The winners of the Agatha Awards, which celebrate the “traditional mystery–books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie,” were honored recently at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Md. This year’s winners are:Contemporary Novel: Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron (Grand Central)

First Novel: On the Road with Del and Louise by Art Taylor (Henery Press)

Historical Novel: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King (Bantam)

Nonfiction: The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins)

Children’s/YA: Andi Unstoppable by Amanda Flower (Zonderkidz)

Short Story: “A Year Without Santa Claus?” by Barb Goffman (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2015)

Title: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Publisher: Bantam Press, Random House 384 pp (April 2016)

Genre: mystery, Sherlock Holmes, adventure, series, crime, historical thriller 

5 Stars ****

Author: Laurie R King is a best selling author of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, SanFran homicide inspector Kate Martinelli series, as well as stand alone suspense novels. She has been nominated for and won many awards for her writing, (including a Nero for A Monstrous Regiment of Women, (Russell/Sherlock) and a MacCavity for Touchstone, one of my favourite mysteries). Last week she was awarded an Agatha for best historical 2015 Dreaming Spies! The first Russell/Sherlock is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994). But don’t miss Beekeeping for Beginners (2011), a novella written from Sherlock’s perspective. King has also written a number of short stories, which are all worth collecting. She recently released The Marriage of Mary Russell, again, don’t miss it! She is co-editor with Leslie Klinger (master Sherlock authority!) of A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (3rd volume later this year!). She is a strong supporter of libraries and much of her recent book tour helped raise funds. There were also spectacular events (see fashion show on her website enjoy her blog posts and facebook!)

Story line:

This is the 15th Mary Russell (aka Mrs Sherlock Holmes) mystery, narrated by Mary and this time with Mrs Hudson. Everyone has a backstory, and this is Mrs Hudson’s. Knowing Holmes and Russell, could you have expected less of Hudson? She was a beauty who overcame heartbreaking challenges, lived on the edge and risked everything. A completely new twist on her relationship with Holmes. 

They are very much historical novels, period pieces with intriguing mysteries. Mary is a strong female protagonist, intellectually formidable, equal with Holmes with a subtle personal relationship that I find tantalizing and perceptive. She remains one of my favourite bluestockings. Doyle should be impressed. Would that Cumberbatch gets interested.

It is an interesting puzzle, an intricate plot, a fascinating view of the 1860-1880s (as well as ‘current’ 1925), with intriguing layered characters and detailed backgrounds, all making for another very satisfying read. I’m going to reread the series in light of these revelations to see if I really missed the clues about Billy or Mrs Hudson. I can’t wait for the next adventure. Don’t miss King’s recent short story on the Marriage of Mary Russell either!

I will no doubt buy a hard copy, and continue to recommend her earlier novels. You can read this independent of the others but why? Start with the first: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and enjoy the character development and progression (and adventures!) They often follow directly on from the previous book.

Read on:

If you like Sherlock Holmes you will enjoy this series. Make note of the authors with membership in The Irregulars, or books sanctioned by the Conan Doyle Estate. Read the short stories by various authors in A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes. Edited by Laurie Kind and Leslie Klinger 

Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventure of the Gloria Scott

Caleb Carr The Italian Secretary

Alan Bradley Flavia DeLuce novels

Leslie Klinger The Annotated Sherlock Holmes 

Larry Millett Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon (for Sherlock in Minnesota)

Anthony Horowitz The House of Silk, Moriarity, and short story The Three Monarchs


I was married to Sherlock Holmes, had known him only a few hours longer than I had known Mrs Hudson, and the basic fact of life with Holmes was: the world is filled with enemies.

I see what you are up to, it said, but I love you anyway.

I stifled my arm’s automatic impulse to catch the outstretched hand and whirl him against the wall-

…my bereft heart had claimed Mrs Hudson for its own. I had known her for ten years now, lived with her for more than four, and she was as close to a mother as I would ever have again.

The embrace was as brief as it was emphatic, and left Billy open-mouthed as Holmes stepped away from me – one hand lingering on my shoulder. I felt a bit open-mouthed myself at this unprecedented public display.

Clara Hudson’s dark hair had gone mostly grey before she realised that childhood was not intended to be a continuous stream of catastrophe and turmoil. At the time, while she was living it, the constancy of hunger, discomfort, dirt and uncertainty with the occasional punctuation of death and fists, was simply the price of existence…
Read as an ARC from Netgalley


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