Laurie R King’s “Mary Russell” series

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This series describes the life and adventures of a young woman, Mary Russell, who meets Sherlock Holmes after he has retired to Sussex, and becomes his apprentice in detection, then his partner, and finally marries him at the end of the second book.

Sherlock Holmes, of course, is a character in stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. A few other characters from Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories also appear in the “Mary Russell” series, particularly Dr John H Watson, Mycroft Holmes, and Mrs Hudson. There is an Inspector John Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, in the “Mary Russell” series: he is the son of Inspector G. Lestrade in Conan Doyle’s series.

And then there is Billy Mudd. As is made clear in “The Murder of Mary Russell”, Ms King has combined Conan Doyle’s characters Billy the page (who appears in some of the stories to announce visitors to Holmes at 221B Baker St) and Wiggins, the head of the Baker Street Irregulars (those street urchins who run errands for Holmes). At the time of the Mary Russell stories, Billy has grown to adulthood, has a family, and runs an enquiry agency, employing some of the former Baker Street Irregulars. He often appears in the stories to assist Holmes and Mary.

Sherlock Holmes always addresses Mary as “Russell” (and she keeps her maiden name after they marry), and she always addresses him as “Holmes”.

Although Holmes has retired, from time to time he still does detective work. Some of his cases are assignments from his brother Mycroft, who is an important administrator in the civil service.

Holmes’ age: In “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”, Holmes gives his age as 54, when he meets Mary in 1915. He states that Conan Doyle (who is Dr Watson’s literary agent in this version of the world) “thought to make me more dignified by exaggerating my age.” [Laurie R King argued the case for him being this age in an essay on her website, but the essay seems to have disappeared since.] Since Mary is 15 at this date, there is a difference of 39 years between them.

Rather than being another Dr Watson, Mary soon becomes as skilled an investigator as Holmes, so in fact she is the equivalent of a young female 20th century Sherlock Holmes. The series is written in the first person from Mary’s point of view, except in the later books there are also chapters written in the third person, from Holmes’ or other characters’ points of view, where Mary isn’t present.

(Ms King maintains the fiction that Mary Russell is the author of the series, and she, Laurie R King, is the editor. In this way she is making a parallel with the relationship between Dr Watson and Arthur Conan Doyle.)

The series is written as if it is happening in the real world, with various historical figures appearing in the pages, as well as some fictional characters from other authors’ books.

The stories are rather intense, with Mary getting into some life-threatening situations, and at other times experiencing distress and suffering.

Chronology of the series

I have listed the stories in publication order. For the full-length novels, this order generally agrees with the series’ internal chronology. The main exception is “O Jerusalem”. In the case of “Dreaming Spies”, the framing story fits into the chronological sequence, but the backstory occurs earlier in the chronology. Again in “The Murder of Mary Russell”, the framing story fits into the chronological sequence, but the backstory occurs many years before.

The short stories and novellas are generally set earlier in the chronology compared to where the novels are up to. The author generally uses these to fill in the background. “My Story” and “A Case in Correspondence”, however, are set closer to the present day.  “Stately Holmes” is set in the normal sequence of the novels.

For most of the stories, the periods which I have shown, in which each story is set, are taken from the Writer’s Guide to the World of Mary Russell by Alice “…the girl with the strawberry curls”. I have indicated this with“… Writer’s Guide.

Another reference I have used is the chronology on the author’s website at http://laurierking.com/books/russell-holmes/.  See under the heading “A Chronology of the Russell Memoirs”. I have indicated this with … website chronology.

Otherwise I have provided my own comments on the periods, derived from the text of the stories.

Books in the series:

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994)

Period: Early April 1915 to August of 1919 when Holmes invites the recovering Russell to accompany him to France and Italy for six weeks, to return before the beginning of the Michaelmas Term in Oxford (late Sept.). … Writer’s Guide.

Mary Russell is a 15 year old girl when she almost literally stumbles over Sherlock Holmes on the Sussex Downs in 1915.

Mary’s family had been in a car crash in San Francisco the year before. Her parents and younger brother had been killed, and Mary had been injured. After her recovery, she had been sent to live in the family farm house in Sussex, with an aunt as her guardian. Mary does not get on with her aunt. Despite the fact that she will get a sizable inheritance when she turns 21, her aunt is in charge of the finances from the trust, and is stingy in providing for Mary. Mary takes all opportunities to be away from the house, and often wanders the Downs reading a book. As a result she almost runs into Sherlock Holmes who is crouched examining some bees.

Mary and Holmes soon find they are kindred spirits. He takes her to his home for afternoon tea, where she meets Mrs Hudson – previously Holmes’ landlady in London (as described in the Conan Doyle stories) – and now his housekeeper in his Sussex house.

Holmes’ main activity in his retirement is keeping bees, but he continues with his chemical experiments, and other activities related to his detective career.

Mary becomes a frequent visitor to Holmes’ house over the next 2 years, engaging in discussions, and without particularly realising it, learning detective skills from him. (As this period is during the First World War, she also helps out at local hospitals, with the injured serviceman returning from the front.)

In 1917, Mary goes away to Oxford University, majoring in chemistry and theology. During the term breaks she returns to Sussex and visits Holmes, and gets involved in a couple of detective cases with him.

A more serious case arises when Jessica Simpson, the six-year-old daughter of an American senator, is kidnapped in Wales. Holmes and Mary disguise themselves as gipsies, and travel in a horse-drawn wagon through the area, attempting to find the child.

In December 1918 an unknown enemy makes a series of attacks on Holmes and his associates. A bomb goes off at Holmes’ cottage, and Holmes is injured and is in hospital for a day. But as soon as he can he goes to meet Mary in Oxford, and prevents her from setting off another bomb planted in her room in the students’ residence. And they manage to warn Dr Watson before a bomb goes off at his home. As other attacks continue, and since the clues to their opponent are sketchy, Holmes and Mary decide to leave the country, while Mycroft and Scotland Yard continue to investigate.

Holmes and Mary take the opportunity to take up one of Mycroft’s assignments. Mary (since she is Jewish, as her mother was,) chooses the assignment in the Holy Land. [A brief description of their time in Palestine is given in this book, but a more complete description is in the book, “O Jerusalem”.]

On return to England, Holmes and Mary decide on a strategy to combat their opponent. Holmes and Mary will pretend to become estranged, hoping that their opponent will leave Mary out of consideration, with Mary being the weapon in reserve. (Mary finds this pretence – which almost becomes real – particularly distressing.) In the end, when they confront their enemy, their survival is touch and go.

A Monstrous Regiment of Women (1995)

Period: December 26, 1920 to February 6, 1921 although the postscript takes us six to eight weeks later, and then several months after that with two conversations. … Writer’s Guide.

Mary meets a friend from Oxford University in London: Lady Veronica (“Ronnie”) Beaconsfield. Veronica takes her to a meeting of a movement she is involved with, called the New Temple in God, headed by a charismatic feminist woman called Margery Childe. This organisation is much like a church, with a definite religious flavour, with Margery giving talks (much like sermons) three times a week. It also runs a women’s shelter, provides assistance to the poor, and lobbies for women’s rights.

When Margery meets Mary, and learns that she is studying theology, Margery asks Mary to teach her, since Margery is self-taught in theology, and Mary agrees.

Mary learns that a few of Margery’s inner circle of women have died, seemingly in accidents. But then Veronica is pushed in front of a train and ends up in hospital. It starts to look as if there is a connection between the deaths, especially since they had all left sizable amounts of money to the New Temple in God in their wills. But Mary can’t believe that Margery is responsible.

