[Mary Russell and two friends have gone for a few days to her family cabin in the woods]
Tuesday was a day of leisure, an unlooked-for holiday from care, during which we at last eased into the attitudes appropriate to a summer house. The weather cooperated in the venture, with a slight high fog to keep the sun from waking us too early, then burning off to present us a day worthy of the Riviera. Flo and Donny appeared, yawning and tousled, to exclaim in appreciation of the sparkle off the lake. Flo turned on her heel and went back to don her bathing costume, and trotted down the lawn and to the end of the dock where she stood, pulling on her red bathing cap, before launching herself off the end into the water…
observations: The ever wonderful Vicki (@skiourophile) did her roundup of 2014 at her Bibliolathas blog recently, and I was very taken with her item listing deaths from consumption in books read, an idea that I fervently (almost feverishly - I hope I don't start coughing and get red patches on my cheeks) want to copy. So this book gets me off to a good start for the year: a lot of coughing, and a seriously ill person. Actually, he doesn’t die, and we know he will live for a long time, because he is the great hard-boiled writer Dashiell Hammett (appearance on the blog related to Sam Spade in his combis). So in a very confusing and meta manner: this fiction is about Mary Russell, who is married to Sherlock Holmes, who is a ‘real person’ who was, supposedly, written about by some vague combination of Watson and Conan Doyle. They are investigating something in San Francisco in the 1924, and they come across Hammett, who helps them. It is difficult to keep straight.
I loved some of the Russell/Holmes books, but have found a few of them (I need to whisper) a bit dull. But this was a return to form – Russell visits San Francisco to look into family affairs she has been trying to forget, and finds strange goings-on relating to both the SF earthquake and fire of 1906, and the death of her family in 1914. The plot is both completely ridiculous and very easy to guess – not helped by the fact that King (a terrific writer) seems to be unable to produce convincing villains, and anyway divides her characters into the good, the nice, the tasteful – and those who are not so much. Nobody ever leaps out of their category, or surprises you by being virtuous and unpleasant, or delightful but wicked.
But I still enjoy her long detailed looks at life, and the bits about the San Francisco earthquake were particularly absorbing – more to follow on this. It is possible this book would actually have been better without the presence of Sherlock Holmes, and maybe even better as a straight novel?
Both the pictures are from the wonderful Helen Richey collection at the San Diego Air and Space Museum – a lovely resource for this blog. There were plenty of descriptions of flapper party dresses in the book, but I thought it would be nice to show Mary and Flo enjoying their days at the lodge…
King's Justice Hall, also featuring Holmes and Russell, gave us a couple of entries back in 2012 - with two very splendid pictures, one of them using the Helen Richey collection again.