The Murder of Mary Russell (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #14)

The Murder of Mary Russell (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #14)

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by Laurie R. King
     
 

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes series weaves rich historical detail and provocative themes with intriguing characters and enthralling suspense. Russell and Holmes have become one of modern literature’s most beloved teams. But does this adventure end it all?
 
Mary Russell

Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes series weaves rich historical detail and provocative themes with intriguing characters and enthralling suspense. Russell and Holmes have become one of modern literature’s most beloved teams. But does this adventure end it all?
 
Mary Russell is used to dark secrets—her own, and those of her famous partner and husband, Sherlock Holmes. Trust is a thing slowly given, but over the course of a decade together, the two have forged an indissoluble bond.
 
And what of the other person to whom Mary Russell has opened her heart: the couple’s longtime housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson? Russell’s faith and affection are suddenly shattered when a man arrives on the doorstep claiming to be Mrs. Hudson’s son.
 
What Samuel Hudson tells Russell cannot possibly be true, yet she believes him—as surely as she believes the threat of the gun in his hand. In a devastating instant, everything changes. And when the scene is discovered—a pool of blood on the floor, the smell of gunpowder in the air—the most shocking revelation of all is that the grim clues point directly to Clara Hudson.
 
Or rather to Clarissa, the woman she was before Baker Street.
 
The key to Russell’s sacrifice lies in Mrs. Hudson’s past. To uncover the truth, a frantic Sherlock Holmes must put aside his anguish and push deep into his housekeeper’s secrets—to a time before her disguise was assumed, before her crimes were buried away.
 
There is death here, and murder, and trust betrayed.
 
And nothing will ever be the same.

Praise for The Murder of Mary Russell

“Leaping narrative energy has always been a hallmark of this series, and it reaches something of a peak in this latest volume. . . . The lean momentum of the story never falters. . . . It’s a stunning prolonged feat of storytelling, and it succeeds in making The Murder of Mary Russell the best installment so far in an excellent series.”The Christian Science Monitor
 
“[A] sharp, inventive and rewarding series.”The Seattle Times
 
“Delightful . . . a triumph of plotting . . . Fans, always hungry to know more personal details about King’s iteration of Sherlock Holmes and his world, will get a few more delicious tidbits this time around.”Booklist (starred review)

“Not only a high point in King’s long-running series, but a compelling demonstration of the ways inventive writers can continue to breathe new life into the Holmes-ian mythology . . . Both Holmes and Russell will have a chance to shine; in fact, the case achieves a rare balance between Holmes, Russell, and the mystery they’ve been set.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“Whip-smart, suspenseful and intricately plotted, The Murder of Mary Russell shines a brilliant light on an often overlooked aspect of the Sherlock Holmes universe.”Shelf Awareness
 
“A tantalizing tale of deception and misdirection for [Laurie R. King’s] readers’ delight.”LibraryReads (Top Ten Pick)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/15/2016
Edgar-winner King’s subpar 15th Mary Russell novel (after 2015’s Dreaming Spies) opens on a quiet morning in Sussex in May, 1925. Against her better judgment, Mary, the independent wife of Sherlock Holmes, admits a stranger to her cottage, who says he’s Samuel Hudson, the son of her housekeeper and surrogate mother, Clara Hudson. Her misgivings prove warranted when he confronts her with a gun. Clara returns home to find Mary missing, a pool of blood on the floor, and the smell of gunpowder in the air. With Mary’s fate unresolved, the focus shifts to Clara, the daughter of a criminal implicated in Holmes’s very first case. Mary and Holmes fade into the background amid some florid prose (“I looked into his pale eyes, the bones of my chest cringing away from thirteen grams of leaden death”). This atypical entry will appeal mostly to longtime series fans. Agent: Linda Allen, Linda Allen Literary Agency. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Murder of Mary Russell
 
“Leaping narrative energy has always been a hallmark of this series, and it reaches something of a peak in this latest volume. . . . The lean momentum of the story never falters. . . . It’s a stunning prolonged feat of storytelling, and it succeeds in making The Murder of Mary Russell the best installment so far in an excellent series.”The Christian Science Monitor
 
