The Game (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #7)

The Game (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #7)

by Laurie R. King


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It’s only the second day of 1924, but Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, find themselves embroiled in intrigue. It starts with a New Year’s visit from Holmes’s brother Mycroft, who comes bearing a strange package containing the papers of an English spy named Kimball O’Hara—the same Kimball known to the world through Kipling’s famed Kim. Inexplicably, O’Hara withdrew from the “Great Game” of espionage and now he has just as inexplicably disappeared. 

When Russell discovers Holmes’s own secret friendship with the spy, she knows the die is cast: she will accompany her husband to India to search for the missing operative. But Russell soon learns that in this faraway and exotic land, it’s often impossible to tell friend from foe—and that some games aren’t played for fun but for the highest stakes of all…life and death.

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Laurie R. King's Garment of Shadows.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553386370
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/27/2010
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series , #7
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 139,703
Product dimensions: 8.28(w) x 5.22(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen Mary Russell mysteries, five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, the Stuyvesant & Grey novels Touchstone and The Bones of Paris, and the acclaimed A Darker Place, Folly, and Keeping Watch. She lives in Northern California.

Read an Excerpt

The Game

By Laurie R. King


Copyright © 2004 Laurie R. King
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-553-80194-5

Chapter One

Travel broadens, they say. My personal experience has been that, in the short term at any rate, it merely flattens, aiming its steam-roller of deadlines and details straight at one's daily life, leaving a person flat and gasping at its passage.

On the first of January, 1924, I was enjoying a peaceful New Year's evening with my partner and husband, Sherlock Holmes, in our snug stone house on the Sussex Downs, blissfully unaware that scarcely forty hours later I would be sprinting desperately for a train across a snow-covered railway siding. But on the first day of the new year, I was at peace and I was at home, with a full stomach, a tipsy head, and-most pleasant of all-warm feet. No fewer than three bottles of wine stood on the sideboard, in various stages of depletion. Holmes had just taken a connoisseur's sip of the last to appear in our glasses, a dusty port twice as old as I. He sighed in satisfaction and stretched his slippers out to the fire.

"It is good to find that the French vineyards are recovering from the War," he noted, although of the three wines, only the champagne had gone into its bottle since 1918.

I agreed, rather absently I will admit. As I took a swallow of the glorious liquid, it occurred to me that some part of the back of my mind was braced for a ring of the telephone or a furious pounding on the door. The visceral mistrust of leisure was perhaps understandable: Twice in the past six months the outside world had crashed in on us; indeed, we had been similarly seated before the fire one evening a scant two months earlier when an investigation literally fell into our arms, in the form of an old friend with a bloodied head. It was not yet midnight, and I had no faith in our stout oaken door to keep out surprises of the kind Holmes tended to attract.

However, pleasantly enough, no pounding fist came to trouble our companionship or, later, our slumber, and we rose early the next morning, fortified ourselves with one of Mrs. Hudson's hearty breakfasts (this one even more elaborate than usual, to make up for her being cheated of preparing the dinner for this, my twenty-fourth birthday), and bundled into our warmest clothes for the sleet-drenched trip to London. We rode the train in silence, taken up with our thoughts and with the newspapers, both as cheerless as the landscape outside the windows. Foot-and-mouth disease, the rising Seine, and doomsayers with apocalyptic predictions on both sides of the Atlantic, set off by the recent Labour victory.

Grimmer yet was the real reason for our visit to the great city. We had no end of business there, of course, from a long-delayed appointment with the bank manager to calling on a noble family in order to follow up on our most recently concluded investigation, but in truth, we were there to see Holmes' brother Mycroft, whose health was giving, as the euphemism goes, cause for concern.

He was home from hospital already, although the doctors had strongly advised against it, and embarked on his own programme of therapy. I personally wouldn't have thought a near-starvation diet of meat and red wine combined with long hours of vigorous calisthenics would be the best thing for a shaky heart, but not even Holmes' arguments made much of an inroad on Mycroft's determination. We had maintained a closer contact with him than usual over the past week and a half, none of us voicing the thought that each visit could well be our last. We hurried through the day's business, I listening with half an ear to the urgent recitation of calamity that trembled over the head of my American possessions, thinking only that, affection for my father or not, the time had come to rid myself of his once-cherished properties across the sea. I kept glancing at my wrist-watch, until finally with a sigh my solicitor threw up metaphorical hands, gave me the papers that required my signature, and allowed me to escape.