At this point Mary turns 21, and comes into her inheritance. Her aunt is required to leave the Sussex farm house, and Mary does a lot of spending – refurbishing the house, buying lots of clothes, and making a donation to the Temple. She takes over Veronica’s duties at the Temple, essentially becoming one of the inner circle. In fact, she is setting herself up as bait for the killer.

But she has done this too well – she soon finds herself in great danger.

Holmes is somewhat in the background for much of this story, but he does turn up periodically to provide assistance. And in the end, he saves her from the dangerous situation she lands in. But during the adventure, Mary starts to wonder what her real feelings are for Holmes.

The term “Monstrous Regiment of Women” comes from the title of a treatise published by John Knox in 1558: “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women”. John Knox believed that according to the Bible, women should not have authority. It was directed against Mary Tudor, and later applied to Mary Stuart. “Regiment” is used in the sense of “regime”.

A Letter of Mary (1997)

Period: August 14, 1923 to September 8, 1923. … Writer’s Guide.

Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archaeologist whom Mary and Holmes had met in the Holy Land, visits them in their Sussex home. She gives Mary an ornate box containing a scroll which purports to be a letter written by Mary Magdalene, the follower of Jesus Christ described in the Bible. Mary Magdalene describes herself as an apostle of Jesus: Mary Russell believes that if the letter is proved to be authentic, the concept of a female apostle would cause great turmoil in the Church.

A few days later Mary and Holmes hear that Miss Ruskin had been killed in a car accident when she returned to London. They travel to London, and find evidence that Miss Ruskin had been murdered, and her hotel room searched. Then they hear that their Sussex home has been ransacked in their absence. Apparently, from the way they have searched through books, the criminals have been looking for a sheet of paper. Could they have been looking for the scroll written by Mary Magdalene? This seems unlikely, since it’s not the sort of thing which would be hidden in a book – folding it would damage it.

Mary and Holmes meet with Mycroft and Lestrade. Scotland Yard is busy with other crimes, so they divide the investigation of suspects between them.

Mary is assigned to investigate Colonel Dennis Edwards, Miss Ruskin’s sponsor, whom Miss Ruskin had met for dinner the night she died. Colonel Edwards is a misogynist, who was angry when he discovered that the archaeologist he was meeting was a woman. Mary assumes the role of a meek, vulnerable young woman, the kind that Colonel Edwards would be attracted to, and gets a job as his secretary. She finds his attitude a bit hard to take. And it is worse when the Colonel’s son turns up, a man with roving hands.

Meanwhile Holmes has got a job as handyman with Miss Ruskin’s sister, Mrs Erica Rogers. Mrs Rogers does not seem to have liked her sister. Could she or members of her family have killed Miss Ruskin? Was it a matter of inheritance?

Lestrade and Mycroft are investigating other aspects of the case: Miss Ruskin’s involvement in the politics of the Holy Land, as well as the background of the various suspects. It turns out that Miss Ruskin had been supporting the Arabs, but then was converted to the Zionist cause. Could Arab resentment be the cause of her death?

Another author’s fictional character: Lord Peter Wimsey from books by Dorothy L Sayers. Mary meets an aristocratic man whom she knows, and who knows her and Sherlock Holmes, when she and Colonel Edwards go to a weekend house party at a mansion. The man is one of the guests. Mary addresses him as “Peter”. His full name is not given, but from his description and way of talking, he seems to be Lord Peter Wimsey.

Historical person: J R R Tolkien. Mary tells Holmes that during her visit to Oxford that day (3 September 1923), she had “met an odd man called Tolkien, a reader in English literature at Leeds who has a passion for early Anglo-Saxon poetry and runes and such.” Mary had just mentioned being at the Eagle and Child (a pub in Oxford), so presumably it was there she had met him. (The Eagle and Child would later be the meeting place of the Inklings, a writers group at Oxford University, which included J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis.)

Mrs Hudson’s Case (1997)

Short story originally published in the anthology “Crime Through Time”. Included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: October 1918. Set during the time period covered by “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”, during Mary’s second year at Oxford, two months after the completion of the Jessica Simpson kidnapping case. A period of about 2 to 3 weeks is covered by this story.

Mary is back from Oxford, visiting Holmes. Mrs Hudson complains to Holmes that someone has been breaking in and stealing food and other things. But Holmes isn’t interested. So Mary agrees to help, and sets up cameras to try to detect the intruder. But she has to return to Oxford the next day. In the meantime, Holmes has to go to London to provide advice to Scotland Yard on the kidnapping of the two Oberdorfer orphans, Sarah and Louis, from their uncle. This will take him away from home for a while.

When Mary hasn’t heard from Mrs Hudson for two weeks, she rings her. But Mrs Hudson sounds strange on the telephone. So Mary decides to return to Sussex. But Mrs Hudson won’t let her in. So Mary breaks in, and finds the two missing children. Mrs Hudson has been hiding them and looking after them. What is going on?

The Moor (1998)

Period: No specific dates given but soon after LETT [“A Letter of Mary”] ends, so sometime the end of September or early October 1923 to early November 1923. We know that Russell and Holmes arrived back at the cottage on Nov. 5, 1923. … Writer’s Guide.

Holmes and Mary have come to Lew House, the home of the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, in Lew Trenchard, in Devon. This is not far from Dartmoor, the setting of Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. Baring-Gould is nearly ninety, and is old and sick. He has been a friend of Holmes for many years, and Holmes had consulted him on the Baskerville case (according to Laurie R King’s novel).

Baring-Gould has asked for their presence because there is a problem on the moor. The legendary ghostly coach of Lady Howard has been seen several times, usually accompanied by a large black dog. (Is the Hound back again? But in fact the moor is full of strange stories, including stories about black dogs.) And a man had died in mysterious circumstances.

Holmes and Mary venture out onto the moor to look for evidence and ask the local people what they have seen. Mary finds the moor a dreary place – wet, covered with strange rocks and scrubby vegetation, with overcast sky, and often raining or foggy.

Returning to Lew House, they meet visitors: Richard Ketteridge, the new owner of Baskerville Hall, and his secretary, David Scheiman. Ketteridge invites them to dinner at Baskerville Hall the next day, an invitation which they take up.

Holmes and Mary continue their investigations separately, investigating where a coach could have entered the moor (assuming a physical coach rather that a ghostly one). Mary is on horseback, with a horse which tends to shy and throw his rider. And then the horse falls and injures himself and Mary. Mary is forced to walk, leading the horse, to the nearest dwelling, which turns out to be Baskerville Hall. And there she gets the impression that Ketteridge and Scheiman are hiding something.

Back at Lew House, Mary hears that another dead man has been found in the nearby lake – a man Mary and Holmes had met briefly at Lew House.

What is going on? Were the coach and the dog meant as distractions from some evil-doing? Had the two men been killed because they chanced upon something they were not meant to see?

Historical person: The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, parson, squire, hymn writer (including “Onward Christian Soldiers”), antiquarian and folklorist.

O Jerusalem (1999)

Period: From the final week of December 1918 until approx. the beginning of Feb. 1919. … Writer’s Guide.

[Note: This story has been published out of order of the series chronology. As noted for “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”, the events of this story occur during the period of that story. Mary turns 19 soon after this story begins. She had just been promoted by Holmes from apprentice to partner.]

Fleeing from an enemy in England, Holmes and Mary leave the country, and take the opportunity to take up one of Mycroft’s assignments. Mary (since she is Jewish) chooses the assignment in the Holy Land.

Palestine at this time is occupied by the British, having thrown out the previous Turkish regime. But there is still unrest in the land.

Arriving in secret, they meet up with Arab brothers, Mahmoud and Ali Hazr, with whom they will be travelling. Holmes and Mary are also disguised as Arabs, Mary as a beardless young man. Much of their time is spent wandering the Palestinian desert, sleeping in tents, leading the mules who are loaded with their possessions, and meeting the local people.