“[A] sharp, inventive and rewarding series.”The Seattle Times
 
“Delightful . . . a triumph of plotting . . . Fans, always hungry to know more personal details about [Laurie R.] King’s iteration of Sherlock Holmes and his world, will get a few more delicious tidbits this time around.”Booklist (starred review)

“Not only a high point in King’s long-running series, but a compelling demonstration of the ways inventive writers can continue to breathe new life into the Holmes-ian mythology . . . Both Holmes and Russell will have a chance to shine; in fact, the case achieves a rare balance between Holmes, Russell, and the mystery they’ve been set.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Whip-smart, suspenseful and intricately plotted, The Murder of Mary Russell shines a brilliant light on an often overlooked aspect of the Sherlock Holmes universe.”Shelf Awareness
 
“A tantalizing tale of deception and misdirection for [Laurie R. King’s] readers’ delight.”LibraryReads (Top Ten Pick)

Praise for the award-winning novels of Laurie R. King
 
“The great marvel of King’s series is that she’s managed to preserve the integrity of Holmes’s character and yet somehow conjure up a woman astute, edgy, and compelling enough to be the partner of his mind as well as his heart.”The Washington Post Book World
 
“The most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today.”—Lee Child
 
“A lively adventure in the very best of intellectual company.”The New York Times
 
“Erudite, fascinating . . . by all odds the most successful re-creation of the famous inhabitant of 221B Baker Street ever attempted.”Houston Chronicle
 
“Intricate clockworks, wheels within wheels.”Booklist (starred review)
 
“Imaginative and subtle.”The Seattle Times
 
“Impossible to put down.”Romantic Times
 
“Remarkably beguiling.”The Boston Globe

Library Journal
03/15/2016
In spite of the title, this 14th novel in the series (after Dreaming Spies) is really all about Mrs. Hudson, the longtime housekeeper to Sherlock Holmes. King takes the opportunity to create and explore extensively Mrs. Hudson's backstory, including how she met Holmes and came to be his landlady at 221B Baker Street. We learn that Clarissa Hudson was not always the prim purveyor of tea and telegrams familiar from the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Instead, she was an adventuress who used her skills at mimicry to survive in a rough world. This novel is filled with suspenseful elements such as the promise of lost treasure, shipwrecks, illegitimate children, and Russell's apparent murder. VERDICT Patient readers will be rewarded by the rich character development and further filling out of King's complex world. Best for fans of historical mysteries and those who enjoy other portrayals of Sherlock Holmes on TV shows such as Sherlock and Elementary. [See Prepub Alert, 10/12/15.]—Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-01-20
King forswears the foreign intrigue that's increasingly dominated her Sherlock-ian pastiches (Dreaming Spies, 2015, etc.) to return to the great man's roots, which are surprisingly intertwined with those of his longtime landlady. An apparently innocent knock at the door of the retired Holmes' farmhouse brings his wife, Mary Russell, face to face with a rough-hewn Australian who announces himself as Samuel Hudson, the long-unacknowledged son of Holmes' housekeeper, and then pulls a gun. While Russell awaits her chance for the counterattack she knows will be necessary to save her life, King flashes back a generation, using a few suggestions from the Conan Doyle story "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" to spin out the adventures of Sam's mother, Clarissa Hudson. Beginning even before her birth, the story follows the romance of Clarissa's parents, an Edinburgh governess and a London thief; the girl's early years in Australia as her father's trained accomplice in a series of increasingly lucrative "Cheats"; her repeated attempts to make something of herself, usually by trading on her improbable gifts for assuming different personalities; and the fateful moment when her path crosses that of the young Sherlock Holmes, who transforms her into Clara Hudson and sets her life along a profoundly different path. When the story finally returns to the present, both Holmes and Russell will have a chance to shine; in fact, the case achieves a rare balance between Holmes, Russell, and the mystery they've been set. The real star, however, is Clarissa Hudson, whose touching, remarkable, and wholly absorbing life story offers not only a high point in King's long-running series, but a compelling demonstration of the ways inventive writers can continue to breathe new life into the Holmes-ian mythology. Canny readers will know not to take the come-on of King's teasing title at face value; the unwary deserve all the additional shocks they'll get.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804177900
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/05/2016
Series:
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series , #14
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
14,944
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

9:15 a.m.

