Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes: a few final words

May 7, 2010 at 12:49 pm (books, Music, Mystery fiction)

Frances made a lengthy, perceptive comment on my post on the Laurie King talk. She elaborated in particular on some of the points that King made concerning Mary Russell’s Jewish identity. Alas, on occasions such as this, I can never bring to mind everything I want to make note of after the fact. Frances has expressed both King’s sentiments and her own with her usual eloquence, and I thank her for that.

Aloneness piled on aloneness – that is the sense one gets of Mary Russell’s situation. She must fight her way back from this alienation, and her alliance with Sherlock Holmes make that possible for her. And of course, she enlarges the world of possibility for him as well.

This has put me in mind of the words of  Gustav Mahler: “I am thrice homeless, as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world.  Everywhere an intruder, never welcomed.” (Do yourself a favor and watch this video of Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic playing the blazing finale of Mahler’s First Symphony. I’ve seen this many times, and – well, just watch it yourself.)

Along with Frances’s comment is one from Scott Monty, another genial Sherlockian who took the time to recommend two websites of interest to fellow Holmes  enthusiasts. (See the link provided in the first line of this post.)


I first read “Mysterious Circumstances” by David Grann when it appeared in the New Yorker in 2004. It’s subtitled “The Strange Death of a Sherlock Holmes Fanatic,” and here’s how it begins:

‘Richard Lancelyn Green, the world’s foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes, believed that he had finally solved the case of the missing papers. Over the past two decades, he had been looking for a trove of letters, diary entries, and manuscripts written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Holmes. The archive was estimated to be worth nearly four million dollars, and was said by some to carry a deadly curse, like the one in the most famous Holmes story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

Yes, this is yet another of those proverbial instances in which truth is stranger than fiction. This essay is not available online, but it’s included in this newly published collection: 


  1. Kay said,

    This has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes, but I just finished The Big Short, by Michael Lewis; when it comes to madness, it is hard to beat the craze for credit default swaps that brought the world economy to its knees. It isn’t often that I find nonfiction more terrifying and mesmerizing than a good mystery, but this book sure did it for me.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Thanks, Kay. I’m eagerly awaiting my reserve on The Big Short.

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