They meet Joshua, the spymaster, Mahmoud and Ali’s boss. Joshua tells them of vague indications of a threat to the peace of the land, possibly from Turkish people from the old regime, who want to get rid of the British rule. Some of his agents have died, but it is not clear whether these are isolated incidents or part of a pattern.

Holmes investigates the death of one agent, and follows up what clues he can find. Finding a beeswax candle in the man’s pack results in the group visiting the several monasteries to find the one which made the candle.

Their wanderings are interrupted by an invitation to visit and report to General Allenby in Haifa. Mary is pleased of the opportunity to get a proper bath and sleep in a proper bedroom.

But leaving by car the next day, they are ambushed. Mary is injured, but is rescued by Mahmoud and Ali, but Holmes is kidnapped. They later manage to rescue him, but he has been interrogated and tortured.

The clues take them to Jerusalem. Mary joins a group of people removing rocks and soil from the Cotton Bazaar, to try to pick up any useful gossip. Then Holmes and Mary go to a dinner at the American Colony, at which they hope to gather more information. Holmes dresses as a military officer, and Mary, temporarily putting aside her Arab youth persona, dresses in a somewhat provocative frock Holmes has provided her, Holmes not having realised the effect it would have. Mary responds by flirting with all the young men.

The clues point to a particular Turkish man, who apparently intends to blow up the Haram es-Sharif (the Temple Mount), when General Allenby and various important people will be present. Holmes and Mary’s investigations take them to Solomon’s Quarries, an underground cave under the city of Jerusalem, and a series of tunnels connected to it, where they suspect their adversary has planted a bomb. But will they be in time?

Historical persons:
General Edmund Allenby: Holmes and Mary meet him three times.
T E Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”): There are several references to him in the book, and he makes a cameo appearance in the Epilogue.
Jacob Eliahu later known as Jacob Spafford: the youth who discovered the Siloam inscription in Hezekiah’s tunnel. Mary meets a man called Jacob (although no surname is given), at the dinner at the American Colony, who states that he had been that boy.

Justice Hall (2002)

Period: Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, 1923 to December 21, 1923. (The epilogue takes place Dec. 26, 1923.) … Writer’s Guide.

Mary and Holmes have just returned home to Sussex from Dartmoor (the adventure described in “The Moor”), when an injured man comes to the door. Initially not recognising him, Mary realises that this is Ali Hazr, their Arab companion whom they had last met in Palestine (as described in “O Jerusalem”) five years before. But he is now dressed as an Englishman. In fact Ali is really an Englishman, Alistair Hughenfort, and the man they had known as Ali’s brother Mahmoud is actually his cousin, William Maurice Hughenfort, normally known as Marsh Hughenfort. (Holmes had concluded while they were in Palestine that the pair were actually English; Mary seems not to have been convinced.)

When Alistair recovers, he explains that his cousin Marsh had inherited the position of Duke of Beauville when his older brother Henry died, and is now living at the ducal seat, Justice Hall. However there is some difficulty, and he begs Holmes and Mary to come with him to Justice Hall in Berkshire. (Alistair’s injuries were apparently caused by being caught up in a riot in London, but Holmes and Mary wonder if there is more to it than that.)

So Holmes and Mary travel with Alistair to Justice Hall, a magnificent property with beautiful grounds. And there they meet Marsh, hardly recognisable as the man Mahmoud they met in Palestine. He seems to have adopted the position and responsibilities of Duke thrust upon him, and discarded his Arab persona, but is not happy about it. Alistair begs Holmes and Mary to persuade Marsh to give up the ducal position and return to Palestine.

Marsh’s sister Phyllida Darling, her husband Sidney, and their two children live at the Hall. Since before Henry’s death, Phyllida and Sidney have got used to running the place, and are always having parties, and inviting lots of guests.

Holmes and Mary learn a number of things about the Hughenfort family from Marsh. Henry had had a son Gabriel, who had died in the war, but reading between the lines of the death notice, it appears he had been executed. This is so surprising that Holmes decides to look into it. Also Marsh’s younger brother Lionel had married and had a son Thomas. Lionel had since died. His widow and son are living in France. Since Thomas seems now to be the ducal heir, it is necessary to confirm whether Thomas is indeed the legitimate son of Lionel.

While Holmes is in London, searching for information about Gabriel, Mary stays at Justice Hall. And a woman called Iris Sutherland arrives, who, to Mary’s surprise, turns out to be Marsh’s wife. The couple have been long separated, but are on good terms, which is a bit of a mystery.

Mary joins a bird-shooting party, and is partnered with Iris. But Marsh gets shot, although not fatally, apparently by accident, and Alistair, who was with him, gets slightly injured as well. This incident makes Mary, and Holmes when he returns, wonder whether someone is attempting to clear the way to inherit the position of Duke.

The investigations into Gabriel seem to indicate that some relative was manipulating events to ensure Gabriel’s execution. They also turn up information about a girlfriend of Gabriel’s called Hélène. Mary and Iris take a trip, by ship, to Canada to try and find her.

The Game (2004)

Period: January 1, 1924 to approximately early March 1924 (there are no specific dates for the ending). … Writer’s Guide.

Mycroft gives Holmes and Mary an assignment: to go to India and try and locate a missing secret agent – Kimball O’Hara – the title character of Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”. O’Hara had been an orphan (of Irish parentage) in India, who had been given a job in the Survey of India, which also included an intelligence function. As part of “The Great Game”, Tsarist Russia was keen to take possession of India, and the task of the secret agents was to watch the border regions. O’Hara would now be in his forties.

Although the threat from Russia had been thought to have ceased with the Bolshevik Revolution, there is now some concern that Bolshevik Russia has similar intentions to occupy India.

Holmes tells Mary he has met O’Hara before – during the time that Holmes was presumed dead. [Here Ms King expands on part of Holmes’s description of his activities to Watson from Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Empty House”.] In 1892, Mycroft (who alone had known that Holmes was alive) had sent Holmes to India to locate a missing agent who was thought to have entered Tibet, and possibly been captured. Holmes had joined a Scandinavian exploration group in the north of India, taking the role of a Norwegian called Sigerson. He had met O’Hara, who was then the disciple of a Tibetan lama. Holmes joined O’Hara and the lama, disguising himself as a Tibetan monk, and the three of them had entered Tibet. Holmes had also fulfilled another part of his mission, of meeting and giving a message to the Dalai Lama.

So Holmes and Mary travel to India, the main part of the trip being by ship from Marseilles, passing through the Suez Canal. On the ship they get to know an American family called the Goodhearts: Mrs Goodheart, her son, a young man called Tom, and her daughter, a teenage girl called Sunny. Tom professes to be a Communist, and is also a friend of Jumalpandra (called Jimmy), the maharaja of the [fictitious] state of Khanpur in the north of India. India at this time is under British rule; however there are a lot of Indian Princely States, such as Khanpur, with their own rulers.

Arriving in Bombay, Holmes and Mary take the train to Delhi, where they meet their contact, Geoffrey Nesbit. They then disguise themselves as Moslem travelling magicians, and travel on foot to Simla, with a donkey and cart carrying their possessions, and accompanied by Bindra, a young Indian boy who persuaded them to take him as their assistant.

At Simla, they meet Nesbit again, who wants them to modify their mission to investigate Khanpur. Although outwardly respectable, there are some disconcerting rumours about the state, and concern that the maharaja might be making an alliance with the Russians. Holmes and Mary decide to split up. Holmes travels on as a magician with Bindra; Mary casts aside her disguise to become an Englishwoman again, and joins the Goodhearts (who happen to be in Simla), to travel by train to Khanpur.

