So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

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Locked Rooms. Laurie R. King

This is the eigth in a series of novels by Laurie R. King which features the young detective Mary Russell and her partner of literary fame Sherlock Holmes. The title comes from a recurring dream that haunts Mary of a locked room to which she holds the key.

It is a series that keeps coming on strong, and this latest installment is one that faithful readers will truly appreciate. In it Mary returns to San Francisco, her childhood home, and confronts the trauma of her family's fatal car accident that only she survived. Plagued by a sense of guilt that she caused their deaths, Mary has never shared much of her past even with her husband, Sherlock Holmes. But is there something more sinister in her reticence to discuss the past? As they approach her home after ten years absence Mary becomes strangely unobservant and inwardly directed. Even when she is shot at two days after her arrival, she does not respond as she would have before. It is if she is in a cloud or hypnotic trance.

Laurie King does an admirable job of recreating San Francisco of the 1906 earthquake and of the Roaring 20's. The novel is rich in period detail, and contains a cast of well-developed characters which includes the young author Dashiell Hammett who, because of poor health, is making a career change from detective work to writing detective stories.

The suspense builds as first Holmes, and later Mary, begin to believe that her family was murdered to keep them from revealing something that is hidden in their old house. The book becomes a non-stop page turner as they discover that everyone associated with the family were murdered shortly after their fatal day. It seems that only Mary's departure for England right after the accident has saved her life so far. But now she is back, and she and Holmes will not sleep easy until the murderers are found.

Could this be the last Mary Russell mystery? Mary has lain to rest the ghosts that seem to have driven her so far. How will she proceed with her life now that the hidden torments are finally behind her? Laurie King has decided to give Mary a vacation and her latest novel is The Art of Detection, the first new addition to her Kate Martinelli series since 2000. I am sure that Mary could use the rest. We the readers will have to wait to see if it is rest or retirement for Mary.

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