Review

Locked Rooms

by Laurie R. King



April 1924.

Sailing across the Pacific, bound for California, Mary Russell is
plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. The dark and restless
ocean crossing proves to be a harbinger of what awaits Russell and
her husband, Sherlock Holmes, in San Francisco.

In the eighth adventure of the Russell/Holmes series, things take a
personal turn for the investigative duo as they delve into
Russell's past. Ten years ago, Russell was the sole survivor of an
automobile accident that claimed the lives of her mother, father,
and brother. The crash occurred along a treacherous stretch of
California coastal highway, and for a decade Russell, who believes
she distracted her father by starting an argument with her younger
brother, has held herself responsible for the deaths of her family
members.

Intending to be in San Francisco just long enough to wrap up
business affairs related to her parents' estate, Russell instead is
drawn into revisiting her childhood --- in particular her presence
during the 1906 earthquake, which devastated the city, and why she
has long denied she was there. When an attempt is made on Russell's
life soon after she arrives in San Francisco, it's evident that
someone is intent on hiding the past at all costs.

Suspecting that the deaths of the Russell family might not have
been an accident, and with his wife in an uncharacteristic state of
distraction, Holmes enlists the aid of former Pinkerton agent and
fledgling crime fiction writer Dashiell Hammett. The clues begin to
pile up, as does the number of suspicious deaths. An interesting
cast of secondary characters lends color to the story, including
Tom Long, the owner of a Chinatown bookshop; Dr. Ming, an elderly
feng-shui expert; Flo Greenfield, a flapper and childhood
friend of Russell's; and Ricky Garcia, the scrappy leader of a band
of street children employed by Holmes. Eventually Holmes's and
Russell's paths converge, bringing them ever closer to uncovering
the truth about what really happened to her family --- and who is
responsible.

LOCKED ROOMS is a fun, intelligent read and a literary lover's
delight. Russell and Holmes are an intriguing, well-matched pair
--- both personally and professionally --- and the interplay
between them gives the novel much of its spark. Along with the
presence of the iconic Hammett, there are references to Arthur
Conan Doyle, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even a contraband copy of
ULYSSES.

From the stately Russell family home in Pacific Heights to a wild
car chase through the streets of Chinatown, from the history of the
1906 earthquake and its aftereffects to the present age of jazz and
Prohibition, Laurie R. King --- a native of northern California ---
turns San Francisco into a vibrant backdrop for this compelling
caper. Readers of the series will enjoy this journey into Mary
Russell's past, and newcomers will find it an engaging
introduction.

At one point in the narrative, Hammett says to Holmes, "When you're
putting together a story, sometimes you just have to skip over the
boring bits." In LOCKED ROOMS, there aren't any.

Reviewed by Shannon McKenna on January 11, 2011

Locked Rooms
by Laurie R. King

  • Publication Date: March 28, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553583417
  • ISBN-13: 9780553583410