In Khanpur, Mary and the Goodhearts are taken to a place called the Forts. The New Fort is the maharaja’s residence, and is full of house guests of all nationalities. The Old Fort across the road is out of bounds, and Mary wonders if Kimball O’Hara might be imprisoned there.

Their host, the maharaja Jimmy, seems charming and sophisticated, but also has a streak of cruelty. Mary joins Jimmy and the guests for pig-sticking, a sport where the participants hunt wild boar on horse-back, armed with spears. And Mary realises how dangerous this is when, unwisely dismounting, she comes face to face with a large ferocious boar with sharp tusks. But more danger is to come from the maharaja.

Another author’s fictional character: Kimball O’Hara from Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”.

Locked Rooms (2005)

Period: Picks up after three weeks in Japan in May 1924 then perhaps into very early June 1924. … Writer’s Guide.

The book is divided into 5 “Books”, and unlike the rest of the series so far, alternates between a first-person narrative from Mary’s point of view, and a third-person narrative from Holmes’s point of view.

After their time in India (in “The Game”) and Japan (in “Dreaming Spies”), Holmes and Mary continue on by ship to San Francisco. As they approach their destination, Mary becomes somewhat disturbed; this is the place where her parents and younger brother were killed in a car accident, nearly 10 years before. She starts having three recurring dreams: objects flying through the air, a faceless man, and a locked room to which she has the key.

Holmes suggests that her first dream relates to a memory of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, when Mary was six, but Mary doesn’t believe she was there at the time. But later confirmation by her lawyer, and other friends and neighbours confirm that she was. The family had camped out in a tent, along with many others, in Lafayette Park, as it was unsafe to stay at home.

Arriving in San Francisco, they stay at the hotel, St Francis. Mary has business to conduct in the city, concerning the various property she has inherited from her parents.

Visiting the family home, she discovers that it has not been kept up. She learns from her lawyer, to her surprise, that there is a condition in her parents’ will that no one may enter the house without a family member present, until 20 years after the will was made in 1906. The law firm made an exception, and had the house cleaned after her parents’ death, and have had the gardeners in once a year, but without allowing them into the house.

Mary and Holmes examine the house and contents. They discover that there have been recent intruders who were searching for something. Wondering whether the locked room of her dream was literal or metaphorical, they search for hidden rooms, but find none.

Mary remembers that they had a Chinese couple, Micah and Mah Long, working for them as gardener and cook. She goes to San Francisco’s Chinatown to ask about them, but has no success. However, on her return to the house, someone tries to shoot her, and she is rescued by a Chinese man. This man is Tom Long, the adopted son of Micah and Mah. His adoptive parents had been murdered by some unknown person shortly after Mary’s family’s death.

Mary decides to visit her psychiatrist Dr Leah Ginsberg. Dr Ginsberg had helped her recover after the accident which had killed her family. Mary had been thrown free of the car, but had suffered injuries. She also felt guilty because she believed that it was her arguing with her brother which had distracted her father, and caused him to lose control of the car, which had gone over a cliff. But Mary discovers to her shock that Dr Ginsberg had been killed, shortly after Mary had returned to England, apparently by a burglar the doctor had disturbed.

Mary meets up with Flo Greenfield, a childhood friend, and they go out to nightclubs together. (This is during the Prohibition period, however the authorities in California generally turned a blind eye to supply of alcohol in nightclubs etc.) Holmes subtly suggests that Mary visit the Russells’ summer house at the lake, and Mary goes there with Flo and Flo’s boyfriend Donny, visiting the site of her family’s accident on the way.

Meanwhile, Holmes has been doing his own investigations. The coincidences of the deaths of the Chinese servants and Dr Ginsberg, so soon after the deaths of Mary’s family, lead him to conclude that Mary’s family were murdered. Had the car been tampered with? There are indications that something critical had happened in the Russell family life at the time of the earthquake, so he makes various enquiries with the neighbours of the family home. He discovers there had been a man, whose face was burnt, and who had ointment and bandages on his face, who approached the Russells’ tent in the park, and had frightened the six-year-old Mary. This must be the faceless man of Mary’s dream. Who was this man, and does he have any other significance?

And Holmes meets up with Dashiell Hammett, a private detective, and writer of detective fiction. Hammett had previously worked for Pinkertons Detective Agency, and now still accepted an occasional commission from them. He had received such a commission now, and the client, a woman with a Southern United States accent, had hired him to follow Holmes. This woman sounds suspiciously like a woman who had been asking questions about Holmes and Mary on the ship to India (in “The Game”). Holmes persuades Hammett to turn down the commission, and work for him instead.

Having had time to relax, and recover from her distress and shock, Mary comes to the same conclusion as Holmes: her family had been murdered.

Historical person: Dashiell Hammett, private detective, and writer of detective fiction. Hammett was employed for a time by Pinkertons Detective Agency.

The Art of Detection (2006)

Period (of Sherlock Holmes story): Spring 1924, in San Francisco, soon after the events of “Locked Rooms”.

This book is actually part of the Kate Martinelli series, set in the modern day (2004), but within it is a Sherlock Holmes story. Kate is a police detective in San Francisco, and is given a copy of a manuscript containing a Sherlock Holmes story, in the course of investigating a homicide. The manuscript had been found in an attic in San Francisco. The question is raised in the Kate Martinelli story whether this could be a genuine story written by Arthur Conan Doyle, while he was in America.

The Sherlock Holmes story is written in such a way that it could either fit into the “Mary Russell” series, or be treated as a stand-alone Sherlock Holmes story. Mary herself is not present in the story, and is not referred to by name. However, Holmes makes a few indirect references to her, and to other things from the “Mary Russell” series, which would probably only be interpreted this way by people familiar with the series.

The story is in the first person, from Holmes’s point of view. He gives his name as Mr Sigerson, which is an alias he used during the time he was presumed dead, as reported in Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Empty House”.

While his travelling companion (obviously Mary Russell) is going about other business, Holmes decides to investigate San Francisco’s underworld. He makes the acquaintance of a young man called Martin Ledbetter (who had tried to pick his pocket) and employs him as a guide. Ledbetter takes him to a club called the Blue Tiger. There is a singer performing there, called Billy Birdsong, apparently female, but actually a male transvestite. (Note: feminine pronouns are used throughout the story to refer to Billy.) [Billy Birdsong and the Blue Tiger are also mentioned in “Locked Rooms”.] After her performance, Ledbetter introduces her to Holmes. Billy tells Holmes about a frequent visitor, with whom she has become quite friendly, but who has inexplicably stopped coming. This is a soldier called Jack Raynor. Holmes agrees to investigate. His investigation takes him to Fort Barry, on the Marin Headlands, where Raynor’s dead body is found in a gun emplacement. Holmes must find out who is murderer is.

The Language of Bees (2009)

Period: August 10, 1924 to August 30, 1924. … Writer’s Guide.

This book is written in the first person, from Mary’s point of view, except for certain chapters which consist only of dialogue between Holmes, and either Damian Adler or Mycroft.

Holmes and Mary have just returned home to Sussex, after seven months overseas, when they meet a man at their door – Damian Adler, Holmes’s son.

The character, Irene Adler, appears in only one of Conan Doyle’s stories: “A Scandal in Bohemia”, where she impresses Holmes because she is the only woman to have outwitted him, and in this respect she is also mentioned in a few others of Conan Doyle’s stories. [This has made her a favourite character to appear in non-canonical Sherlock Holmes stories, playing a variety of roles – often as a love interest for Sherlock Holmes.]

