Holmes Christmas List 2016

It has been a very busy year with the research for my book on Holmes on the British radio unearthing new details that need further investigation and so little time has been devoted to anything else, including this website.

Anyway, whilst Mrs Hudson is busy in the kitchen, I can tell you about the first book that I want to put on this year’s list of presents for afficianados of the world’s first consulting detective.

murder_of_mary_russellThe Murder of Mary Russell is the latest in the series of Russell’s memoirs and is one of those books that once you start it you will find it difficult to put down.

The possibility of Russell’s demise is not the real surprise of the book – it’s when a man comes to the door one morning, claiming to be Mrs Hudson’s son. The book took me by surprise but not Holmes, Hudson and Russell who were in one its secrets long before me.

You can find my review here.

Also this year, we have had The Marriage of Mary Russel where Russell and Sherlock Holmes embark upon the riskiest adventure of their partnership – their wedding. Note that this is only for the Kindle.51nu0phixxl

51ordqivl-l-_sy346_Also, but so far only available on Kindle in the UK (publishing problems have pushed the book back to April next year) is Mary Russell’s War containing nine short stories, seven of which have never previously been available in print, and one brand new, never-before-seen Sherlock Holmes mystery.  

They begin with England’s declaration of war in 1914 from Russell’s teenage diaries where she tells of tracking German spies through San Francisco, and then an unimaginable tragedy strikes.

On a much lighter note, Eve Titus’s Basil of Baker Street stories are being republished.

basil-of-baker-street-9781481464017_hrThose who still enjoy the film Basil The Great Mouse Detective (listen carefully at the beginning for the unmistakeable voice of Basil Rathbone upstairs in 221B and look out for the charming portrayal of Toby the dog) will be pleased to know that all five books of the original stories are being republished – three so far and the remainder in 2017.

The stories comprise Basil of Baker Street (first published in 1958 republished 2016), Basil and the Lost Colony (1964 republished 2017), Basil and the Pygmy Cats (1971 republished 2016), Basil in Mexico (1976 republished 2016) and Basil in the Wild West (1982 republished 2017).

Last Christmas, I mentioned the first three volumes of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. Now there are two more.

mx-part-vThe first, Part IV: 2016 Annual was published in May and the latest Part V: Christmas Adventures is published on November 21st.  As before all the royalties from these collections are being donated by the writers for the benefit of the preservation of Undershaw, one of the former homes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Benedict Cumberbatch is certain to go down in history for one of the great portrayals of Holmes. Whether and for how long the BBC Sherlock will last is unclear but if you want to know more about Cumberbatch then a biography is released later this month.

51xcv3l8vhl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Benedict Cumberbatch: London and Hollywood by Lynnette Porter covers his early success as a working actor through his dynamic trajectory to international star. 

That’s all for this year’s Christmas list – just a few books as there’s nothing that caught my eye in the video or games departments. We are waiting to see what the New Year will bring – especially in the new series of the BBC’s Sherlock . . . 

The Murder of Mary Russell

The title of the latest memoir from Mary Russell, was when first mentioned, a cause for great alarm from those who (thought) they knew her.

murder_of_mary_russellIt does, for the first time, make public the life story of the woman who probably knew more about my partnership with Holmes than anyone else. Mrs. Hudson has, for many years, kept secret the identity of many of our visitors and the details of many of the cases we had worked on together. Most of us, including me, had no idea about her life before Baker Street and much of what I have written about her is now clearly wrong!

When Russell made me aware of what she intended to make public in this chapter of her memoirs, I knew that she must have obtained Mrs. Hudson’s permission (and that of Holmes too) as it would provide previously undisclosed details of the case I have referred to as The Adventure of the Gloria Scott.

Holmes had related the story of this, his very first case, to me and had agreed that I could have it published. Holmes had asked me to change the name of one of the central characters but I had already sent the manuscript to the publishers and, unaware of its significance, I failed to get it changed. I assumed that my readers would just consider it a coincidence as I had failed to remark on the name in the actual story.

It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in April 1883 and subsequently was one of the stories in the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. At the time of its publication, Holmes was furious that I had left the name of Hudson unchanged (as he had asked me to) but, at the time, I had no idea why he was so insistent about it as he had stated that it was the “merest coincidence” that one of the central characters had the same surname as our landlady.

Two years earlier than the story’s publication, when Holmes was looking for new lodgings and came across Mrs. Hudson, he was aware of the connection but I was never made aware of the connection and it was only much later, as Russell relates in this memoir, that she and eventually I, really understood the connection. When I put the story of His Last Bow to print, I still had no knowledge of Mrs. Hudson’s past, and the role she took in that story.

This memoir of Russell’s opens in 1925 (though readers of the UK edition will find the date misprinted as 1995) with Russell in fear for her life. What leads us to this point is the early life of our landlady, Mrs. Hudson. Therein lies the link to the story of the Gloria Scott and with it Holmes earliest career. As that story unfolds, how we all ended up at 221B Baker Street becomes clear (for the first time to me, too!) and with it how Billy the page boy and Wiggins of The Baker Street Irregulars came to our assistance.

Most of all we learn the important part Mrs. Hudson has played and why, in many ways, it was an act, but one that even fooled “a nervy, limping medical man recently out of the army” when he first came to look at 221B, and for many years after!

