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.


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