[Again Ms King expands on part of Holmes’s description of his activities during his absence, from Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Empty House”.] During the time when Holmes was presumed dead, he had heard that Irene and her husband, Geoffrey Norton, had been involved in an accident, which had killed Norton, and forced Irene to retire from her career as opera singer due to her injuries. So Holmes travelled to Montpellier in southern France, where she was living on the edge of poverty. He was able to help her financially, and set her up in a paying job. And for a while they became lovers. But the relationship came to an end, and Holmes returned to London. But Irene had become pregnant, and given birth to a boy, Damian. [Damian was born in 1894, so is about 6 years older than Mary.] But Irene didn’t tell Holmes about the boy, although she did tell Mycroft, and swore him to secrecy.

But in July 1919, in the aftermath of “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”, Holmes found out he had a son, when Damian, now twenty-four, was arrested in France for murder. Irene had died in 1912. Damian had been a soldier in the war, but had been injured, and had been invalided out. But he had become addicted to the drugs he had been treated with. And he had been in a pub brawl with the man who was later found dead. Holmes and Mary travelled to France to attempt to acquit Damian, but in the end the evidence against Damian fell apart, and it didn’t come to court. Damian stayed in France when Holmes and Mary returned to England, but disappeared after that, and Holmes wondered if he was dead.

Now Damian has turned up again. He had travelled to China, and lived in Shanghai, continuing his job as an artist. There he had met a Chinese girl called Yolanda, and married her, and they had had a daughter called Estelle. The three of them had come to England in recent months, and had been living in London. But now Yolanda and Estelle (now three and a half years old) have disappeared.

Holmes and Damian go to London to try and find Damian’s missing wife and daughter. But after a few days, Damian himself disappears. Mary joins Holmes in the investigation. In particular, Mary visits London’s Bohemian society (artists, writers, etc) that Damian is part of, and attends a service of Yolanda’s church, the Children of Lights.

Mary finds the church a mishmash of various religions. The leader, Reverend Thomas Brothers, who established the church, is absent when she is there, but she learns that he has written their holy book, and apparently thinks of himself as some kind of god. But a number of deaths at ancient monuments around the country seem to indicate that Brothers practices human sacrifice, and that Damian’s family is in danger.

Mary thinks Brothers’ next sacrifice will be at the solar eclipse. Holmes heads off to Bergen, Norway, from where the eclipse can be observed, while Mary, following other clues, heads for the Orkney Islands, in the north of Scotland. But to get there in time, she has to be flown by a pilot, Cash Javitz, in a worn-out aircraft, in rough weather. Is she on the right track, and will she get there in time?

A Venomous Death (2009)

Short story. Included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: “A Venomous Death” is undated, but may take place in early summer, 1922 or 1923. …website chronology.

Sherlock Holmes is called in by the police, not in his capacity as a detective, but that of a beekeeper.  A retired professor of philosophy has been killed by a swarm of bees in his bedroom, and the police want Holmes to remove the swarm. As he does this, Holmes and Mary discuss the case. Holmes concludes it was murder, and identifies the culprit.

My Story (2009)

Short story, self-published. Included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: “My Story” … take[s] place in the spring of 1992. … website chronology.

Over the years, the popularity of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories has led to the problem of Holmes and Mary being pestered by Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts.  Their main protection has been that Sherlock Holmes is thought to be a fictional character, and that they have loyal neighbours willing to protect their privacy.  But now, in 1992, when Mary is 92 years old, the American Sherlockians have tracked them to their Sussex home.  Holmes and Mary flee their home, and make their way to Mary’s house in Oxford.

But four days later, some Sherlockians have turned up in Oxford, so Holmes and Mary flee again. May-day celebrations are taking place in Oxford, and Mary hopes they can lose themselves in the crowd.  But soon they are spotted again, and they make their escape to a punt on the Thames.

(The story is continued in “A Case in Correspondence”.)

In the midst of all this chaos, Mary has collected up her memoirs, along with various distinctive objects, in a trunk to deliver to Laurie R King. This explains the jumble of objects in the trunk which Ms King received, which led to her original publication of “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”.

The God of the Hive (2010)

Period: August 30, 1924 to Sept. 9, 1924. (The Epilogue concludes on Oct. 31, 1924.) … Writer’s Guide.

This book continues on from “The Language of Bees”. This book has some chapters written in the first person, from Mary Russell’s point of view, and other chapters written in the third person, describing the activities of Holmes and other characters, where Mary was not present.

Holmes, realising that Mary’s destination in the Orkneys was the correct one, had changed his destination to meet her there. There they had prevented the Reverend Brothers from killing Damian on the altar stone in the Stones of Stenness. In the struggle that followed, Brothers had shot Damian in the shoulder, and Damian had shot Brothers, apparently killing him. Holmes and Mary decide they have to split up, Holmes to take Damian to a doctor, and Mary to look after the child, Estelle. Tragically, Brothers had murdered Yolanda earlier in the piece. But the police suspect Damian of the murder, and also want to arrest Holmes and Mary for assisting him and withholding information. So they all want to stay clear of the police, especially since Damian is claustrophobic, and would go crazy in custody.

But after leaving Holmes, and recovering Estelle from an abandoned hotel, Mary realises that Brothers probably survived, and might come after them, so she returns to the pilot, Cash Javitz, and asks that he fly her and Estelle to Thurso, on the Scottish mainland. So they set off. But as they approach Thurso, someone fires on the plane – presumably someone associated with Brothers. Javitz is injured in the leg. They decide that it is too dangerous to land, and continue flying south.

They get as far as the Lake District, where the damage to the plane causes them to crashland in a forested area. Fortunately all three have survived. They are helped to escape from the plane wreck by a man called Robert Goodman, whom Mary immediately associates with the Green Man, the ancient god of the forest, or Puck, a fairy character also known as Robin Goodfellow. Goodman takes them to a cabin in what turns out to be a private wooded estate.

Meanwhile, Holmes has taken Damian in a boat, captained by a fisherman called Gordon, to the Scottish town Wick, where he finds a female doctor, Dr Henning, and takes her on board the boat to remove the bullet from Damian’s shoulder. But to hold the boat steady for this treatment requires sailing with the wind, so they soon find themselves halfway to Holland. They decide to go to Dr Henning’s cousin in Holland.

Meanwhile, in London, Mycroft has been abducted by a rival, and confined to a locked room in an isolated warehouse. Mycroft is a powerful man in the government service, and runs an intelligence service somewhat independent of the main intelligence services of the British government. Essentially, he answers to no one but his own conscience. But this rival, Peter James West, wants to take over the position, and he doesn’t have the same ethical constraints as Mycroft. Mycroft realises that West intends to kill him.

In fact, West was responsible for bringing the Reverend Brothers from Shanghai to England, when he discovered that Damian and Brothers knew each other, and that Mycroft was Damian’s uncle. West wants to create a scandal to discredit Mycroft before killing him.

Mary and Holmes do not know about West. But they each start to suspect some powerful person, other than Brothers, is after them. A group of armed men attack Goodman’s cabin, but Mary and her companions escape in the attackers’ car. And Holmes notices men on watch when he travels to Amsterdam, but manages to elude them. Then Mycroft’s death notice appears in the paper – can this be true?

Peter James West is the god of the hive (the city).  Robert Goodman is the god of the forest. 

Birth of a Green Man (2010)

Short story, self-published. Included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: “Birth of a Green Man” is undated, although it would appear to be some time in the early 1920s. … website chronology.

[This story provides background for Robert Goodman, from “The God of the Hive”.]

Robert Goodman had been in the war, and sent to hospital for shell-shock.  He leaves there to return to his home in the Cumbrian Lakes. There he lives, not in the mansion, but in the woods.

He finds a boy abused by his father and helps him.  And administers justice.

He has become the Green Man, the god of the forest.

A Case in Correspondence (2010)

Short story, self-published. Included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: “My Story” and “A Case in Correspondence” take place in the spring of 1992, but [“A Case in Correspondence”] talks about the 1924 events in God of the Hive. … website chronology.

