Locked Rooms (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #8)

Locked Rooms (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #8)

by Laurie R. King


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“A truly bravura performance [with] all the magnetic appeal of the best of the original Conan Doyle novels.”—The Strand Magazine

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553386387
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/27/2010
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series , #8
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 175,560
Product dimensions: 8.26(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.93(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

Chapter One

Japan had been freezing, the wind that sliced through its famous cherry trees scattering flakes of ice in place of spring blossoms. We had set down there for nearly three weeks, after a peremptory telegram from its emperor had reached us in Hong Kong; people kept insisting that the countryside would be lovely in May.

The greatest benefit of those three weeks had been the cessation of the dreams that had plagued me on the voyage from Bombay. I slept well—warily at first, then with the slow relaxation of defences. Whatever their cause, the dreams had gone.

But twelve hours after raising anchor in Tokyo, I was jerked from a deep sleep by flying objects in my mind.

Three days out from the island nation, the rain stopped and a weak sun broke intermittently through the grey. The cold meant that most of the passengers, after venturing out for a brief turn on the decks, settled in along the windows on the ship's exposed side like so many somnolent cats. I, however, begged a travelling-rug from the purser and found a deck-chair out of the wind. There, wrapped to my chin with a hat tugged down over my close-cropped hair, I dozed.

Halfway through the afternoon, Holmes appeared with a cup of hot coffee. Actually, it was little more than tepid and half the liquid resided in the saucer; nonetheless, I sat up and disentangled one arm to receive it, then freed the other arm so that I could pour the saucer's contents back into the cup. Holmes perched on a nearby chair, taking out his pipe and tobacco pouch.

"The Captain tells me that we are making good time," he commented.

"I'm glad the storm blew itself out," I replied. "I might actually be able to face the dinner table tonight." Something about the angle of the wind the past days had made the perpetual pitch and toss of the boat even more quease-inducing than usual.

"You haven't eaten anything in three days." Holmes disapproved of my weak stomach.

"Rice," I objected. "And tea."

"Or slept," he added, snapping his wind-proof lighter into life and holding it over the bowl of his pipe.

That accusation I did not answer. After a moment, as if to acknowledge that his comment had not required a response, he went on.

"Had you thought any more about pausing in Hawaii?"

I stifled a yawn and put my empty cup onto the chair's wide arm, nestling back into the warmth of the rug. "It's up to you, Holmes. I'm happy to stop there if you like. How many days would it be before the next ship?"

"Normally three, but it seems that the following ship has turned back to Tokyo for repairs, which means we could be marooned there for a week."

I opened one eye, unable to tell from his voice, still less his smoke-girt expression, which way his desires leant. "A week is quite a long diversion," I ventured.

"Particularly if Hawaii has embraced the austerities of Prohibition."

"A half-day would mean a long walk and sit at a table where I don't have to aim a moving soup spoon at my mouth. Both would be quite nice."

"Then another four days to San Francisco." The pointless, unnecessary observation was unlike Holmes. Indeed, this entire conversation was unlike him, I reflected, squinting at him against the glare. He had his pipe between his teeth, and was concentrating on rolling up the pouch, so I shut my eyes again.

"Terra firma," I said. "A week in California, tying up business, and then we can turn for home. By train." I don't get seasick on trains.

"A week will be sufficient, you believe?"

"To draw up the papers for selling the house and business? More than enough."

"And that is what you have decided to do."

This noncommittal, pseudo-Socratic dialogue was beginning to annoy. "What are you getting at, Holmes?"

"Your dreams."

"What about them?" I snapped. I should never have told him about them, although it would have been difficult not to, considering the closeness of the quarters.

"I should say they indicate a certain degree of anxiety."

"Oh for heaven's sake, Holmes, you sound like Freud. The man had sex on the brain. 'Rooms in dreams are generally women,' he declares. 'A dream of going through a series of rooms indicates a brothel, or a marriage'—I can't imagine what his own marriage could have been like to equate the two so readily. And the key—God, you can imagine the fraught symbolism of playing with a key that lies warm in my pocket! 'Innocent dreams can embody crudely erotic desires.' The faceless man he'd no doubt equate with the male organ, and as for the objects that spurt wildly into the air—well, I'm clearly a sick woman. What does it say about my 'erotic desires' that reading the man's book made me need a hot bath? Or perhaps a cold shower-bath."

"You sound as if you've researched this rather thoroughly."