When we arrived at Mycroft's door, however, I had to admit that his self-prescribed fitness regime did not seem to be doing him any harm. He was up and around, and if he opened the door in his slippers and dressing-gown, he moved without hesitation and had colour in his face. There was also nearly a stone less of him than there had been on Christmas Day, which made his jowls flaccid and his eyes more hooded than usual.

"Many happy returns of the day, Mary," he said, and to Holmes, "I believe you'll find a corkscrew on the tray, if you'd be so kind." After toasts came the inevitable discussion of the impending disaster that the new Labour government was certain to bring in. Predictions were rife, that the institution of marriage was sure to be done away with, that rubles would replace the pound sterling, the Boy Scouts and the monarchy would be abolished, the House of Lords sold for housing flats-everything short of plagues and rains of frogs. There were strong rumours that the Prime Minister would refuse to step down to Labour's minority vote, thus igniting a constitutional crisis if not outright revolution; the newspapers that morning had mentioned the concern of America, politeness thinly concealing Washington's growing alarm. When I said something of the sort, Mycroft nodded.

"Yes, the Americans are becoming increasingly nervous about the Reds. They seem to envision a Socialist state that stretches from London to Peking, and don't know whether to be more worried about the Bolsheviks succeeding, or about the chaos that will follow if they fail."

When we had exhausted the various topics, we sat down to a meal only marginally less sumptuous than one of Mycroft's usual, accompanied by what passed for small talk and polite conversation in the Holmes household, in this case an interesting development in forensic science from America and a nice murder that was baffling the authorities. Dessert was a small decorated cake, which none of us ate.

The pouring of coffee, offer of brandy, and fingering of cigars indicated that the meal was finished, business could be resumed. The talk circled back through the Labour victory and the huge problems facing a minority government, before Mycroft took a last, ritual mouthful from his cup, put it onto the table, and asked, "Have you been following the news from Russia?"

My head snapped up as if he'd hauled back on my reins-which in a way, he had: I knew him far too well to think his question innocent. "No!" I said sharply, before things could edge one syllable further down that slippery slope. "I absolutely refuse to go to Moscow in January."

He made a show of shifting feebly in his chair, letting out a quiet sigh of infirmity before he looked up. "I said nothing about Moscow."

"Siberia, then. Some place either deadly or freezing, or both."

He abandoned the attempt at innocence. "I would go myself," he tried, but at my disbelieving snort and Holmes' raised eyebrow, he dropped that as well. All the world knew that Mycroft Holmes went nowhere outside his tightly worked circle if he could possibly avoid it: Dr Watson had once referred to Mycroft's unexpected appearance in their Baker Street flat as akin to finding a tram-car running down a country lane.

It did, however, answer a question that had been in the back of my mind ever since the general election, namely, how would the radical change in government affect Mycroft? Mycroft's role in the outgoing Tory government was as undefined as it was enormous; it seemed he intended to simply ignore the shuffling of office-holders all around him.

"What has happened, Mycroft?" Holmes asked, drawing my attention back to the until-now overlooked fact that, if Mycroft, in his condition, had been consulted on a matter by whichever government, it had to have struck someone as serious indeed.

By way of answer, the big man reached inside the folds of his voluminous silken dressing-gown and pulled out a flat, oilskin-wrapped packet about three inches square. He put it onto the linen cloth and pushed it across the table in our direction. "This came into my hands ten hours ago."

Holmes retrieved the grimy object, turned it over, and began to pick apart the careful tucks. The oilskin had clearly been folded in on itself for some time, but parted easily, revealing a smaller object, a leather packet long permeated by sweat, age, and what appeared to be blood. This seemed to have been sewn shut at least two or three times in its life. The most recent black threads had been cut fairly recently, to judge by their looseness; no doubt that explained the easy parting of the oilskin cover. Holmes continued unfolding the leather.

Inside lay three much-folded documents, so old the edges were worn soft, their outside segments stained dark by long contact with the leather. I screwed up my face in anticipation of catastrophe as Holmes began to unfold the first one, but the seams did not actually part, not completely at any rate. He eased the page open, placing a clean tea-spoon at its head and an unused knife at its foot to keep it flat, and slid it over for me to examine as he set to work on the second.

