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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King. New York: Bantam Books, 2005. ISBN: 0-553-80197-X

Alas, having read this book, I've finally reached the end of the published works of my favorite current mystery author, Ms. Laurie King. Now I'll have to wait for new titles as they're written and published. Fortunately, a new Kate Martinelli novel, The Art of Detection, is due out in May, so I won't have too long to wait. Although there are likely to be lots of holds on it at the library, so I may have to wait my turn.

Locked Rooms is the latest in King's series of Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell novels. And one of the most psychologically intriguing. On their way back from India (the scene of The Game, the previous novel in the series), they stop off in San Francisco, Mary's childhood home, ostensibly to tie up a few loose ends regarding her legal estate.

But instead, they become involved in solving a decades old murder mystery, involving the rest of Mary's family: her parents and brother, who died when she was 14 years of age. Mary has always blamed herself for the “accident,” in which she was thrown from the car just before it plunged off a cliff onto the ocean rocks below. Psychologically, Mary goes through much of the story in a state of denial, her mind literally refusing to come to grips with the events of her childhood, she having blocked most of those memories away from her consciousness.

The only disappointment in the book is the relatively prosaic nature of the original crime that is eventually discovered, although it certainly had far-reaching significance so far as the fate of the Russell family was concerned. The psychological aspects, with Holmes trying unsuccessfully to penetrate his wife and partner's mental blind spot, provides a fascinating and gripping subplot, lending the book much of its suspense and flavor.

King likes to have her fun by mixing up the Holmes universe with those of other famous detective milieus. Mary casually encounters Lord Peter Wimsey in an earlier volume; the tubercular Dashiell Hammett plays a somewhat more significant role here, hired by Holmes to assist him in smoking out the villains. As usual, highly recommended.

Be sure to check out the Tillabooks Mystery and Suspense Author Index for entries on many of the other Laurie King mysteries.

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