"Yes, well, I found a copy of his Interpretation of Dreams in the ship's library," I admitted, then realised that I was also admitting to a greater degree of preoccupation than I thought sensible. To lead him away from the admission, I said, "I wouldn't have thought that you of all people would fall for the Freud craze, Holmes."

His face darkened as he came close to responding to my diversion, then he caught himself, and counterattacked with a deceptively mild, "A knowledge of psycho-logical jargon is hardly necessary when confronted with such an unambiguous statement such as that contained in those dreams of yours."

"What do you mean, unambiguous?" I protested furiously, and too late realised that I had stepped into his own diversion with both feet.

"San Francisco's earthquake, which sent things flying about, is clearly the paradigm for the first dream. And the locked rooms may represent your family's house, which has stood empty for ten years while you pretended it wasn't there."

"A house is more often symbolic of the self," I told him, although I did not know why I wanted to argue.

"True, although a house may also be simply a house."

I threw off the rug so as to face him unencumbered. "Holmes, you're mad. I've only owned the place for three years, since I turned twenty-one, and I've been rather too busy to travel halfway across the world to take care of things. As for your earthquake fantasy, I wasn't even here in 1906. And what about the faceless man dream, anyway?"

"There is as yet insufficient data to identify him," he said, not in the least troubled by my words.

I drew breath to argue with him, but in the event, I couldn't be bothered. I rose with dignity, and said merely, "If you imagine we shall have time to uncover the relevant data in San Francisco, you are mistaken. We will be there only long enough for me to sign papers, then catch the train for New York."

Tucking the rug under my arm, I left him to his pipe.

Earthquakes. Ridiculous.

He did not bring it up again, and neither did I, although over the following days I often felt his eyes upon me, and knew that at night he too lay awake, waiting for me to speak. But I did not, and he did not, and thus we traversed the Pacific. Between the dreams themselves and lying awake in dread, I scarcely slept, and began to feel as if I was walking in a wrap of cotton gauze.

Hawaii was a pleasant interlude, although the wind blew and the wide beaches were nearly deserted. We walked for hours, and I even managed to eat something, but that night I slept no better.

The following evening I wandered about the ship, up and down the various decks (trying to ignore the Freudian overtones of entering enclosed stairways) until I found myself at the furthest point of the ship, after which there was only water. The wind had stopped that morning, leaving the smoke from the stacks to trail straight back along the various layers of deck, which created a series of solitary if insalubrious places for meditation. I was on the last of those decks, with only a railing between me and the Pacific.

And there I meditated, about the dreams and what Holmes had said.

Clearly, I thought, the damage we had seen in Japan, with Tokyo still recovering from the previous year's devastating earthquake, had set the literalist idea of shaken objects into his mind. I was not worried about the possibility he had suggested; no, despite my words, it was the niggling fear that Freud might be right.

Since leaving England in January, we had marked the ten-year anniversary of our meeting and the third year of marriage. I was content in ways I had not thought possible, well matched mentally and—despite the difference in our ages, despite the regular clash of our personalities, and despite the leering innuendo of Sigmund Freud—well suited physically, to a man who interested my intellect, challenged my spirit, and roused my passions.

So, no: Psychology be damned—the dreams weren't about my marriage.

Yet there they were, keeping me exhausted and irritable and searching out a piece of quiet if smoke-covered deck where I could stand by myself and stare down at the endless sea.

The water stretched out as far as the eye could see in an expanse of gentle grey-blue swells broken only by the occasional white-capped wavelet and the line of the ship's passage, unrolling die-straight behind us until it faded into the glare of sun on the western horizon. Directly below where I stood, dominating my vision if I leant my upper body over the rail, the churn of the great screws dug an indentation in the surface, followed by a rise just behind. Like the earth from a farmer's plough, I thought dreamily, cutting a straight furrow across three thousand miles of sea. And when the ship reached the end of its watery field, it would turn and begin the next furrow, heading east; and after reaching that far shore it would shift again, ploughing west. Back and forth, to and fro, and all the while, beneath the surface the marine equivalents of earthworms and moles would be going busily about their work, oblivious of the other world above their heads. The farmer, the ship, above; the insect, the fish, below. So peaceful. Peacefully sleeping, while occasionally a seed would fall and take root in the freshly split furrow . . .

