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Locked Rooms: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes [Paperback]

Laurie R. King
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 27 2010 Mary Russell Novels
En route to San Francisco to settle her family’s estate, Mary Russell, in the company of husband Sherlock Holmes, falls prey to troubling dreams—and even more troubling behavior. In 1906, when Mary was six, the city was devastated by a catastrophic earthquake. For years Mary has insisted she lived elsewhere at the time. But Holmes knows better.

Soon it is clear that whatever unpleasantness Mary wanted to forget hasn’t forgotten her. A series of mysterious deaths leads Russell and Holmes from the winding streets of Chinatown to the unspoken secrets of a parent’s marriage and the tragic “accident” that Mary alone survived. What Russell discovers is that even a forgotten past never dies . . . and it can kill again.

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Locked Rooms: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes + The Game: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes + The Language of Bees: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In her last outing, The Game (2004), Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, traveled to India on a case of geopolitical significance, but in the richly imagined eighth novel in this acclaimed series, set in San Francisco in 1924, Russell undertakes a far more personal investigation. Since she began her journey back to her hometown—ostensibly to deal with her father's estate—Russell has been tormented by strange dreams, one of which involves the "locked rooms" of the title, and the sight of her San Francisco childhood home opens a flood of memories and emotions, most of which she's loathe to allow into her über-rational mind. When someone takes a shot at her, Holmes enlists the help of Pinkerton agent Dashiell Hammett and Russell tries to unlock her past, in particular the "accident" that killed her family and left her an orphan in 1914. King's re-creation of San Francisco, especially the backstory during the devastating 1906 earthquake, is superb, and it's a pleasure to see the unusually competent Russell struggling with her own psyche. The plot may be a bit thin, but the narrative has real momentum, the characters are engaging and the prose, as always, is intelligent, evocative and graceful. Agent, Linda Allen. (June 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell are at it again. Having just traveled to India in The Game (Bantam, 2004), they are stopping in San Francisco, Mary's hometown, before returning to England. It is 1930, 24 years after the great earthquake and 10 years since the death of Mary's brother and parents, and her removal to Anglia. Ostensibly, she is going to wrap up some business interests and sell her parents' house, but she soon becomes aware of strange goings-on there and what seem to be attempts on her life. This is a more character-driven title than many of the previous Russell/Holmes outings, and Mary's emotions and fears are in the forefront. The story is told in alternating sections, by Mary in the first person and from Holmes's point of view in the third. This tale is self-contained, but does explain Mary's origins and probes many secrets she has kept hidden, even from herself. Along with a fascinating story, teens will be introduced on a very personal level not only to the San Francisco of that frightening earthquake, but also to the various social and racial striations so important even into the 1930s. Fans of this series will not be disappointed and newcomers may be intrigued enough to start from the beginning.–Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner July 24 2005
Format:Hardcover
Although different in approach to the previous books in the Mat Russel series, this is just as intriguing as Mary deals with significant aspects of her past.
It is amazing that seeds that were planted in previous novels are full grown and now form the basis of another great book in the series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sherlock Holmes meets Dashell Hammett Sept. 13 2005
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is one of the most entertaining of King's Russell and Holmes series - the murder mystery part is based in Russell's past and solved in 1920s San Francisco with Dashell Hammett as one of the locals pulled in to help find the villains. Great supporting characters and setting. Loved the interplay of fact and fiction - am going back to reread Maltese Falcon now.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  108 reviews
59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Dreams are speech from the unconscious mind." July 2 2005
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Locked Rooms" is Laurie King's eighth Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes mystery, and it is one of her best. After spending time in India and Japan, Holmes and his young wife set sail for San Francisco, California in 1924. The ostensible reason for their visit is so that Mary can sign papers connected with the estate left by her parents, who died ten years earlier in a tragic car crash. However, Mary has an even more urgent motive for revisiting her childhood home. She has been having disturbing nightmares, and she would like to exorcise the emotional demons that have been tormenting her.

In the three years that she has been married, Mary has revealed few details about her childhood to her husband. Her past is a confusing and frightening maze that she has been extremely reluctant to navigate. Mary knows that her parents lived through the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, but why does she have no memory of being with them during that time? Why does she blame herself for the accident that took the lives of her mother, father, and younger brother? Finally, what is the significance of Mary's recurring dreams about flying objects, a faceless man, and a house with locked rooms to which only she has the key?

Laurie King's novel addresses these and other questions against the backdrop of one of the world's most scenic cities. The author's colorful and beautifully detailed descriptive writing brings Prohibition-era San Francisco to life, with its clanging cable cars, its wealthy mansions, and its breathtaking waterfront views. "Locked Rooms" is a multi-layered and richly textured novel. It is also a satisfying puzzle in which Russell uncovers some long buried family secrets and reexamines her assumptions about her parents' deaths. King provides a close look at the inner workings of the Holmes' unconventional marriage. In addition, "Locked Rooms" gives the reader a mini-history of the San Francisco earthquake, with a well-researched account of how this devastating event affected the city's traumatized residents.