Irony comes in many flavours, sweet to bitter. The harshest irony I ever tasted was this: when I was interrupted that spring morning, I felt only relief.

But then, tyres on wet gravel sound nothing like the crack of doom.

The noise caught me in the midst of an attack on the post overflowing my desk in Sussex. Since dawn, I’d been elbow-­deep in five months’ worth of pleas, adverts, requests for information now out of date, proposals of joint ventures similarly belated, legal and scholarly papers in need of review, and a thin handful of actual letters from friends near and far. I wanted nothing more than to haul the lot outside and set a match to it.

When I heard the noise, I assumed it was Mrs Hudson, returning for some forgotten element of her morning’s trip to Eastbourne. However, the tyres sounded more tentative than Patrick’s hand on the wheel (Patrick Mason was my farm manager and our housekeeper’s occasional driver). Nor did the approaching engine sound familiar. A taxi bringing Holmes, perhaps, finished with his unspecified tasks for his brother, Mycroft? I hadn’t seen my husband since he’d left Oxford, two weeks before.

But a glance through the library window showed an unfamiliar car with London number plates and a solitary figure considerably smaller than Sherlock Holmes. The driver circled counter-­clockwise, coming to a halt before the house.

I headed to the door with a light heart: unarguable proof that Mary Russell had no talent for reading the future.

I stepped from the front door into the roofed portico beyond, stopping as the fickle morning sunshine gave way to another quick shower. The driver’s door opened, but he hesitated, seeing not just the rain, but me. He’d expected someone else.

“May I help you?” I called.

“Er, the Holmeses?”

“This is the place,” I confirmed. The shower grew stronger, spattering down the drive, and although the day was warm enough, I had no wish to change out of wet clothes. I turned to rummage through the odd population of canes, sticks, and tools in the corner of the entryway, but before I could locate an umbrella that functioned, the car door slammed and footsteps hurried across the stones. I let go the handle and gave the visitor some room under the shelter.

He was a short, stocky man in his forties, wearing a new black overcoat, an old brown suit, and a cloth driving cap that he now pulled off, snapping it clear of drops before arranging it back over his blond hair. His brief question had been insufficient to betray an accent, but it had to be either Australian or South African—­his pale blue eyes positively blazed out of sun-­darkened skin, and his suit had a distinctly colonial air to it. I had just chosen Australia when his greeting confirmed it.

“G’day, Ma’am. Nice place you got here.”

With that greeting, I finally raised a mental eyebrow.

A person’s first words can reveal a great deal more than the speaker’s origins. The closer one sticks to the traditional forms—­Good day, Madam, terribly sorry to bother you but . . . or a chatty variation such as, Dreadful weather for May, Ma’am, please don’t come any further into it, I just . . . —­the smoother the transition into a stranger’s life. But Nice place you got here, coupled with a blithe spattering of drops across the entry tiles and a grin that showed too many teeth? The man was out to sell me something.

Had I actually been working that morning—­had I not been so grateful for any interruption at all—­I might simply have taken another step back and shut the door in his face. Might not even have gone out at all, for that matter, thus setting events off in a very different direction. But with nothing more compelling than a stack of mail to draw me, that self-­assured grin made for a nice little challenge.

Wouldn’t one think that life with Sherlock Holmes would have taught me all about the perils of boredom? And overconfidence? But like a fool, I felt only relief at this holiday from envelopes. “My husband is not here at the moment.”

Another young woman might have said those words apologetically, or perhaps nervously. I merely stated them as fact. He gave me a quick glance, head to toe, taking in my short but decidedly unfashionable haircut, my complete lack of makeup, the old shirt I wore (one of Holmes’ with its sleeves rolled up), and the trousers on my legs. He reacted with a degree more sensitivity than I might have expected. His posture subsided, his bare grin gave way to something more polite, and he removed his hat again, this time a gesture of respect rather than convenience. Even his words reflected the change.