"Russell!" Holmes exclaimed, and the sharp voice and his sudden hand on my arm snatched me awake and sent my hat flying. I grabbed at it, but too late; the scrap of felt sailed out behind the ship, floating on the air for a long time until eventually it planted itself into the brine furrow. I turned to my husband.

"Why did you have to startle me like that?" I complained. "That was my last warm hat."

"Easier to purchase another hat than to fish you out of the sea," he said. "You were on the edge of going over."

"Don't be ridiculous, Holmes, I was just watching the patterns made by the propellers. What did you want, anyway?"

"The first bell for dinner went a bit ago. When you didn't come to dress I thought perhaps you hadn't heard it. And when I came down the stairs, it appeared as though you were trying to throw yourself over."

His laconic words bore just the slightest edge of true concern, as if a question lay behind them. I reached up to adjust my hair-pins, only to find them gone—weeks after chopping off my thick, waist-length hair (a necessary element of disguising myself as a British officer) my hand was still startled to find the weight of it missing from my head. Spreading my fingers instead to run them through the brief crop, I glanced back at the straight path laid out behind us, and felt a shudder play up my spine. Perhaps I shouldn't lean over any more rails while I was as tired as this, I told myself, and allowed Holmes to thread my hand through his arm and lead me back towards our cabins.

I picked at my meal, making no more response to the conversations around me than would a stone statue. Afterwards we listened to the ship's string quartet render a competent selection of Beethoven, and took a turn around the decks, Holmes chatting, me unresponsive. Eventually we took ourselves to bed, for another night's broken sleep.

The next morning the mirror showed a woman with stains beneath her eyes. Holmes had already risen, and I dressed slowly, drank several cups of strong coffee, and took a book up onto the sun-drenched deck. The pages, however, made no more sense than the conversations of the night before, and eventually I merely sat, staring at the almost imperceptible horizon of sky and sea.

After some time I became aware that Holmes had settled into the adjoining chair. My gaze came reluctantly back from the distance and settled onto the bit of brightness he held in his hand. It was, I decided, the silken scarf he had purchased in a bazaar on the first leg of our voyage out from England, a garish item perhaps useful for one of his gipsy disguises. He held it in his hands as if its bright dye bore a hidden message; it was his focussed concentration that finally caught my attention.

"What is that, Holmes?"

"The length of silk we bought in Aden. I thought to use it as an aide-memoire, to bring back the details of that curious afternoon. The whole affair puzzles me still."

Recalling the events of Aden was something of a wrench, since so much had taken place in the intervening months—weeks in India tracking down a missing spy and jousting with a mad maharaja, followed by the better part of a month in Japan with all the complexity of events there, interspersed by the dream-plagued weeks at sea. Granted, we had nearly been killed in the Aden bazaar by a balcony falling on our heads, but near-death experiences were no rarity in my life with Holmes. I had in the end dismissed it as a curious series of events that might have had tragic consequences, and fortunately had not. Clearly, Holmes was not of the same mind.

"It had to have been an accident, Holmes," I objected. "The balcony fell because the bolts were old, not because someone tried to pull it down on our heads."

"So I tell myself."

"But yourself will not listen."

"A lifetime's habit of self-preservation leaves one disinclined to accept the idea of coincidence."

"Holmes, one event does not a coincidence make."

"But two oddities catch at the mind."


"The fallen balcony, and the ship's passenger who enquired about us, then disembarked. In Aden." He raised an eyebrow at me to underscore the importance of that last.

