Intrigue!

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 http://laurierking.com: 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

Quotes:

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

Dreaming Spires

IMG_1841
Oxford and Japan
Russell complements Sherlock-
The game is a foot!

Title: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
Publisher: Bantam Press, Random House
352 pp
Genre: mystery, Sherlock Holmes, adventure, series, crime, historical thriller
4.5 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). 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 is co-editor with Leslie Klinger (master authority on Sherlock!) of A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes.
Visit her website at http://laurierking.com: enjoy her blog posts and facebook!
Story line:
This is the 14th Mary Russell (aka Mrs Sherlock Holmes) mystery, narrated again by Mary as an older woman recalling her adventures with Sherlock. As such they are very much historical novels, period pieces with intriguing mysteries. This book takes place after The Game and before Locked Rooms, in 1924 and 1925 (although 4 other novels are also before the ending). Mary is a strong female protagonist, intellectually formidable, equal with Holmes but with a subtle personal relationship that I find perceptive. She is one of my favourite bluestockings. This story also introduces Haruki Sato, a deceptive, memorable character, a respected shinobi. I would love to meet her again.
Part of this story is a flashback to their voyage to Japan aboard the Thomas Carlyle where Holmes spies a blackmailer /English clubman, whom he would like nothing more than to apprehend. There are memorable descriptions of this voyage and their exposure to the customs and traditions of Japan. A variety of mysteries and tests complete that adventure, but then Ms Sato appears in Oxford nearly a year later. We are back in The Bodleian to recover and replace forgeries of an ancient Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho.
It is an interesting puzzle, a fascinating travelogue, with intriguing layered characters, and detailed backgrounds, all making for a very satisfying read. 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.
Caleb Carr The Italian Secretary
Alan Bradley Flavia DeLuce novels
Leslie Klinger The Annotated Sherlock Holmes
Larry Millett Sherlock Holmes and the Red demon, the ice palace, the rune stones, the secret alliance (for Sherlock in Minnesota)
Anthony Horowitz The House of Silk, Moriarity, and short story The Three Monarchs
Quotes:
That sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening. Mathew Arnold

What is it about Oxford that puts one in a poetical state of mind?
The house was silent, weighty with the comfort of a thousand books.
This was far from the first time I had stood on the terrace with a cup of tea, appreciating not being elsewhere.
(It was just a pub) Heaven lay within, an ancient gathering space that could only be in England, every breath testifying to its centuries of smoke and beer, damp dogs and the sweat of working men.
We watched Bombay recede, then went below to arrange our possessions, and our bribes.
Twenty four and a half days Bombay to Yokohama. Five hundred eighty six hours pressed about by humanity, one hundred eighty hours spent sweating amongst the bedsheets; eighty-four hours in the dining room; nineteen and a half hours of language tutorials with Miss Sato; ten hours reading Shakespeare aloud with an extremely mixed group of amateurs; and seventeen hour- long afternoon salons on topics from tea to theatre; … Some forty hours spent pacing the decks to keep from leaping off them, twenty or so hours on the cycling and rowing machines…
The face he lifted to me held that bright optimism I have learned to dread.
Allowing the world to think I am a character in some stories is the only way to obtain a degree of freedom.
We slept in hard cotton mattresses laid on the floors, our heads perched on pillows stuffed, apparently, with gravel.

Read as an ARC from NetGalley

Book Review – Laurie R King

Laurie R King, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series

Garment of Shadows (2012) is the 12th novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell, aka Mrs Sherlock Holmes. As with most of these novels, the actions takes place immediately after the previous novel (the exception was the short story Beekeeping for Beginners, which is the first novel The Beekeeper’s Apprentice story from the perspective of Sherlock Holmes).

Mary continues to write her memoirs looking back on her life with Holmes. She is a fascinating character, his intellectual equal and charming partner. Holmes recognised her talents and her character and encourages her personal growth. They truly complete each other and provide wonderful witty repartee. Laurie King does an extraordinary job of giving us these two characters, with wonderful atmospheric prose, superbly researched historical and geographical detail and a fast paced story.

The opening scene in Morocco has Mary trying to solve the mystery of who she is, having awoken with blood and bandages, amnesia and a sense of impending doom. Meanwhile Holmes begins the hunt for her while also uncovering a larger threat of war between France, Spain and the Rif Rebellion (1920s)(with British allies). We meet again the brothers Ali and Mahmond Hazrs (from O Jerusalem and Justice Hall) in a superbly written, intense mystery. The continued development of so many characters that the reader cares about coupled with the political intrigue at an exotic location creates another wonderful installment in this series.

The personal relationship revealed is also acute; they both realise what life might be like without the other. The beloved relationship has subtle clues and wonderful turns of phrase. I loved the scene when Holmes finds Mary but she doesn’t know who he is.  I also drank a lot of mint tea and submerged myself in the warm atmosphere of this book.

Book Quotes:

My wife walked away from all her possessions, and none of the company was concerned?…And yet Sherlock Holmes worried.…he would give Russell until morning, before he turned the town upside down.”

“If Gertrude Bell can sit down with the Arabs in Mesopotamia, why not Russell in the Rif?”

“When the man who claimed to be my husband (he did not look like someone who fit the word husband) said my name, faint reverberations had gone down my spine, stirring – not so much memories as the shadow of memories. As if I were outside the library (Libraries – these I remembered) anticipating the treasures within.”

“He smiled, and for the first time I knew his face. Not his history or who he was to me – but that he was part of me, I know longer doubted. I came near to weeping, at the relief of having a companion in this lost world.”

“My dear Russell, never have I approached you without a qualm.” “Extraordinary how it can hurt to laugh, yet also heal.”

“The library … was silent. It smelt of books and ink. I felt my muscles relax, as if the odour had the power to transport me to my far away home.”

Book Quotes:

“I am an omnivorous reader with a retentive memory for trifles.” Sherlock Holmes

“There is no scent so pleasant to my nostrils as that faint, subtle reek which comes from an ancient book.” Arthur Conan Doyle