This story continues on from “My Story”.  It takes the form of a series of postcards and written communications between Mary and other people.

After leaving the boat on the Thames, Mary had sent Holmes off in a cab, with the expectation he would make his way back to Sussex.  Mary stayed behind at the Vicissitude Hotel for Ladies in London, to complete her research that the Americans had interrupted.  She sends a postcard to their Sussex home, seeking confirmation that Holmes had arrived home safely.

Mary receives a postcard back from their housekeeper, Mrs Emma Hudson (wife of the great-grandson of the original Mrs Hudson), that Holmes had not turned up.

Mary continues to send postcards to various people, trying to find out where Holmes had disappeared to: to Billy Mudd (grandson of the original Billy Mudd and now head of the investigations agency), Dr Watson-Scopes (Dr John Watson’s granddaughter), and to “M”, (Mycroft’s successor in his intelligence organisation).  This last brings up the continuing bad feelings between the organisation and Mary Russell about the Robert Goodman affair (this relates to “The God of the Hive”), and the organisation’s attempt to prevent Mary from sending the memoir to Ms King  to be published.

Finally Mary sees a message in the London Times from Holmes, revealing his whereabouts.

Beekeeping for Beginners (2011)

Novella, e-book. A print version is included with “Garment of Shadows”.  Included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: Covers the meeting and early weeks of Russell and Holmes relationship (Early April 1915 to June 1, 1915) from Holmes’ POV. … Writer’s Guide.

Parts of this story are in the first person from Holmes’ point of view. Other parts are in the third person.

The story begins with a description of Holmes and Mary meeting for the first time – as described in “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” – but this time from Holmes’ point of view. A significant addition to this version is that Holmes, having been excluded from contributing to the war effort, is feeling useless, and contemplating suicide, until he meets Mary.

This is followed by a description of a visit by Dr Watson to Holmes’ Sussex cottage. Watson does not meet Mary at this time, but he is interested that Holmes has a new young apprentice.

Then follows the main part of the story, with Holmes’ involvement in Mary’s life in a way that Mary doesn’t find out about.

Holmes had learned from Mary that she had made a will, from which her despised aunt would not benefit. This effectively removes any incentive from the aunt of attempts against Mary’s life.

However, it soon comes to light that some of the supporting paperwork, concerning properties in America and France, which Mary had inherited from her father, had gone down with the Lusitania when it sank. Mary has to make a new will. And in the meantime, she has suffered a series of seeming accidents: a fall on the stairs, a brawl with the aunt’s son resulting in minor injuries, and a mysterious period of illness.

Holmes decides to investigate. Without Mary’s knowledge, he enters Mary’s house at night when Mary and her aunt are asleep. He searches for poison, which he thinks the aunt must have given her to make her sick. He doesn’t find any. But he does find evidence that a thread had been stretched across the stairs, causing Mary to trip.

Holmes next suspects that the aunt’s son will make an attempt on Mary’s life as she travels in to London to make her new will. He secretly follows her. He has the help of some of the former Baker Street Irregulars (now grown to adulthood, and employed by Billy Mudd’s investigations agency), and they take turns watching the place where she is staying and then following her through the crowded London streets. And Holmes finds that his suspicions are accurate – he finds Mary’s cousin lying in wait to attack Mary.

Pirate King (2011)

Period: November 6-30, 1924. … Writer’s Guide.

Mycroft is coming to stay at Holmes and Mary’s place in Sussex. Mary had upset Mycroft in their last adventure (in “The God of the Hive”), so she thinks it may be wise to be absent. With some reservations she takes on an assignment referred to Holmes by Scotland Yard.

There have been some coincidences relating to the movie company, Fflytte Films. (Note – this is the silent movie era.) Shortly after the company made a film about guns, there was an outbreak of gun sales. And after it made a film about drugs, there were a large number of drug parties. And a film about rum-running in America was followed by the arrest of McCoy (“The Real McCoy”) for smuggling of liquor. (And after the movie about Hannibal, was there a large influx of elephants? Mary asks Inspector Lestrade, teasingly.)

Now that the company is making a film about pirates, is this likely to result in real piracy? And the studio secretary, Lonnie Johns, has disappeared. Mary agrees to take Lonnie’s place and investigate.

Mary finds herself as the assistant to the film company’s general manager, Geoffrey Hale. Her job is general organising, as well as chaperoning a large group of young actresses. The director is Randolph St John Warminster-Fflytte.

Randolph Fflytte believes in making his films as authentic as possible. The new film is actually a play within a play. The storyline is that the fictional film crew is making a film of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, and encounter some real pirates. So Fflytte’s actors are going to play the fictional film cast and crew, and the pirates, as well as the characters of Pirates of Penzance.

Fflytte has hired a lot of his actors in England, but in order to get authentic-looking pirates, he intends to take the company to Lisbon, Portugal. There he’ll hire actors for the pirate parts, and do some filming, and then travel on to Morocco for more filming.

But in Portugal, Fflytte is dissatisfied with the actors auditioning for pirates. Their translator, Fernando Pessoa, introduces him to a rough-looking character, a retired fisherman called La Rocha, who has a lot of influence in the underclass. Fflytte agrees that La Rocha would be ideal as the pirate king. La Rocha brings in a lot of his friends to play the pirates.

Fflytte purchases an authentic-looking pirate ship, and they set off for Morocco, with La Rocha as the captain. Mary discovers to her surprise that Holmes has arrived on board and joined the cast. From the descriptions in her letters, he recognised La Rocha as a known pirate. It seems likely that La Rocha and his pirates will hold the rest of them for ransom once they reach Morocco. And then they could be killed or sold into slavery.

Historical person: Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese poet and translator.

Garment of Shadows (2012)

Period: December 1924 … Writer’s Guide.
[The scene described in the Author’s Afterword (the author in this case being Mary Russell), with Holmes and Mary leaving Morocco, occurs in January 1925).]

Again this book has some chapters written in the first person, from Mary’s point of view, and others in the third person. In the Author’s Preface, Mary explains that she had constructed the third person sections from other people’s testimonies and comments over the weeks and years that followed.

Continuing on from “Pirate King” (after the resolution of the crisis in that story), Mary had gone with the Flytte Films company, from the city of Rabat in Morocco, out to Efroud, in the desert, as they continued with their filming. Holmes (having got a replacement for his role in the film), seized the opportunity to do some travelling in Morocco. But first he visits Hubert Lyautey, the French Resident-General of Morocco in Fez. Lyautey happens (in Ms King’s fictional world) to be a distant cousin of Holmes.

But on Holmes’ return to Rabat after his travels, he finds that Mary has gone missing. She was last seen walking away from the film company’s campsite in the company of a young boy.

Mary wakes up in a bed in a strange house. She has suffered various injuries, including a severe head injury, but which has been treated. However, she has lost her memory. She doesn’t even know who she is, or how she came to be there. When soldiers approach the house, she escapes, and wanders through the city, stealing and scavenging for food. She concludes that she is in the city of Fez, in Morocco.

Holmes learns that Mary had left a message that she was going to Fez, and heads off there. He encounters a young mute boy, who seems likely to be the boy that Mary had been with. The boy leads him to Dar Mnehbi, Hubert Lyautey’s palace in Fez, and the staff, recognising Holmes, willingly provide accommodation to him.

There Holmes meets Ali Hazr. Mahmoud and Ali Hazr previously appeared in the books “O Jerusalem” and “Justice Hall”. They are actually British agents in Mycroft’s intelligence organisation, and in that capacity have spent most of their time in Palestine disguised as Arabs. After the events of “Justice Hall”, they intended to return to Palestine, but were reassigned to Morocco. But now Mahmoud has gone missing.

