Thursday, September 19, 2019

Book Review: Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King

Locked Rooms
Author: Laurie R. King
Series: Mary Russell (Book 8)
Publication: Bantam (June 21, 2005)

Description: Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes are back in Laurie R. King’s highly acclaimed New York Times bestselling mystery series. And this time the first couple of detection pair up to unlock the buried memory of a shocking crime with the power to kill again–lost somewhere in Russell’s own past.

After departing Bombay by ship, Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes are en route to the bustling modern city of San Francisco. There, Mary will settle some legal affairs surrounding the inheritance of her family’s old estate. But the closer they get to port, the more Mary finds herself prey to troubling dreams and irrational behavior–a point not lost on Holmes, much to Russell’s annoyance.

In 1906, when Mary was six, San Francisco was devastated by an earthquake and a raging fire that reduced the city to rubble. For years, Mary has denied any memory of the catastrophe that for days turned the fabled streets into hell on earth. But Holmes suspects that some hidden trauma connected with the “unforgettable” catastrophe may be the real culprit responsible for Mary’s memory lapse. And no sooner do they begin to familiarize themselves with the particulars of the Russell estate than it becomes apparent that whatever unpleasantness Mary has forgotten, it hasn’t forgotten her. Why does her father’s will forbid access to the house except in the presence of immediate family? Why did someone break in, then take nothing of any value? And why is Russell herself targeted for assassination?

The more questions they ask of Mary’s past, the more people from that past turn out to have died violent, unexplained deaths. Now, with the aid of a hard-boiled young detective and crime writer named Hammett, Russell and Holmes find themselves embroiled in a mystery that leads them through the winding streets of Chinatown to the unspoken secrets of a parent’s marriage and the tragic car “accident” that a fourteen-year-old Mary alone survived–an accident that may not have been an accident at all. What Russell is about to discover is that even a forgotten past never dies…and it can kill again.

My Thoughts: After their adventures in India Holmes and Russell make a long-delayed side trip to San Francisco. Mary hasn't been there since she was fourteen and was the only survivor of the car accident that killed her parents and younger brother. She was gravely injured and traumatized by the accident. She did some work with psychiatrist Dr. Ginzburg before moving to England to live with her aunt.

Now it is time to meet with her lawyers and make some decisions about the businesses and properties left to her when her parents died. But Mary is being troubled by three recurring dreams that are causing insomnia and lack of appetite. Holmes is worried for her.

When they arrive in San Francisco, they are confronted with even more mystery. A strange codicil to her father's will has kept their family home empty since it requires that entry is only permitted with a member of the family. The house is neglected and the grounds are vastly overgrown. But it appears that someone has been inside and searched the place.

Mary has always insisted that she was not in San Francisco during the 1906 quake and fires but she learns that she was which explains the first dream about flying objects. The second dream about a faceless man takes longer to figure out but it also had its origin during 1906. The third dream about secret rooms takes the longest to figure out.

While Mary is meeting with lawyers and meeting old friends that she barely remembers, Holmes is busy looking into the past the Mary has forgotten. Holmes even recruits Dashiell Hammett as his irregular since Mary is unavailable. Holmes comes to the conclusion that the accident that Mary has blamed herself for was really a murder designed to look like an accident.

This story is different than many of the earlier adventures in that there are sections told from Mary's point of view and other sections told from Sherlock's point of view. It was a wonderful adventure that illuminated Mary's past both for the reader and for Mary. I loved the San Francisco setting and the various characters including some residents of Chinatown.

Favorite Quote:
The top of her hat might have tucked under my chin, had I been foolish enough to allow her that close. Its wavering feathers and bristling bits of starched ribbon were ferociously up-to-date, and her well-corseted figure was wrapped in an incongruously youthful dress whose designer would have been outraged at the sight (although it testified well to the tensile strength of the thread), and her hair might at one time have been nearly the intense black it now was. Her fingers sparkled with a miscellany of stones, and the mauve colour of her sealskin coat came from no animal known to Nature. She was making for me with both arms outstretched, and although she looked more likely to devour me than to embrace me, I did the English thing and resisted mightily the impulse to place the outstretched  heel of one hand against her forehead to keep her at arm's length. Instead I allowed her to seize my forearms and smack her painted lips in the general direction of my jaw.

It appeared that I had a dear friend in San Francisco.
I bought this one in 1996 and am rereading it. You can buy your copy here.

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