Letters of Mary

Among the many unexpected joys I have discovered in being a writer has been the extraordinary community that has formed around the Mary Russell stories.  People with little in common geographically or even socially come together online in mutual affection for Russell & Holmes—and, even more amazing, forge lasting friendships when they come together physically at one conference or another.BEEK UK copy

One of the early manifestations of this Russell-based community was Letters of Mary, a Yahoo group currently celebrating its seventh year of e-friendship and mutual admiration.  Over the years, a number of them have become fast friends—of each other, and of mine.  To mark the anniversary, the moderators would like to issue the following invitation:

Have you ever longed to be part of a friendly community of people who love Russell and Holmes as much as you do?   Then The Letters of Mary Yahoo Group is perfect for you.

LOM is a place where you can ask questions, join in discussions, and have access to an amazing archive of fan fiction to satisfy your Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes craving between books. Come join like-minded people and celebrate all things Russellian!

Alice and Merrily


The Letters of Mary Yahoo Group, here.

Tattooed with COOL

Okay, my life as a writer is now officially cool.  A lovely woman by the name of Winn Goll is wearing Russell and Holmes on her skin.  Or at any rate, versions of Russell and Holmes—feline versions:

R&H tattoos

These fabulous (and no doubt painful) tattoos (yes, the needle kind) were done by Greg Whitehead at Scapegoat Tattoo in (no surprise here) Portland, Oregon.

Greg and Winx, I love this, thanks for letting me know—I hope you come to my Portland event in October, so you can flash your ink!

(And the rest of you, if you know of any other Russell & Holmes tattoos—or Kate Martinelli, Rae Newborne, etc tattoos—let me have a look.)

“Clash of the Books,” Part II

(For part I of Sabrina Flynn’s award-winning “Clash of the Books,” scroll down to yesterday’s post, or wait until Tuesday for the entire story.)




“Run, you fools!”

A lash of flame descended with a sizzling snap.  The detectives and librarian ran, taking cover in the Natural Sciences aisle.  Black smoke gathered, writhing upwards.  The building’s extensive sprinkler system surged to the defense.  A deluge of cold rain charged the Balrog.

“By God,” Holmes drawled.  “What was in my drink?”

“I shouldn’t have fallen asleep watching Star Trek with Lee,” Kate said.

“This is not a dream, Inspector Martinelli,” Merrily trembled, “and you are not tripping, Mr. Holmes.”

“I should think not.  I’m standing as we speak.”

“Wait,” Kate eyed the tall, immaculately dressed older man.  “Mr Holmes?  Are you another one of those Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts?”

“I am Sherlock Holmes, Madame.”

A rumbling interrupted the great debate.  The marble floor erupted, throwing earth and crawling vine into the hordes of fiction.  A massive beanstalk took root, grasping upwards with throbbing intensity.  Sprouts attacked the sprinkler system, threading their disastrous way through piping and electrical circuits.  The rain spluttered to a premature drip.  Flame surged anew, licking hungrily at soggy bindings.

“My library is in ruins!” Merrily shrieked.

“Madame, when one’s nervous system is subjected to hallucinatory compounds, it is best to remain calm.  The worst of the effects will wear off with time,” Holmes reasoned, and then narrowed his eyes at a line of goblins scrambling overhead.  One paused, brandishing a maw of fangs.  Holmes regarded it coolly, dismissed it from his mind, and pulled his pipe and tobacco pouch from his pocket.  When the creature persisted, Kate pointed her gun, and fired, dropping goblin to the floor at their feet.  The rest scattered like flies.

“I will not calm myself, Mr. Holmes,” Merrily growled.  “That light-alien has destroyed my library, and the Red Death is killing my favorite characters.”  As the words left her lips, the Red Death swept through the raging tide of battle, touching foes at random.  His hand fell upon a gentlewoman and her dark-haired defender, sending them writhing to the floor.  “He’s just murdered Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet!”  Merrily nearly fainted.

A slice of flame sizzled overhead, halving the shelves an inch above Holmes’ greying hair.  The three were buried in a mound of smoldering paper and blackened bindings.

“If this is a dream,” Kate coughed, “then it’s a painful one.”

Holmes pushed the books aside, ripped a burning page from Twilight, then used it as tinder to light his pipe, before throwing the book at a troublesome faerie.  Book smacked into faerie, sending both spiraling to the ground.  Holmes, Martinelli, and the librarian moved to a safer aisle, past religious studies, through horror, and onto mystery.

“I’m not so sure this is a dream anymore,” Kate said.

“It is lunacy,” Holmes deduced.

“Look,” Merrily interjected, “humor me for a moment and let us pretend this is an intellectual exercise.  How do you propose to stop this?”

“They are your books, Madame,” murmured Holmes around the stem of his pipe.  “I suggest you restore order.”

“Some help would be appreciated.”

A brute of scale and claw slammed into the end of the shelves.  Metal gave, books flew, pages opened, and fiction grew.