Morocco is at this time divided into the French Protectorate in the south and the Spanish Protectorate in the north. But a rebel movement has arisen in the Rif mountain region in the Spanish Protectorate, led by the brothers Mohammed and M’Hammed Abd el-Krim. The hostilities threaten to spill over into the French Protectorate.

Mahmoud and Ali have been in contact with the Abd el-Krim brothers, and wanted to organise a meeting between Mohammed Abd el-Krim and Hubert Lyautey. Hearing that Holmes and Mary were in Morocco, Mahmoud had been going to contact them to assist in the meeting, but Ali had not heard from him since.

Then the young mute boy turns up again at Dar Mnehbi, this time leading Mary. She has still lost her memory, and doesn’t recognise Holmes or Ali, but after some discussion accepts their explanations of who they and she are. The boy’s name is Idir, and is a companion of Mahmoud and Ali. Ali questions him, and using gestures and writing, the boy describes what had happened.

Learning that Holmes was away from Rabat, and that Mary was at the film company’s campsite at Efroud, Mahmoud had sent Idir to Mary with a message. Mary had accompanied Idir to where Mahmoud was waiting, and Mahmoud had told her his plans. Then Mahmoud had received a message that Lyautey wanted to meet him, and Mahmoud and Mary had gone to the meeting place. But the message was false, and the men they encountered kidnapped Mahmoud and assaulted Mary. A passer-by took Mary to the residence of an English nurse, who cared for her, and it was there that Mary had recovered consciousness. Idir had been following Mahmoud and Mary to the meeting place, and saw what had happened.

Mary gradually recovers her memories.

Ali, Holmes and Mary agree to go ahead with the meeting between Lyautey and Abd el-Krim, some distance from Fez. Mary, who is fluent in Arabic and French, will be their interpreter. However, there is an ambush, but they manage to fight off the attackers, and the meeting goes ahead – with Lyautey and Abd el-Krim coming to some understanding of each other’s positions.

It is now several days since Mahmoud had disappeared. Back in Fez, Holmes and Mary decide they need to search for Mahmoud. Holmes disguises himself as a wandering holy man, and takes Idir with him as they travel to the towns to the north of Fez. Mary performs her investigations within Fez, starting with the nurse who treated her.

But their unknown enemy seems to know of their movements, and they soon find themselves in more trouble.

Historical persons:

Hubert Lyautey: Resident-General of the French Protectorate in Morocco.
Mohammad ibn Abd el-Karim al-Khattabi (Mohammed Abd el-Krim): leader of the Rifi Rebellion in Morocco.
[Note: the meeting between Lyautey and Abd el-Krim described in this book is fictitious.]

Mary’s Christmas (2014)

Short story, self-published. Included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: Mainly takes place in 1911, the year before Russell’s family reunites and moves back to San Francisco, told by Mary Russell after her marriage. Writer’s Guide.

Uncle Jake, the younger brother of Mary’s father Charles, is the black sheep of the family.  He often turns up at the Russell family home unexpectedly, and often provides the children with unusual gifts.  He tells them stories of his wild adventures.  Mary and her brother Levi are always excited to see him.

The Russell family have lived at times in America and at times in England.  At the time of this story, Judith (Mary’s mother), Mary and Levi live in London, but take holidays at the Sussex farmhouse. Charles remains in America for business, but comes to England for the holidays.

Judith is Jewish, and Charles is Christian, but his Christianity “[rides] lightly on his shoulders”, and he is quite happy for Judith to bring up Mary and Levi according to her own traditions.

Christmas 1911 will be the last holiday the family spend in England before returning to America.  Judith, Mary and Levi go to Sussex earlier than usual, and because Charles has not arrived from America yet, Judith takes Mary and Levi with her to the pub to order the drinks for the holiday celebrations.  The publican makes a derogatory remark about them being Jewish.

Later, Uncle Jake turns up, and Mary tells him what had happened.

Jake teaches Mary how to play poker, and also how to throw cards across the room accurately.  (The training comes in handy later with her knife-throwing – a throwing-knife also being the gift Jake gives her during this visit.)

When Jake comes to Sussex he always goes to the pub to play poker.  And as you might expect, Jake comes up with a clever way to turn the tables on the Evil Publican.

The Mary Russell Companion (2014)

Dreaming Spies (2015)

Period: April 1924 (trip from India to Japan) and April 1925 In Sussex and Oxford. Writer’s Guide.

[The Preamble and Book Three are set in Sussex and Oxford in March to April 1925. These two sections form the framing story, which follows on from “Garment of Shadows”. Books One and Two are set in April 1924, during the period between “The Game” and “Locked Rooms”.]

Holmes and Mary return to Sussex, in England, in March 1925, after the events of “The Pirate King” and “Garment of Shadows”. While Holmes attends to other business, Mary drives to her house in Oxford. But there she meets a Japanese woman, who has been injured, whom she had met a year before.

Leaving India (after “The Game”) in April 1924, Holmes and Mary take a cruise ship to Japan. On board is an Englishman, Lord James Darley, whom Holmes knows to be a blackmailer. He is accompanied by his wife Charlotte, and his son from a previous marriage, Thomas.

Also on board is a young Japanese woman, Haruki Sato. Haruki agrees to teach Holmes and Mary the Japanese language. She also holds information sessions on Japanese culture for the ship’s passengers, which Holmes and Mary attend. But Holmes and Mary discover that Haruki is a ninja.

Arriving in Japan, Haruki invites Holmes and Mary to come to the inn run by her father in the village of Mojiro-joku. There they learn that Haruki and her father belong to a long line of ninjas in service to the Japanese Emperors. And it is there that they meet the Prince Regent of Japan, Hirohito (who would later become the Emperor). The Prince asks Holmes and Mary to work with Haruki to perform a task for him.

In a visit to England previously, Hirohito had presented a beautiful illustrated book of poetry to King George V. But afterwards the Prince had learned from his father that something valuable, probably an important document, had been hidden in the binding. And now he has received a letter from Lord Darley, offering him the book for a large sum of money. The Prince wants Holmes, Mary and Haruki to recover the book for him.

Although things do not go exactly as expected, it seems that the mission is completed satisfactorily.

However, in 1925, when Haruki turns up at Mary’s house in Oxford, it seems that the job is not finished. The book held by Lord Darley had been a forgery, and the hidden document was not present. Mary treats Haruki’s injury, and leaves her at the house to recover.

Mary visits the Bodleian Library, where the book had been held, before being sent out to be restored. Holmes joins her in Oxford, and together they search for and find the country house of the Darleys. Haruki joins them when they attempt to recover the book. But again things do not go quite as expected.

Historical person:

Hirohito – Prince Regent during this story – later Emperor of Japan.

Mary Russell’s War (2015)

Short story, self-published. Included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: Mary Russell’s War Journal started  Aug. 3, 1914 and running until just before Russell met Holmes on the Sussex Downs in early April, 1915.  Writer’s Guide.

The Marriage of Mary Russell (2016)

Short story, ebook. Also included in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book).

Period: February 1921, following on from “A Monstrous Regiment of Women”, but before the postscript.

At the end of “A Monstrous Regiment of Women” Holmes had proposed to Mary, and she had accepted. But where and when could they get married?

Mary learns from Holmes that the Holmes family has a family chapel, on a property near Northamptonshire in the Midlands. But when Holmes’s father died, the property had fallen into dispute. It rightfully belongs to Mycroft, but a cousin has claimed it, and is occupying the homestead there. If Sherlock or Mycroft should show up, they are likely to be attacked with shotguns and dogs.