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Locked Rooms (Mary Russell Series #8) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
MomX5 More than 1 year ago
I began reading the original Holmes stories when I was still in Junior High. I still enjoy rereading them, but I wanted more details about these characters, particularly Sherlock Holmes. I've read many extrapolations on Sir Arthur's original stories--some excellent; some really bad; most in between. Laurie King's series about Holmes and his apprentice (later, his wife), Mary Russell are my favorites. Ms. King manages to recreate the atmosphere of the original stories, as well as a believable Holmesian "voice" while introducing a strong, intellegant female character who is his equal. It was always apparent that Holmes was a man of strong passions, strictly controlled by logic. King allows hints of that passion to appear, without betraying the intrinsic character of Sherlock Holmes. Mary Russell is not only Holmes equal in passion and logic, but is also his equal in dry humor, personal quirks and general crankiness. It makes for delightful reading! The Holmes and Russell series are perfect by-the-fire reading for damp gray days. Incidentally, I am a growing-elderly "Boomer" but my young-adult daughter delights in this series too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently purchased this book and after only 30 pages in (30 pgs!!) I knew this was something special. She has a wonderful, flowing, mature writing style that you don't see very often. I can't wait to get back to it. I am sooo hooked. What a wonderful discovery - a new writer to follow. I definitely will read the whole series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This one is a must for any Sherlock Holmes lover! Ms. King keeps in the tradition of Doyle's character, with a wife as an added plus. Beautifully written as the English language should be spoken, without 'fad talk'! You will not be disappointed, it is a very good read with excellent character development and description. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Books by Laurie R. King are immediate purchases when I see them at the bookstore. This one was no exception. And it was thoroughly enjoyable. These are characters I want to know and live with. I devour these books in days and eagerly look forward to the next one or reread an older one now and then. The plots are well-crafted and interesting, and King always teaches me a little history while she's unraveling the mystery. I read a lot of mystery/thriller, and the only mystery author I've enjoyed as much or admired her writing as much was Kate Moss, who did not need the novelty of the legendary Sherlock Holmes to hook her readers. But I readily admit, I love getting bits more of the Holmes character I grew to love so much in Conan Doyle's stories - all of which I've read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes have travelled nearly all the way around the world from England to India and continuing on to San Francisco, California. They are on their way to settle and sell some property and business ventures of Russell's father's. While traveling from Bombay via Japan and Hawaii, Russell is visited by three nightmares, each symbolising something that seems to be from her past. Russell returns to California to confront the demons of her family's deaths only to find out about the deaths of others close to her. While she must discover the sources of her dreams, Holmes tries to discover the truth about the codicil to his father-in-law's will and the accident that claimed the lives of his wife's immediate family. An altogether thrilling, page-turning narrative that keeps you up late to find the answers to these mysteries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Sherlock Holmes in this series especially the idea that he has a wife who challenges him. But I think that in overall you can never have enough of Sherlock Holmes with Mary Russell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eighth in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series.Sailing from Bombay to San Francisco in order to take care of pressing business concerning the estate she inherited from her American father, Russell begins to have a series of three dreams so disturbing that she can not sleep. Holmes convinces her that one of the dreams, in which flying objects seem to be aimed at her, comes from her experience of the San Francisco earthquake and devastating fire of 1906; her parents had a home in the city. Russell insists that she was not in San Francisco during the earthquake, but at her grandparents place in Boston. Yet that dream no longer recurs after she discusses it with Holmes. The other two--one of a faceless man and the main one, of Russell showing her house to a group of people but one which has a locked door to which she has the key in her pocket--continue.In San Francisco, Russell discovers a puzzling codicil to her father¿s will. She also finds out that her psychiatrist, who helped her through the worst months after the car accident 1914 that killed her father, mother and younger brother--was murdered shortly after Russell left for England to live with her aunt and to have her fateful meeting with Holmes. Holmes is convinced that there is something mysterious and dangerous going on, but Russell scoffs, claiming that Holmes is bored and needs something to occupy his time.This is a most unusual installment in the series, focusing as it does on Russell¿s past to which other books have alluded but which has always remained unclear. It takes place in 1925 San Francisco, and explores the events of the tragic earthquake and the devastating fire of 1906. In between, it looks at the lives of Chinese immigrants to the city during that period of time through the eyes of a family whose husband worked for the Russells and who had a critical, mysterious connection with the aftermath of the fire on the Russell family. The denouement--when Russell realizes the meaning of the locked rooms of her dreams--is exciting, a typical Laurie King action-packed resolution of the plot line.Mary Russell fans will eat this book up. Highly recommended.
benjclark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most enjoyable of the Mary Russell series. Good supporting cast, very Sherlockian in the important ways. A keeper.
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved to revisit these two characters. The added viewpoint was an interesting twist. Russell's mental fight with her past rang true, even while leading to out of character behaviour for her.
Meredith47 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I believe this is book 8 in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series which Laurie R. King writes so beautifully. This is one of the first in which we start to see the world through eyes other than Russell, in this case, Holmes himself. (As a Holmes fan since the age of 12, do you think I was excited about this? I guess so!) And Laurie King does not disappoint. Russell has been knocked off her pins, more than a bit, due to a series of revelations about her past. And in this book most of it is clarified.I put in my usual warning: don't read this if you have to get to sleep in 20 minutes!If you don't know the series, start with the first: The Beekeeper's Apprentice. If you don't believe someone could write the "next Holmes stories" and do it well (neither did I), you could start with The Moor. I think you will be thrilled.
gmathis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite of the series. Not only do we finally piece together some of the details of Mary Russell's pre-Holmes days, there's a nicely done departure in narration that presents part of the story from Holmes' viewpoint. We also get to meet a young and appealing Dashiell Hammett...a nice characterization of the (at the time of the novel) struggling writer.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another really engaging mystery by Laurie R. King. I like both of her series. This one, with Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, is my favorite! If you like intellectual mysteries, this is for you!
nocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago

I think this takes me back up to date in the Mary Russell series. I'll be waiting for a new book. (Though I'm also very pleased to find that King's latest gives her other sleuth, modern day Kate Martinelli, an overdue outing.)

I didn't find this as all consuming as the last couple of books, but enjoyed the foray to 1920s San Francisco. Sherlock Holmes meeting up with Dasheill Hammett was a lovely touch and the sort of thing that's made this series worth reading. King has breathed new life into Holmes for me.

bearette24 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the better entries in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. Russell and Holmes make their way to San Francisco, after a trip to India, to unearth secrets about Russell's past and find out why she is having mysterious dreams about "locked rooms". The rooms in question turn out not to be literal, but rather symbols of repressed memories. The narrative takes interesting detours into San Francisco history and feng shui.
PamelaBarrett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In book one, The Beekeepers Apprentice, we meet teenage Mary Russell who is living in England under the care of her aunt. We know little about her family, other than she was orphaned in America after being in an automobile accident. Her English mother, American father, and little brother all perished in the crash.Mary¿s neighbor in England is the reclusive semi-retired Sherlock Holmes. The two strike up an unlikely friendship and partnership. With his tutelage and her quick mind, she is soon solving crimes along with him. Locked Rooms brings them to San Francisco where Mary, now an adult, is finally ready to deal with her family home and other assets in America. The closer they get to America the more she is plagued by disturbing dreams and memories of her former life.Laurie King¿s genius is well placed detail, historical correctness and believable characters that keep me coming back for more. Fortunately, this series has plenty of mysteries to solve. There are several books in-between these 2, but after reading an excerpt of Locked Rooms I couldn¿t wait to read it. I¿m so glad I skipped ahead, even if I missed the references to past stories, still this one can stand alone as a great read. It¿s on my favorites list because it is as good as the first book.
GJbean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
nice holmes and female detective details. typically british superior. stupid error her father makes during san francisco fire by trusting a friend leads to murder.
hoosgracie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes head to San Francisco to untangle the mystery of Russell¿s family¿s death 10 years prior. Good addition to the series.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
O joy! I found another Mary Russell book and read it all in one day. Who could put it down? Wonderful author and this book had San Francisco as the center fo action, also the 1906 earthquake and fire. Excellent. Love how she weaves other famous detectives or authors into these stories.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this one, although I felt that Mary Russell took WAY too long to figure out what was perfectly obvious to the reader. Still, a good mystery.
parelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Russell heads to San Fransisco - where she last left after the death of her entire family not long before we meet her. She's come to perhaps break her ties, but instead discovers an old mystery lying in wait for her - and what she cannot remember. A cameo, shall we say, by another narrator changes the usual first-person structure usual to the Russell books, but serves pretty well. Learning more of Russell's background is well worth the read.
monado on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beekeeper's Apprentice 8: The sorrow of Mary's life is that her parents and brother died, and she was injured, in a car crash in California when whe was fourteen years old. Eighteen years later, she returns, with her husband Sherlock Holmes, to put her father's affairs in order. But the memories and nightmares return to haunt her; and when the two try to unravel her past, they find a murderous mystery with its roots in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
krsball on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of this series (Mary Russell) and this was one of the best!
dperrings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book to border on pathetic.First the idea that Sherlock Holmes would be married is proposterous. Having him play second fiddle to a second rate detective is also absurd. If an author is going to put Holmes into a book, they need to be up to the task. While i finished the book by the time i got to the end i really had lost all interest.David Perrings
siubhank on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Back in her hometown of San Francisco, will Russell come to terms with the loss of her family and the gaps in her memory? Will returning to her families home, left vacant all these years help or hurt? Sherlock is slightly at sea, as dependable Russell becomes Mary the vulnerable child and Mary the willful 'flapper'. He manages to separate the two and solve the old mysteries that bedevil his wife.