“Sorry, Ma’am, but it’s not him I’m looking for. I wonder . . . does Mrs Hudson live here? Mrs Clari—­Clara Hudson?”

“She does, but—­”

His right hand shot out at me. “Then you must be the missus. Mary Russell? You look just like she described you!”

I stifled my arm’s automatic impulse—­to catch that outstretched hand and whirl him against the wall—­and instead permitted him to grab me and pump away, grinning into my face. Still a salesman.

After four shakes I took back my hand. “Sir,” I began.

“Is she here? My mother?”

If he’d squatted down to tip me head over heels, he could not have astonished me more. Mother??

He saw my reaction, and gave a sort of smacking-­of-­the-­forehead gesture. “What am I thinking? Guess I’m a little excited. My name is Samuel—­Samuel Hudson. Great ta meetcha,” and the hand came out again to seize mine.

Mother?

Of all the mysteries that are love, maternal love may be the most basic. My own mother had died when I was fourteen. A few months later, with the raw instincts of a barnyard chick imprinting its affections on the first available surrogate, 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 again have.

I knew of course that she had a son in Australia—­or rather, she had a “nephew” whom her sister claimed as her own. Glimpses of an older person’s complex and unspoken history can be startling, even when one’s main source of comparison is a dedicated Bohemian like Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps especially in that case: Mrs Hudson had always been a point of solid dependability amidst the anarchy that surrounded Holmes.

Motherhood is more than a biological state. Yes, I knew—­well, suspected—­about her past, but I had never conducted the close investigation I might have with a stranger, and definitely never asked Holmes if Mrs Hudson had been married before giving over the child to be raised. I admit that a few weeks into our acquaintance, when it dawned on me that the nephew might in fact be a son, my first reaction was an adolescent giggle over the idea of Mrs Hudson as a fallen woman. My second reaction was curiosity. Oddly, Holmes refused to say anything about the matter. It took a while before I realised that his blatant unconcern was the only way he could grant his poor housekeeper (as if she wasn’t so much more than housekeeper!) some degree of privacy.

Once I saw this, I followed his lead. I made no further attempts to rifle her possessions or read the letters from Australia—­written largely by her sister (who had died, some nine months before this) although Mrs Hudson’s interest clearly lay more in the news about their shared son. To judge by the sighs and a general air of distraction after each letter’s arrival, it was not an easy relationship. In fact, her “nephew” seemed to be something of a ne’er do well, but since she never asked for assistance or advice, we could only politely ignore her unspoken woes.

Until now, when he stood on our doorstep.

Assuming this was Samuel Hudson.

Would most young women accept such a claim without question? Perhaps. And perhaps most young women would be justified in their naïve 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.

So, I would not permit this person to meet Mrs Hudson without a thorough vetting.

All of this reflection and decision took me approximately three of the fellow’s hand-­pumps. I bared my teeth to make a grin at least the equal of his, and drew back to welcome him inside (which had the added benefit of removing my hand from his).

“She’s away for the morning,” I told him, “I’m not sure exactly when she’ll be back. However, I can probably manage to make you a cup of tea in her absence. Unless you’d rather have coffee?”

“A cuppa would go down a treat,” he said, then to clarify: “Tea, thanks.”

I closed the door against the cool air and led him into the main room, our idiosyncratic combination of sitting room, library, and dining room. The south wall, to my right, had a table in the bay window, where we took our meals; the east wall held laden bookshelves, and French doors to the terrace; on the north lay a wide fireplace with chairs and a settee, along with the entrance to the kitchen. Holmes’ observation beehive, set into the wall beside the bay window, was behind its cover.

“Whadda great room,” the visitor enthused.

I bit off my tart response—­I’m sorry, it’s not for sale—­and instead turned the topic onto a more pertinent track. “Not to be rude, but I don’t suppose you have any sort of identification? You don’t look much like her.” Mrs Hudson’s grey hair had once been brown, not blonde, and her dark eyes were nothing like this man’s bright blue. Even if the fellow had been born “Samuel Hudson,” it was a common enough surname. He might be some lunatic with a Sherlock Holmes mania built around a minor coincidence.