Also Dr Watson is about to go on an overseas trip to America, to receive a literary award for his stories, and do a lecture tour. Mary insists that Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson must attend the wedding. But if they don’t have it soon, it will be months before Dr Watson is back.

Mary realises that Holmes will be disappointed if the wedding is not held at the family chapel, so she agrees to have it there. Holmes pulls a few strings to ensure all the legal formalities are fulfilled.

So they arrange to travel to the Midlands, along with Dr Watson, Mrs Hudson, Mycroft and a vicar, and sneak onto the property after dark, hoping to avoid the notice of Holmes’s cousin.

The Murder of Mary Russell (2016)

Period: the “current day” period is a period from 13 May 1925 until several days later. Mrs Hudson’s backstory starts with her future mother, Sally Rickets (the first date mentioned specifically is 1852, when her employers move from Edinburgh to London) and continues up to when Mrs Hudson becomes Holmes’s landlady in 1881. Then an additional chapter provides Mrs Hudson’s thoughts on the subsequent years leading up to the “current day”.

[A lot of this story revolves around Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “The ‘Gloria Scott'”. There is a sailor in that story called Hudson.  Ms King has made that sailor Mrs Hudson’s father, although there is no connection in Conan Doyle’s original stories.]

Mary Russell is alone at the Sussex home when a man arrives. He says he is Mrs Hudson’s son Samuel, from Australia. But then he turns a gun on Mary, and forces her to help him search Mrs Hudson’s possessions.

Mrs Hudson arrives home to find Mary missing, and blood on the floor. What has happened? Has Mary been murdered? Mrs Hudson contacts Billy Mudd, to get hold of Sherlock Holmes (who is away on an investigation), then calls Lestrade of Scotland Yard, who brings in his police detectives. Holmes arrives after Lestrade has left.

Conan Doyle didn’t give Mrs Hudson a first name, but Ms King gives her the name Clara. But she was born Clarissa Hudson. (Hudson is her maiden name, and she never married.)

Sally Rickets meets James (Jimmy) Hudson in London in 1853, and they soon get married. But Jimmy Hudson is a crook, working for a crime boss in London, called The Bishop. But when the police start arresting members of The Bishop’s gang in 1855, Jimmy and Sally flee to Cornwall. Jimmy is as much afraid of The Bishop as the police, since he had run out on him while owing him a lot of money. So Hudson leaves Sally in Cornwall, and signs on as a crew member of the ship the “Gloria Scott” carrying convicts to Australia.

However, the crew and prisoners of the ship mutiny, and the ship is sunk, with only a few survivors who escape in a ship’s boat, and are later picked up by another ship, and transported the rest of the way to Australia.

But Sally is pregnant, and gives birth to Clarissa at her sister’s home in Edinburgh. Hearing that Jimmy has reached Australia, but will not be returning soon, she commits a theft and manages to be transported to Australia, taking Clarissa with her. There she rejoins her husband and they live at the Rocks in Sydney. Later another daughter, Alicia, is born. But then Sally becomes sick and dies. The Hudson family are living in poverty, with Jimmy not earning much money, and spending a lot of it on drink.

Then Jimmy discovers that Clarissa has a great talent for play-acting. She is able to take on a variety of roles, and speak in a number of different accents. He teaches her the art of the con-artist, and the two of them travel around Australia earning money by performing cons. Alicia stays in the care of a woman in Sydney.

When Clarissa reaches young womanhood, Jimmy and Clarissa decide to return to London. There they continue their con-artistry in England and in Europe. Clarissa takes on more sophisticated roles, and enters into the London Society. Eventually she and her father part company.

Clarissa meets a young Viscount called Hugh Edmunds and falls in love. Expecting that they will get married, she sleeps with him. But he leaves her, and marries someone else. And Clarissa discovers she is pregnant.

Running out of money, and finding it difficult to continue her cons while pregnant, she goes to The Bishop, and gets a job with him. He gives her as a partner the young boy Billy Mudd, who soon becomes an expert pickpocket. During this time, Clarissa’s son Samuel is born.

At this stage, the young university student Sherlock Holmes appears on the scene. As described in “The ‘Gloria Scott'”, he has become concerned that Jimmy Hudson has been blackmailing the father of a friend of his.

After the events that follow, Sherlock Holmes insists that Clarissa sail back to Australia, taking Billy and Samuel with her. If she returns to England within a year, he has a job for her. But Holmes tells her she must leave the baby in Australia, with her sister Alicia. And Clarissa does return, bringing Billy with her. And so she takes on the role of landlady at 221B Baker St, as Sherlock Holmes starts his profession as a consulting detective.

In 1925, as Sherlock Holmes is investigating Mary Russell’s disappearance, there seem to be a lot of connections with the “Gloria Scott”.

Stately Holmes (2016)

Short story, originally published in “Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense” (2016) (collection, e-book)

Period: “Stately Holmes” is set in December, 1925. … website chronology.

Holmes has injured his back moving a beehive.  He has had his back strapped.  Mary believes his resultant stiff posture gives him a dignified or “stately” appearance.  [This is obviously a pun on the part of the author, as Justice Hall, a “stately home”, makes an appearance in this story.]

Holmes’s son Damian Adler, Damian’s daughter Estelle (now 5 years old) and Damian’s second wife Aileen Henning-Adler are coming to London from Paris for Christmas, and Holmes and Mary are going to visit them in London.  (Damian and Estelle appeared in the books “The Language of Bees” and “The God of the Hive”.  Aileen is the Scottish doctor who removed a bullet from Damian in “The God of the Hive”.)

But before this can happen, Mycroft calls Holmes and Mary in.  Young Gabriel Hughenfort, son of the Gabriel mentioned in “Justice Hall”, had been declared the Duke of Beaufort at the end of that book.  He is now 7 years old. He has persuaded his mother Helen to bring him from their home in Canada to visit Justice Hall.  But Mycroft has heard from Justice Hall that there is apparently a ghost in residence – one that steals food and clothing, but is never seen.  Mycroft sends Holmes and Mary to investigate.  And he has already sent the Adler family on to Justice Hall.

Berkshire, where Justice Hall is, is cold and snowy at Christmas time.  Holmes and Mary join in the Christmas activities with the Hughenforts and the Adlers, the Hall’s servants and the local villagers.

Holmes is impressed by young Estelle, and her imagination, creativity and deductive ability, inheriting skills from both Holmes and Damian.  During the course of this story, Holmes and Estelle do detective work together, including examining footprints in the snow.

At night, Holmes and Mary hunt through the corridors for the supposed ghost, including in the hidden tunnels, but don’t find anything.

On Christmas morning, Estelle brings Holmes a gift from the Christmas tree.  This turns out to be an envelope containing a photograph, providing valuable evidence for a case Sherlock and Mycroft are working on.  How had Estelle known it was there?

Estelle and Gabrielle claim that Father Christmas had visited them the previous night and spent a long time talking to them, gave them gifts, and told them about the gift for Holmes.  Who had this visitor really been?

 

Mary Russell’s War and other stories of suspense (2016)

Collection, e-book.

  • Mary’s Christmas (originally self-published by the author in 2014)
  • Mary Russell’s War (originally self-published by the author in 2015)
  • Beekeeping for Beginners (2011)
  • The Marriage of Mary Russell (2016)
  • Mrs Hudson’s Case (1997)
  • A Venomous Death (2009)
  • Birth of a Green Man (originally self-published by the author in 2010)
  • My Story (originally self-published by the author in 2009)
  • A Case in Correspondence (originally self-published by the author in 2010)
  • Stately Holmes (2016 – original to this collection)

Links

Laurie R. King Mystery Writer

Writer’s Guide to the World of Mary Russell

Sherlock Holmes Pastiche Characters

Sherlock Holmes on the Web: the Sherlockian.Net Holmepage

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