“What precisely do you expect us to do?”

Merrily never had the chance to answer, nor did she have an idea, for a tall, blond-haired woman darted past, skidded, and reversed course, diving into their aisle.  A massive claw swiped the space she had vacated.  A mouth of rot appeared in its stead, bellowing frustration, and hammering at the shelving.  Kate fired her gun, bullets bounced off the brute’s armor, ricocheting off stone and zipping dangerously close to their heads.


“Holmes,” the blue-eyed new arrival gasped, “what on earth did you slip into my drink?”

“I did nothing of the sort.  You’re supposed to be in Los Angeles.”

“Have you gone mad?  We were celebrating the New Year in Sussex.”

“Run!” Merrily screamed.  The armored brute tore the shelving off its foundations, and the four darted, scrambling up the spiraling metal stair.

“Who’s she?” asked Kate.

“My wife.”

“This is the wife you mentioned in your manuscript?”  Kate eyed the younger woman appreciatively.

“Mary Russell.”

“Kate Martinelli.”

The two women shook hands.  The Librarian prayed, and the Great Detective smoked his pipe in thought.

“You’re on fire, Holmes.”

“Since this is a dream, it does not bear consideration.”  Two seconds later, Holmes cursed in pain, and batted at the flames on his coat.  “Perhaps not,” he conceded with a grimace.

“What was that light-creature near your desk?”

“I think it was an alien,” Merrily replied.

“Of no nationality I recognize.”

“No, not that kind.  An alien of the Martian variety.  It called me a jailer.  And I’m certainly not a jailer, I’m a librarian.”

The armored brute roared, rolling a blood shot eye at the four.  The other orb bled from where a familiar knife had pricked its eye.  Its roar seized their hearts.  The four moved rapidly down the aisles along the second floor, catching glimpses of a blackened husk battling a sword wielding wizard.

“I seem to have attracted the attention of a beast resembling Grendel,” Mary Russell confided as they raced down the stacks.

“Perhaps you should not have thrown your knife at its eye, Russell.”

“I gave fair warning, Holmes.”

They stopped, breathless, huddling in Art History.

“These are characters from the stack of fiction books that were sitting on my desk.”

“We are not fictional,” Holmes and Russell snapped as one.

“Fiction or non-fiction, your admirer is tearing the floor apart.”

“Since this is a dream, presumably mine, I refuse to be intimidated by a myth,” Mary Russell declared, planting her boots firmly on the grate.   “I’ll distract Grendel, Holmes, while you and these ladies figure out how to stop this madness.”  She drove her elbow into a fire emergency station, yanking the shiny red axe from its resting place.  “There is only one way to deal with a Grendel.”  As quickly as she had appeared, the lanky blond darted towards the railing, disappearing over its side with axe in hand.

“Your wife is certainly something.”

“Assuming this is her dream, I’m inclined to agree,” Holmes remarked drily.



(Tomorrow: Part Three, in which Merrily chews her fingernails and Chaos reigns.)

Contest winner: “Clash of the Books”

Every year we run a contest celebrating National Library Week, asking readers to talk about their love for libraries.  This year I posed the challenge of explaining what “library” means,  to someone like a Martian—and said that there would be extra points if the essay/poem/etc mentioned Kate Martinelli, whose 20th anniversary 2013 is.

I loved all your entries, which were without exception heartfelt, affectionate, appreciative expressions of Library Love.  But I only had one prize—a set of all five Martinelli novels—and so I had to choose one.  And here it is: Sabrina Flynn’s “Clash of the Books.”

Because it’s a nice and long, I’ve divided it into four episodes, which you can read today, tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday.  After that, I’ll put a pdf of the entire story on the web site for a while, with Sabrina’s blessing.

Enjoy—and as you read, you can be planning your own entry into next year’s Library contest, when Mary Russell turns 20!



Clash of the Books

by Sabrina Flynn

With the editorial eye of Merrily the (presently retired) Librarian


         A Presence drifted beside the moon, puzzling over the unknown.  Its thoughts spiraled along the stars, plunging down a luminescent waterfall.  Far below, the starlight pooled, gathering around a solid stone building.  It seemed a cage.

The Presence seeped through the cracks in the stone.  Its thoughts explored the prisoners who stood upright in dark holding cells.  Their spines were straight, one pressing against the next in cold, multitiered prison blocks.  The hush was tangible, a silence that could be heard, filled with a million minds whispering of their lives before imprisonment.  This could not be endured.  A Savior descended, bearing the key to their freedom.  Liberation was nigh.


            A curly-haired woman sat at her desk.  She had remained after hours to work, but in actuality, she was reading, surrounded by a warm pool of light.  The lapel of her stylish coat bore a tag, proclaiming her as Merrily the Librarian.  She turned a page in her book, absorbed in a world of detectives and murder.

An irritating light niggled at the edges of her vision.  The intrusion grew persistent, growing brighter until it blurred the pages.  Merrily glanced up, severing the connection between mind and word.