Mary Russell

charles-dana-gibson51-154x300I rarely stray outside the Canon but one series of adventures that I thoroughly enjoy reading, again and again, are those of Mary Russell.

Mary (or Russell as Holmes always refers to her) was 15 when she first stumbled across Holmes in 1915 in Sussex. Holmes was in his fifties (my literary agent had exaggerated his age somewhat). The Valley of Fear was being serialised in The Strand at the time, and I seem to remember Russell asking Holmes how it ended. He denied all knowledge of how it ended, suggesting I made more out of his cases than was necessary!

You can read Holmes view of his encounter with the young lady in Beekeeping for Beginners and Russell’s version of what followed in The Marriage of Mary Russell.

Russell and I met a few months later – September I think it was. Since that day, she has referred to the “sweet bumbly man” (as she described me in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice) as “Uncle John”.

When not engaged with Holmes on some case or other she divides her time between his place in Sussex and her place in Oxford.

So far, fourteen volumes of her memoirs have been published. Her literary agent, Laurie M King, has published them in the following order although chronologically, O Jerusalem should be second in the series.

  1. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – The adventures begin in 1915 as young Russell meets Holmes and becomes his apprentice.
  2. A Monstrous Regiment of Women – Russell is introduced to the leader of “The New Temple of God” a sect that appears to be involved in something sinister. Then several members are murdered, and Russell faces her greatest danger yet.
  3. A Letter of Mary – An amateur archaeologist brings Russell and Holmes a box containing a papyrus and then is murdered the next day. The scroll, apparently written by Mary Magdalene, could be a clue.
  4. The Moor – Russell and Holmes revisit the scene of one of the most celebrated of his cases. An old friend is troubled by sightings of a ghostly carriage and a dog on the moor. Has the Hound of the Baskervilles returned?
  5. O Jerusalem – Fleeing from England in 1918, Russell and Holmes enter Palestine with help from Mycroft to solve a series of murders that threaten the uneasy peace between the Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
  6. Justice Hall – Shortly after solving the riddle on The Moor, Russell and Holmes arrive at Justice Hall in England, but soon they are involved in a mystery leading them to Paris and the New World.
  7. The Game – Mycroft is gravely ill but has received a package containing the papers of the missing spy Kimball O’Hara (who was the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”). They go to India in search of the missing Kim, and the game is very much afoot!
  8. Locked Rooms – Russell and Holmes are in San Francisco, and Russell’s past is catching up with her. A mysterious stranger is waiting for them who may have the key to the locked rooms that are haunting Russell’s dreams.
  9. The Language of Bees – The first part of an adventure which starts back in Sussex and an entire colony of bees has disappeared from one of Holmes’ hives. A bitter memory from Holmes’ past threatens their peace and Russell ends up on the trail of a killer that Holmes may be protecting. In
  10. The God of the Hive, the second part of the adventure, Russell, Holmes, and those they are protecting are scattered to the winds and Scotland Yard is after them on one side and a shadowy faction of the government from the other.
  11. Pirate King – When Mary is called upon to investigate the criminal activities that surround England’s silent-film supremo Randolph Fflytte, she finds herself travelling undercover to Morocco, as chaperone to the stars of his latest extravaganza, Pirate King, based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s masterful The Pirates of Penzance. Nothing seems amiss until the cameras start to roll and Mary feels a storm of trouble brewing…a derelict boat, a film crew with secrets, ominous currents between the pirates, decks awash with budding romance – and where is her husband, Sherlock Holmes? As film fiction becomes true terror, Russell and Holmes themselves may experience a final fadeout...
  12. Garment of Shadows – In a strange room in Morocco, Mary is trying to solve a pressing mystery: Who am I? She has awakened with shadows in her mind, blood on her hands, and soldiers pounding on the door. She is clothed like a man, and armed only with her wits and a scrap of paper showing a mysterious symbol. Overhead, warplanes pass ominously north. Meanwhile, Holmes is pulled into the growing war between France, Spain, and the Rif Revolt. He badly wants the wisdom and courage of his wife, whom he discovers, to his horror, has gone missing. As Holmes searches for her, and Russell searches for herself, each tries to crack deadly parallel puzzles before it’s too late for them, for Africa, and for the peace of Europe.
  13. Dreaming Spies – In 1924, Russell & Holmes are on their way from India to California when they are swept into a case for Japan’s Prince Regent, involving blackmail, Imperial secrets, and delicate international relations. The case takes them from one spring to the next, across two oceans and into the Bodleian Library, where the secrets are just beginning.The
  14. Murder of Mary Russell – The following year, Russell is looking into the barrel of a loaded revolver. A short while later, Mrs. Hudson returns to find a pool of blood and a smell of gunpowder. There is death here, and murder. Nothing will ever be the same.

Russell’s literary agent has also drawn my attention to a story about Kate Martinelli, the San Francisco homicide detective, who encounters what appears to be a complete replica of our sitting-room in Baker Street. The owner of the house has been murdered and amongst his collection of memorabilia is a manuscript written by Holmes. Not quite the textbook that Holmes said, in The Abbey Grange, would be the focus of his declining years, but The Art of Detection is a thrilling adventure nevertheless!

King, Russell’s literary agent, has produced a helpful guide to Russell’s world as The Mary Russell Companion, and there is more information in this supplement.

You can contact Laurie King here.

RSS Feed