Locked Rooms (2005)

“What is that, Holmes?”

“The length of silk we bought in Aden. I thought to use it as an aide-memoire, to bring back the details of that curious afternoon. The whole affair puzzles me still.”

Recalling the events of Aden was something of a wrench, since so much had taken place in the intervening months—weeks in India tracking down a missing spy and jousting with a mad maharaja, followed by the better part of a month in Japan with all the complexity of events there, interspersed by the dream-plagued weeks at sea. Granted, we had nearly been killed in the Aden bazaar by a balcony falling on our heads, but near-death experiences were no rarity in my life with Holmes. I had in the end dismissed it as a curious series of events that might have had tragic consequences, and fortunately had not. Clearly, Holmes was not of the same mind.

“It had to have been an accident, Holmes,” I objected. “The balcony fell because the bolts were old, not because someone tried to pull it down on our heads.”

“So I tell myself.”

“But yourself will not listen.”

“A lifetime’s habit of self-preservation leaves one disinclined to accept the idea of coincidence.”

“Holmes, one event does not a coincidence make.”

“But two oddities catch at the mind.”


“The fallen balcony, and the ship’s passenger who enquired about us, then disembarked. In Aden.”

To Buy a Copy

Bookshop Santa Cruz (ask for a signed copy!)

What they say

A humdinger…  (Kirkus.  Locked Rooms received stars from all four pre-publication journals.)

King makes full use of her considerable skills at probing the dark of the human psyche in this utterly mesmerizing tale of Mary Russell’s trip back to the San Francisco of her parents with her husband, Sherlock Holmes.  (Booklist)

Locked Rooms brims with lively 1920s color and verve, some of it in the warrens of San Francisco’s Chinatown. It also gives an excellent supporting role to a gent named Dashiell Hammett, part-time detective and aspiring writer.  (Seattle Times)


Read Laurie’s thoughts on writing Locked Rooms on her blog.

For a timeline and various links, go to Mary Russell’s World

Historical San Francisco is seen at the Virtual Museum of SF, the San Francisco History Association, and the California Historical Society

The 1906 quake and fire and pictures of the disaster

The cable cars have some great sites, such as this and this

For Dashiell Hammett’s history and writing, look to PBS

To experience Hammett’s San Francisco, take a walking tour or see here

Download Laurie’s San Francisco Old and New

Laurie’s family in 1906 (pdf)

Blending in San Francisco’s earthquake


A video of San Francisco taken shortly before the 1906 earthquake:

And another of Market Street just after the quake and today:

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire:

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire from Red Channels on Vimeo.

Click the picture below to visit the Locked Rooms gallery.


(Photo courtesy of Ron Kimball studios)