Readers will enjoy the book's deliciously complex plot as well as the large and diverse cast of characters. Among them are Mary's childhood friend, Flo Greenfield, who has become a child of the jazz age, Tom Long, the son of the faithful Chinese couple who worked for Mary's parents, and the writer Dashiell Hammett, who helps Holmes with his sleuthing. King uses an unusual narrative device that presents a dual perspective, both through Mary's eyes and the very different eyes of her husband.

"Locked Rooms" has it all--an exotic locale, engrossing characters, fascinating historical background, and a suspenseful, well-told story. Fans of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell will be delighted and entertained by this solid entry in a very successful series.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Must reading for regulars. For irregulars? Not so sure. July 4 2005
By Sharon Isch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Mary Russell, the young wife of elderly Sherlock Holmes, is one of the mystery genre's most interesting and admirable inventions. But she spends three quarters of this book as a psychological basket case, not her usual brilliantly analytical self. And for that reason I recommend it only for series regulars, who will doubtless find that delving into the depths of their heroine's troubled past is worth the journey, even though it cedes all of the brainpower in the first three quarters of the book to Holmes.

Laurie King is a superb descriptive writer but lately her ratios of plot to description seem to me to be somewhat off. Her books first started feeling a bit under-plotted and over-padded to me with "Justice Hall." Then, a couple of years ago, I heard her speak at a book fair on the national Mall in Washington and she told us that her publishers push and push her to up her page counts and I got the impression she thinks that's a mistake. Me, too, although I must admit the descriptive writing about post-quake San Francisco is really superb here and King has created some intriguing new characters that I think you'll enjoy.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Weak Entry Aug. 9 2005
By Log Cabin Pat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I can see that there are definitely two camps in the reviews of this book: it's either the best in the series or just so-so. In my opinion, it's in the latter category. The reasons have been well-described by other reviewers; the plotting is weak, the book seems padded (especially with the memoirs of the Chinese servant), the main characters are seriously out-of character, and the dates regarding Mary's father joining the Army are confusing. The biggest problem, though, is that when you finally discover the secret behind her father's oh-so-mysterious actions and the family's death, what all those hundreds of pages have been building up to, the reason is just - laughable.

The best entries in this series - which in my opinion are The Moor, Oh Jerusalem, and The Game - are placed in an exotic locale. Apparently San Francisco is not exotic enough. However, there is a tidbit dropped about Russell and Holmes taking a brief sojourn in China on their way from India to the States, so I have hopes that that's where the next novel will take place.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her Heart was left in San Francisco April 18 2006
By F. Orion Pozo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Addition to the Russell/Holmes Series! June 21 2005
By CEB - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Set in San Francisco in the early 1920's, Locked Rooms is a mesmerizing tale which begins as Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes leave India aboard a ship bound for California. Vivid, unsettling dreams begin to plague Russell, and Holmes believes the dreams, along with Russell's erratic behavior, are caused by repressed childhood memories. At first, Russell denies having lived in San Francisco for more than a very short time, but does confess that she has almost no conscious memory of her childhood between the ages of six and fourteen, when her parents and younger brother died in an automobile accident. Russell, thrown free of the car before it plunged off a cliff, was seriously injured both physically and emotionally.

Once in San Francisco, Russell meets with the family lawyer to settle legal affairs concerning her inheritance, and to obtain the keys to the family home. To her surprise, she is told that the house has been vacant and locked since her parents' untimely deaths, her father stipulating in his will that no one be allowed entry without a member of the family present. As Russell and Holmes explore the San Francisco area, and the family home, childhood memories begin to surface, revealing a twisted tale of violence and greed. Soon, it becomes apparent that many of the family acquaintances, during that time, have since died violent deaths. After an attempt to kill Russell is thwarted, Holmes is certain that the past has become the present, and that perhaps the tragic car crash was no accident.

Locked Rooms is rife with richly drawn characters: Tom Long, the adopted son of an Oriental couple who served the Russells as gardener and cook; Mrs. Adderley, an elderly neighbor who remembers the Russell family as they coped with the 1906 earthquake and fires; Aunt Dee, a friend to Mrs. Russell, and daughter Flo; Dashiell Hammett, a young writer who sometimes does investigative work for Pinkerton's to help support his wife and child; and San Francisco itself, from Chinatown to the wharf area, both in 1923 and during the 1906 earthquake that all but destroyed the city. Descriptions of the city and its people, during the earthquake and subsequent fires, are detailed and vivid, lending a wonderful, historical flavor to the book.

Locked Rooms is divided into five sections, with three of these divisions told in Mary Russell's first person voice and two in third person voice, describing Holmes' investigations into Russell's past. As with all Laurie King novels, the writing is superb, and Locked Rooms is a welcome addition to this series.
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