A figure approached.  Man or woman, she did not know, human or animal, she could not say.  Its skin glowed like sun through parchment, its veins were elegant letters that swirled beneath the light, from runes to hieroglyphs, of every language ever spoken and those yet born.

Merrily’s mouth fell open.  The book slipped from her numb fingertips, tumbling onto the floor.  The being of light extended an arm, long fingers uncurled, revealing an inky cube in the palm of its ever changing hand.  Letters drifted into the space between librarian and figure, shifting to form words, rearranging into comprehension.

I have come to free the prisoners.  Do not interfere, Jailer, for I am their Savior.

            Merrily recovered the use of her legs, but not her lips.  She bolted to her feet, knocking a cart of books over, scattering their bindings across the floor.

The Savior placed the inky cube on the desk, and tapped its top with a long finger that ended with a dot.  The cube cracked into a thousand splintering lines of molten gold.

Pages fluttered, shelves shook, the library shuddered.  Letters rose from the pages of print with tornado like force.  Merrily retreated from the alphabetic cyclone, tripped over the scattered books, and fell to the floor.

The churning letters took shape over the open book she had been reading. Two figures emerged from The Art of Detection.  One was tall and lean and decidedly male.  The other was short and athletic and most assuredly female.

“What the devil?” the first demanded.  Undaunted by the winds, he swept a steely gaze over the cavernous stacks, and finally pinned the Savior with steadfast skepticism.  Sherlock Holmes concluded that someone had introduced a hallucinatory element into his champagne at the dance hall.

Kate Martinelli spotted an immediate threat, placed herself between the terrified woman on the floor and the towering lunatic of light, and drew her gun.

“Inspector Martinelli, SFPD.  Put your hands up!”

The figure did not move.  Holmes glanced between policewoman and illusion, and calmly moved to assist the fallen librarian to her feet.

Wind battered the three.  A raven flew from between the pages of another book, croaking, “Nevermore!”  A herald of chaos followed by a mélange of fiction.

Out stepped the Red Death in all his glorious tatters.  The armies of Agincourt washed over the main floor like a ferocious tide.  Goblins swarmed, and hobbits scattered.  A pillar of shadow and flame raged between the stacks, and a grey-bearded man in pointy hat skidded to a stop.

“Run, you fools!”



(Tomorrow: Part II, in which Mr Darcy is murdered and Inspector Kate Martinelli appreciates Miss Mary Russell.)


Did anyone out there listen to the BBC Radio production of Beekeeper’s Apprentice?  Any thoughts? If you missed it, they’re running it for the next six days.


A Conan Doyle mystery

As I’m sure you remember, when Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are in San Francisco (in Locked Rooms) reference is made to Arthur Conan Doyle’s visit to the city the previous year, during his Spiritualist tour.  Well, it seems that the good doctor visited Russell’s very neighborhood during his trip: a house not 100 yards from Russell’s, directly across the street from Lafayette Park, has a plaque reading “This house, built in 1881, was once occupied by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”  (I suppose a visit is a form of occupation.)

Even better, the house is now for sale.  Only $2,500,000, which in today’s market is quite a deal, especially considering that it has not one, but two literary connections.  Sorry, I can’t get a photo to lift from the site, but you can take a look at it, here.

If one of you buy the place, be sure to invite me to the housewarming, okay?

(And thanks, Mary G, for bringing it to my attention.  Readers rock.)

Garden Party TwInvitation

You say your Royal Wedding invite got lost in the mail?  The White House staff seems to be ignoring you this summer? Well, fret no longer, your invitation to the social event of the season–nay, the year, is here.  If you’re feeling social, drop in and chat with Mary Russell and friends (Will that husband of hers make it this year?) If you think you’ll be too shy, we’re leaving a virtual gap in the fence for you to watch through.

When and where is this happening?  This Sunday afternoon, on the terrace of Russell & Holmes’ house in Sussex–or, on a computer screen near you.  And now, from the virtual engraved envelope, your invitation to join us for the Twitter Garrrrden Party:

Explanation and links are here.  Come and have a great time, although I’d watch out for the honey wine, if I were you.  Holmes makes it powerful.

A Mary Russell Companion

Buildup to BoucherCon continues with:

A Mary Russell Companion.

Wheee!  An ebook!  Gorgeous, clever, and months in the making—free, for Friends of Russell. Send it to friends, scatter it about the countryside, link to it, all that stuff.

Have fun with it.  Lots of us sure did, in making it.

Moving day

Well, looky here: Mary Russell has a new home.

A Case in Correspondence: Week Twenty

What’s this I see? Mary Russell has a new post over on her MySpace page? Episodes of “A Case in Correspondence” will appear there Wednesdays throughout our Twenty Weeks of Buzz, and on Fridays you can find them here at Mutterings.

What on earth are the world’s greatest detective and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, up to now?