The stained document before me seemed to be a soldier's clearance certificate, and although the name, along with most of the words, was almost completely obscured by time and salt, it looked to belong to a K-something O'Meara, or O'Mara. The date was unreadable, and could as easily have been the 1700s as the past century-assuming they issued clearance certificates in the 1700s. I turned without much hope to the second document. This was on parchment, and although it appeared even older than the first and had been refolded no less than four times into different shapes, it had been in the center position inside the leather pouch, and was not as badly stained. It concerned the same soldier, whose last name now appeared to be O'Hara, and represented his original enlistment. I could feel Mycroft's eyes on me, but I was no more enlightened than I had been by the certificate representing this unknown Irishman's departure from Her Majesty's service.

Holmes had the third document unfolded, using the care he might have given a first-century papyrus. He made no attempt to weigh down the edges of this one, merely let the soft, crude paper rest where it would lest it dissolve into a heap of jigsaw squares along the scored folds. I craned my head to see the words; Holmes, however, just glanced at the pages, seeming to lose interest as soon as he had freed them. He sat aside and let me look to my heart's content.

This was a birth certificate, for a child born in some place called Ferozepore in the year 1875. His father's name clarified the difficulties of the K-something from the other forms: Kimball.

I looked up, hoping for an explanation, only to find both sets of grey Holmes eyes locked expectantly onto me. How long, I wondered, before I stopped feeling like some slow student facing her disappointed headmistress? "I'm sorry," I began, and then I paused, my mind catching at last on a faint sense of familiarity: Kimball. And O'Hara. Add to that a town that could only be in India.... No; oh, no-the book was just a children's adventure tale. "I'm sorry," I repeated, only where before it had connoted apology, this time it was tinged with outrage. "This doesn't have anything to do with Kim, does it? The Kipling book?"

"You've read it?" Mycroft asked.

"Of course I've read it."

"Good, that saves some explaining. I believe this to be his amulet case."

"He's real, then? Kipling's boy?"

"As real as I am," said Sherlock Holmes. "And yes, this is his amulet. I recognize it."

"You know him?" I don't know why this revelation startled me as if he'd claimed to have met a hippogryph; heavens, half the world considered Holmes fictional. But startle me it did.

"I knew him, long ago. We spent the better part of a year in each other's company."


He smiled to himself. "While I was dead."

I knew my husband and partner was not referring to some spiritualist experience of a previous lifetime. "When I was dead" was his whimsical term for the period beginning in the spring of 1891, when he disappeared at Switzerland's Reichenbach Falls, and for three years wandered the globe, returning to London only when a mysterious murder called him back to the land of the living. Knowing that Mycroft had preserved his Baker Street rooms for him during those three years, and knowing what Mycroft was, I had no doubt that at least a portion of that time, Holmes had been about the Queen's business. Still, I had never heard the details.

I was not to hear them now, either. Holmes had already turned to his brother, and was asking, "How did these come to you?"

"Through the hands of a certain captain who has an interest in both worlds."

"Not Creighton?"

"The man who currently holds the same position that Creighton did then, fellow by the name of Nesbit."

"And the story that accompanied them?"

"So tenuous as to be nonexistent. An Afghan trader brings a rumour that a light-skinned native man is being held by a hill raja. Six months later, a camel caravan modifies the story, that the man was being held but took ill and died, asking that these, his last effects, be returned to his people. We did trace the amulet's arrival to such a caravan, but no man could say who had carried it south, or whence it came."

Holmes nodded, but said only, "I find it difficult to imagine that particular individual being held against his will."

I broke in, with a request I did not think unreasonable, particularly as we seemed to be on the edge of being dragged into a case involving Kimball O'Hara. "I'd appreciate a little background information, just a few details about what you were doing when you knew the boy."

Holmes glanced sideways at his brother, assessing his condition, then suggested, "Perhaps it would be best if we saved the tale for a later time."

I started to protest, then decided that Mycroft's colour was indeed not peak, and brought my curiosity under control, allowing them to continue.

