The Murder of Mary Russell: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
“for a lie to become truth, the past only needs to be rewritten . . .”
When Mary Russell, wife of retired consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, welcomes a visitor into their Sussex home, she doesn’t realize she’s about to embark on an adventure that will revive memories long buried in both her husband’s mind as well as their housekeeper’s.
The young man wishes to see Mrs. Hudson, who’s absent. Ever the hostess, Mary puts on the kettle for tea and upon returning to the parlor is met by a startling sight.
“I stepped into the sitting room and looked into the working end of a revolver. Behind the gun stood a man with murder in his eyes.
‘So,’ I said. ‘No tea and biscuits then?’”
In a few moments, everything falls apart.
Mrs. Hudson returns from her shopping to find “a smell that didn’t belong . . . a pool of blood in two halves . . . one thick and long, the other shorter and much smeared about . . . a terrible amount of blood. Mrs. Hudson abruptly knew what the faint odour was . . . it was the smell of gunshot.”
Thus begins a story originating over 40 years before, in which people who have known each other as friends and family will learn more than they ever expected of lives hidden in plain sight: “of a young woman named Clarissa Hudson, daughter of a sailor turned con man . . . a ship transporting convicts to Australia, a mutiny and a shipwreck . . . and the events leading up to her meeting a young man still in his teens . . . a grey-eyed enigma, a gawky boy with ‘eyes of an old man not belonging above cheeks that scarcely knew a razor . . . that gaze had seen everything, knew everyone, would be surprised at nothing . . .”
He’s a young man bent on revenge and Clarissa’s an unintentional part of it. It’s the young Sherlock Holmes’ first case, one that “nearly turned me away from detecting before I started.”
As Inspector Lestrade assists Sherlock Holmes in seeking answers to his wife’s apparent murder, Holmes acknowledges a few truths about himself:
“Watson accused him of coldness. It was true . . . anger, terror, love, hatred—distractions, one and all . . . rage derailed the mental processes . . . and love? That was the thing that kept a person going past exhaustion, beyond reason, after hope was at its end . . .”
When all is said and done, it’s a family affair gone badly awry.
“A son and a father, each with their own mad desires, brought together to ignite like one of Holmes’ experiments gone bad . . . madness doubled, trebled . . .” and Sherlock Holmes faces a decision he must make as far as old secrets and old crimes are concerned.
Though the title is misleading, and the story massively convoluted, this Sherlock Holmes adventure is as thoroughly detailed as any Arthur Conan Doyle story written. Told by Mary herself and flashbacks seen through housekeeper Clarissa Hudson’s eyes, it takes a good many pages to get to the denouement, but when it arrives, it’s a sad and shocking surprise. Seeming to go in one direction and then taking an abrupt and startling turn, The Murder of Mary Russell isn’t the usual dramatically brilliant unmasking of secrets but a complicated and relatively quiet reference to the past.
In the end, all the characters realize “for a lie to become truth, the past only needs to be rewritten”—and rewrite it they have, many times. One wonders where the next lie becoming truth will take them.