Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Book Review: 'The Murder of Mary Russell' by Laurie R. King
Mrs. Clara Hudson has been Sherlock Holmes’s housekeeper for over forty years. After Holmes married Mary Russell, Clara became Mary’s surrogate mother and did whatever she could to make their home a comfortable and pleasing retreat from the stresses of work. Occasionally, Holmes even used Mrs. Hudson’s special gifts—especially her chameleon-like ability to blend in with her surroundings—to assist him professionally. In Laurie R. King’s “The Murder of Mary Russell,” readers will learn a great deal more about Mrs. Hudson and her alter ego--Clarissa Hudson—formerly a beauty who lived on the edge and risked everything for money, love, and social acceptance. The story opens in 1925, with Russell receiving an unwelcome visitor, a man she would never have encountered had it not been for Clarissa’s misspent youth.
As a child, Clarissa had few advantages. Her father, a drunk and reprobate, exploited her while indulging her spoiled sister, Alicia. Clarissa had sparse education and little moral guidance. Because of James’s selfishness and greed, his older daughter spent her formative years evading the law. When she grew into a lovely young woman, Clarissa hoped to find a suitable husband, but made a catastrophic error that would cost her dearly.
“The Murder of Mary Russell” is an intricately plotted and mesmerizing novel. King delineates her characters brilliantly--the villains are evil, but believably so—and the author tells her fascinating story with relish and consummate skill. Moving back and forth between the mid-to- late 1800’s and 1925, King enthralls us with this imaginative and heartbreaking tale of poverty, loneliness, compassion, and redemption. King beautifully captures Mrs. Hudson’s depth and strength of character. She appears to be a paragon of virtue and dependability, but Clara has a “complex and unspoken history” that she has kept under wraps for good reason. This original and engrossing mystery demonstrates once again that the past and the present are forever intertwined.
Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right