I can imagine. It's always great when an author, or other celebrity, is interviewed by a real friend not afraid to reveal the connection and ask more unusual connections. I can't wait to get back to a real live festival...maybe next year in NM. Still looking at that one.

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