Mycroft answered, "As you say, it takes some doing to imagine O'Hara in custody for more than a few days. He was-how did you put it to me? 'Wily as a mongoose, slippery as a cobra, more deadly than either.'"

"If not in custody, then what?"

"The Bear is awakening."

"'The Bear,'" I said. "You mean Russia? But I thought our relations with them had settled down-don't we even have a trade agreement now with the Bolsheviks?"


Excerpted from The Game by Laurie R. King Copyright © 2004 by Laurie R. King. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Game (Mary Russell Series #7) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
lanlynk More than 1 year ago
In this book, the Russell and Holmes are sent by Mycroft to India in search of a lost spy, the grown-up Kim of Rudyard Kipling fame. He’s as real as Sherlock Holmes himself. The Game refers to the espionage between England and Russia, as well as the big game animal hunts. Great descriptions of India, its various classes, power struggles, and its relations with other countries. A good adventure, great characters. King’s books are filled with detail and sometimes the pace drags, but they’re definitely worth reading. This is one of my favorites in this series.
Avid-FLA-reader More than 1 year ago
As usual, well written and extremely compelling. Makes you want to know what happens next. I have immensely enjoyed this Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. Don't want it to end.
Kathy89 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once again Mycroft Holmes has sent his brother, Sherlock and Mary Russell Holmes on a secret undercover assignment for the government to India to rescue Kim O'Hara. Thought Mary was very clever in the way she handled things on her own while Sherlock was playing the magician again.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Russell and Holmes are at their home in Sussex, enjoying a much-needed rest. But Holmes¿ brother Mycroft is seriously ill, and the pair travel to London for a visit. Sick or well, Myrcroft is always looking after British Intelligence interests; when he asks Sherlock rather casually if he has been following the news our of Russia, Russell immediately suspects that the end result of the inquiry is that she and Holmes will be off on some sort of foreign adventure.She¿s right. Into Mycroft¿s hands has recently come a travel-stained packet containing documents that pertain to one Kimball O¿Hara--the Kim of Kipling¿s book. One of the better lines in this book occurs when Russell asks Holmes:¿He¿s real, then? Kipling¿s boy?¿ to which Holmes replies:¿As real as I am.¿No longer a boy, Kim has been an British Intelligence agent in the Northwest Provinces, where such clandestine information-gathering is known as The Great Game. The Russian Bear has awakened and is looking menacingly at India¿s Northwest Provinces, which bordered on Russia. In the India of 1924, many of the provinces were still under the nominal rule of rajas, some of whom were less than well-disposed towards the British. After some years of playing The Game in the area, suddenly Kim has dropped out of sight. Mycroft worries that there may be hostile forces, possibly Russian, behind the disappearances. The situation is so urgent that the pair take off without even a chance to pack their bags. Naturally, in an intelligence investigation, the information must be gathered clandestinely, requiring disguises--and the ones adopted by Holmes and Russell are among the best in the series yet. The ¿international spy thriller¿, if that is what this book can be called, has an excellent plot that reveals a good deal of what conditions--and politics--were like in post World War I India. There is a marvelous journey from Calcutta to the Northwest Provinces, some truly funny but endearing Americans, including a classic flapper, and intriguing descriptions of what life was like for the Indian rulers of some fairly large states; essentially powerless but still extremely wealthy, they indulged in all sorts of pastimes, such as pig-sticking (hunting wild boar), and others, decadent to the point of perversion.Holmes and Russell are at their best; the denouement is one of the most exciting in the series, a well-written page turner. The descriptions of India and ports of call along the way are fascinating, and contribute enormous interest to the storyline. One of the best in the series. Highly recommended.
flourishing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Perhaps it's because I recently have been on a Kipling kick, but this simultaneous tribute to Kim and Sherlock Holmes had me engaged to the very last page. A delicious romp through India under English rule - although if you are troubled by the idea that a book set at this time period mightn't be an indictment of imperial rule, be forewarned: this book hardly touches on such issues. Written from the perspective of happy colonialists, it doesn't embrace racism, but nevertheless is the story of a mad maharaja being brought down by the heroic efforts of a British man (and therefore may be unsettling and not enjoyable to some sensibilities). I have no way to judge the quality of the descriptions of India, except to say that it was quite in Kipling's mode.
nocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago

Having really enjoyed the last in this series after a long break I wondered whether this would be as much fun to read. It was. Russell and Holmes go to India searching for a lost British spy, who in a neat fiction tie in, is Kipling's Kim when he's all grown up. Good holiday reading.