If so, this would not be the first fantasist to waltz into our lives, although the odds were mounting in his favour: he was certainly from Australia, and he knew not only our names, but where we lived. Still, the thought of that hand clamping down over Mrs Hudson’s beloved palm . . .

(I recount these details to show that I was not entirely oblivious to the world around me. Just not attentive enough.)

“Nah, guess I don’t,” he said, running a hand over his visage. “That’s probably why I never doubted who my mother was—­Mum and I both have my granddad’s looks, or so I’m told. Identification, is it? I didn’t bring my passport, didn’t expect—­ah, what about these?” His fingers came out of an inner pocket with a photograph and a golden chain. He handed me the first.

It showed two women and an infant. The women sat in the formal pose required of a slow shutter speed, although it had been taken in a garden, not a studio—­a private garden, most likely, since neither wore a hat. The infant was as unformed as any small human, little more than pale hair and layers of cloth. The woman holding him was blonde, with light-­coloured eyes, and I thought—­as I had from the first time I’d seen this photograph, years before—­that there was something odd about the way the woman’s hands clutched the baby, thrusting him at the camera rather than cuddling him to her. Her features, too, had some faint air of hidden meaning, a triumph almost, that made one very aware of the empty hands of the woman at her side.

The other woman, taller, straight of back and dark of hair and eye, looked into the camera with a gaze of sad acceptance. Even if I had not recognised this woman’s features, I would have known her by that expression: I see what you are up to, it said, but I love you anyway.

Heaven knows she’d had plenty of opportunities to look at me that way, over the years.

I handed the photograph back to Samuel Hudson. “She has a copy of that.” I did not add, Hers is worn down to the paper from ten thousand touches of her finger. My mother had used that very gesture, on the mezuzah at our door.

“Well, that’s me,” he said. “With my mother and aunt—­although until just a few months ago, I thought the two went the other way around.”

I glanced up sharply at the bitter edge in his voice, to see his other piece of evidence dangling from thumb and forefinger: a gold chain strung through a hole drilled in an old half sovereign coin.

“Does she still wear hers?” he asked.

The chain looked too bright and the gold of the pendant less worn than I remembered, but the necklace definitely caught my attention. I’d never seen it around Mrs Hudson’s neck, but I recognised it as the flash of gold I’d first spotted years before, tucked in the bottom of her incongruously large and ornate jewellery box. I might have taken no notice, at the time, but for the casual haste with which she had flipped something over it.

“No, she doesn’t wear one like that,” I told him.

Meet the Author

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen Mary Russell mysteries, five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, the Stuyvesant & Grey novels Touchstone and The Bones of Paris, and the acclaimed A Darker Place, Folly, Califia’s Daughters (written under the pen name Leigh Richards), and Keeping Watch. She lives in Northern California.

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The Murder of Mary Russell (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series, #10) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very worthy of the Holmes genre. I am now officially addicted to this writer.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Fun adventure story focusing on a well known secondary character. Not much mystery at all. Still thoroughly enjoyed it.
dibbylodd 11 months ago
I adore Ms. King's books! (Is that too fannish? Tough.) Her Russell and Sherlock books are an impressive collection of another view into the irresistible personage of Sherlock Holmes, his world, and time. (And beyond) We are presented with evidence of the apparent murder of Mary Russell. In the telling of what followed her bloody disappearance, we learn a great deal about Mrs. Hudson. She proves to have quite a history. QUITE a history. It is delightful and delicious. It does not disappoint.
Storytellermary More than 1 year ago
Don't want to spoil the plot, so I'll just share some of the wisdom: Love was the thing that kept a person going past exhaustion, beyond reason, after hope was at its end. . . . grit was what one used to hone steel.
anneb10 More than 1 year ago
Despite the title, this is really the story of Mrs. Hudson and how her life story effects the story of the title. Prepare to have what you thought you knew about Sherlock Holmes' landlady/housekeeper completely upended. It's very surprising, and a little bit jarring, especially at the beginning. But once you adjust to the changes, it makes for fascinating reading. It's all handled deftly, and makes this book one of the best in the series. I put it down only when I had to - don't miss out! Full Disclosure: I received my copy of the ARC for this novel through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.