Garment of Shadows (2012)

I was in bed. A bed, at any rate.

I had been flattened by a steam-roller, trampled under a stampede of bison. Beaten by a determined thug. I ached,head to toe, fingers and skin. Mostly head.

My skull throbbed, one hot pulse for every beat of my heart. I could see it in the rhythmic dimming of an already shadowy room. I wanted to weep with the pain, but if I had to blow my nose, my skull might split like an overripe melon.

So I lay in the dim room, and watched my chart beat, and ached.

Some time later, it came to me that he angle of the vague patch of brightness across the opposite wall had changed. some time after that, an explanation slipped out between the pain-pulses: The sun had moved while I slept. A while later, another thought: Timeis passing.

And with that, a tendril of urgency unfurled. I could not lie in bed, I had to be somewhere. People were depending on me. the sun would go down: I would be late.

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Poisoned Pen
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What They Say

Booklist: (starred)

Mary Russell Holmes has just finished a wickedly funny stint with Fflytte Films in Morocco (Pirate King, 2011) but she is not where she should be when her husband, Sherlock Holmes, goes to meet her in Fez. In fact, as this tale opens, she does not know where or who she is, having taken a great blow to the head. From that hoary trope—the hero with amnesia—King fashions a deeply political and emotional narrative.

It’s 1924, and the French, the Spanish, and the Rif (inhabitants of a mountainous region in northern Morocco under the brothers Abd el-Krim) struggle for control of Morocco. Another pair, Ali and Mahmoud, known to Russell and Holmes from their adventures in O Jerusalem (1999), figure strongly here. With the amnesiac Russell narrating, we are plunged into her mind as she tries to recover her identity and as she finds languages and defensive skills in herself. No detail is merely atmospheric, but rather we taste and feel and touch what Russell does with sensuous clarity: the tile and wood interiors; the riot of aromas sweet and foul; the colors; and the layer upon layer of political machination. The language is incredibly rich but always precise, the history of this time in Morocco woven with a contemporary eye on the wheels within wheels. As always, the relationship between Holmes and Russell is utterly understated, yet traced with heat and light.


Spices in the Fez medina. For more images of the places that inspired Garment of Shadows, visit the Pinterest board.

Two weeks of blog posts about writing Garment of Shadows, here.

Russell and Holmes hosted a Twitter party to celebrate the publication of Garment of Shadows. Find out more here, and look for future events!