REVIEW: Mary Russell’s War by Laurie R. King (Mary Russell #14. 5)

Series: Mary Russell

Book Number: Short Story Collection; Not Chronological

Read this book for: more back story on Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes pastiche, period mysteries, WWI historical fiction

Quick Review: A lovely collection for Russell fans, including some previously released and some brand new stories.


Laurie R. King illuminates the hidden corners of her beloved Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series in this dynamic short story collection.

In nine previously published short stories and one brand new, never-before-seen Sherlock Holmes mystery—available together for the first time—Laurie R. King blends her long-running brand of crime fiction with historical treats and narrative sleight of hand. At the heart of the collection is a prequel novella that begins with England’s declaration of war in 1914. As told in Mary Russell’s teenage diaries, the whip-smart girl investigates familial mysteries, tracks German spies through San Francisco, and generally delights with her extraordinary mind—until an unimaginable tragedy strikes.

Here too is the case of a professor killed by a swarm of bees; Mrs. Hudson’s investigation of a string of disappearing household items—and a lifelong secret; a revealing anecdote about a character integral to The God of the Hive; the story of Mary’s beloved Uncle Jake and a monumental hand of cards; and a series of postcards in which Mary searches for her missing husband, Sherlock Holmes.

Last but not least, fans will be especially thrilled by Mary’s account of her decision, at age ninety-two, to publish her memoirs—and how she concluded that Ms. King should be the one to introduce her voice to the world.

MARY RUSSELL’S WAR is a set of short stories about Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell, set in various periods across her history and providing a little be more colour to this beloved character.

I have mentioned this before, but this series is one of my all-time favourites, so I am a little biased. Any time that new stories are released in this series, I get excited — check out some of my past reviews here. The Mary Russell series introduces Russell to Sherlock Holmes, who discovers her intellect rivals his own. She becomes his student, apprentice, and eventually his partner. The Mary Russell series tells the stories of their investigations and development of their relationship as Russell comes into her own as an detective and a woman.

This set of stories adds to the development of Russell’s life, not least with the title story, Mary Russell’s War, which follows her volunteer work and the way her life was affected as she volunteered during World War I as a young woman. It is different, as far as Russell stories go, dealing with different history than is typically involved in the series in a much more emotionally raw way, but it is powerfully done.

There are a number of fantastic stories in this collection, from across the Russell timeline, and they have a variety of emotional tones and subject matter. However, they all have the sort of mystery, suspense or adventure story that you expect from this series, and from Holmes stories in general. It’s a wonderfully bite-sized way to enjoy Mary Russell adventures if you don’t have time to read one of the full-length novels. It also contains a few previously-released stories, like The Marriage of Mary Russell, which you can find a review of here.

If you are a Russell fan, I highly recommend picking up this collection. If you are new to the Russell/Holmes stories, definitely start with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice — book one — before you jump into this one — you will need the background of at least the first dozen novels to fully appreciate all the stories in this piece.

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