Stewartry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Again, a brilliant idea, beautifully executed. To repeat myself yet again, I am generally disapproving when a writer plucks up another writer's characters and makes use of them. But that's largely because it's usually done so horribly badly, and is so rarely done with any respect for the original author, the characters, or the reader. Laurie R. King can do whatever she wants, take whatever characters or historical figures she likes, and bring them into her books in whatever manner she likes, because she has earned my trust. She does her homework, she knows what she's doing, and she has complete respect for the original material or real person, as the case may be. If anyone from Tom Sawyer to Bilbo Baggins to Harrison Ford appears in a Holmes/Russell novel, I will have faith that she has her reasons and can pull it off. (Maybe Indiana Jones, when Russell is in her 40's ¿that would be awesome.) The idea behind The Game was to me at first as wild as bringing Bilbo Baggins into the storyline, but only because I don't know the Kipling novel. (Note to self ¿) In any event, it's wonderful. Kimball O¿Hara here is a legend among those in the know (which Holmes, of course, is, and Mycroft moreseo), and it is to find out what has become of him that Holmes and Russell make their way to India. There they face danger and adventure of quantity and quality to please even Doyle ¿ tigers, and madmen, and those who are not what they seem, spies and daredevil pilots and a rajah who collects the unusual, be it an artifact or a human being (and Holmes is unusual). A new story arc begins with The Game, wherein a new enemy is introduced ¿ perhaps ¿ and Homes and Russell become aware of a new threat trailing them. Meanwhile, the story takes them in and out of various deep disguises and personas, and separates and reunites them, and causes Mary to make a change which will cause untold anguish in Holmes ¿ It's a great yarn, and, more than that, an excellent book.
librisissimo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Substance: A well-researched adventure blending the Holmes legend with Kipling's Kim in 1924. Politics and history appear to be accurate, as are the depictions of mid-war India and England, but I am not an expert on the period or locale. As an adventure with a "feisty female" lead, it works well, including several twists on the usual cliches of the genre. As a mystery, not so well; the answers to the core questions are stumbled on or revealed in the narrative by events, rather than being deduced and disclosed by the protagonist. As is typical of these derivative Ro-mance productions, Holmes and Kim are reduced to supporting roles, almost window-dressing, but would be memorable as "new" characters.Style: Straight-forward and clear; the descriptions are occasionally lyrical and the dialogue sometimes witty.
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sherlock Holmes, his Mary-sue wife and Kim.
Cinfull on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes team in India in 1924. Interesting description of British colonial period and maharaja in context of light mystery. Enough references to Kipling's 'Kim' to inspire re-reading it for another view of locale.
chndlrs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another fun Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery.
quixotic-creator on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another fine Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery, set in India. Once again King writes with authority and credibility in this period piece, refining her technique and style to an even greater degree. Although enjoyable and certainly an entertaining read, I found myself a little disappointed with the true lack of "energy and action" that can be found in the earlier Mary Russell novels. Still, a book worth visiting if one is a fan of this genre.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Taking place in India and bringing in the character of "Kim," this is another great read.
vegaheim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this one in india, disguising herself as a man. holmes almost faints!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the part where Mary and Sherlock went to see how Mycroft was doing after his recent heart attack.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The Game" as in Kipling's Great Game as told in his novel "Kim" - Russell and Holmes are tasked to locate Kimball O'Hara. As usual, things don't necessarily go as planned. The story ends with ONE long-term change for our heroes to adjust to in future adventures...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting story and concept. Different from similar types of stories. My daughter gives the series five stars.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So attracts holmes he supports and waits till she is of age to marry a may and october if not quite a december however this remains a very weird marriage one might think she seems more boy than girl his apprentice she goes from an abusive home to situations equally abusive forced lessons and physical hurt which holmes seems to avoid and dependent on mycroft too
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Denverhawkeye More than 1 year ago
I love the other Mary Russell books. I did not love this one. Seemed like one long tease to get to "Kim" and then minimal story on the most intriguing character.