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A Letter of Mary

(Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #3)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  15,417 Ratings  ·  943 Reviews
The year is 1923 and Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell receive a visit from Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archaeologist. She shows them a scrap of ancient writing that is supposedly Mary Magdalene's. Soon afterwards she is murdered - but why?
Paperback, 339 pages
Published 2001 by HarperCollins (first published 1996)
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Koren I think Mary knows that her aunt would ban her from seeing Holmes (because she would know that their relationship– however platonic at the time– meant…moreI think Mary knows that her aunt would ban her from seeing Holmes (because she would know that their relationship– however platonic at the time– meant something big to Mary and the aunt seemed hellbent on making Mary's life more miserable.) Mary couldn't imagine her life without the joyful distraction that Holmes brought into it. (less)

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May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Guilty. I committed a great reading faux-pas.

Years ago I read The Beekeeper's Apprentice and A Monstrous Regiment of Women. My book group was reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice , so I reread it and loved it even more than I remembered. I decided to buy the next two books in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women and A Letter of Mary, but alas, book #3, A Letter of Mary, arrived first.

This was quite frustrating. I was so excited to read them and now I was presented with a dilemma. On the one
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
The year is 1923, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes is at their home in Sussex Downs busy with their studies. Russell with theology and Holmes with some chemical experiments. Then they are visited by amateur archaeologist Miss Dorothy Ruskin with a startling puzzle for them. She has found in the Holy Land a roll of papyrus with a message from Mary Magdalene. A couple of days is Miss Ruskin killed in a traffic accident. But was it really an accident.

The case in this book is intriguing with an anc
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of excellent writing and good mysteries
4.5 stars. A librarian who met her recently told me that Laurie R. King is a "true intellectual," and after reading this third book in the Mary Russell series, I have to agree. Her books read like classics. They are books to savor and to thoroughly enjoy. I truly enjoyed this installment, and will definitely be continuing with the series. It didn't earn a five from me because it lacks the emotional power of my recent fives. However, it's extremely well-written, intelligent, and I love Russell an ...more
Candice Beever
I didn't like this book as much as the first two. I actually put it down twice in the middle to read other books and then again twenty pages from the end (mid-reveal). I just didn't care how the case ended.

The victim of the case was meant to be a personal friend of Mary's, which is why they get involved with the case at all, but I just didn't see the connection. They had only met once. How close of friends can they be?

Also, Mary ended up following the wrong lead on the case. So, half of the case
Stephanie Swint
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I finished King’s second novel in this series, ‘A Monstrous Regiment of Women,’ I was left a bit uncomfortable and unhappy. King had always kept Mary and Sherlock’s relationship as a mentor and one of a guardian. At the end of that book Sherlock proposes. Their relationship while strained and questioning in the book hadn’t been romantic, but Mary had turned 21 and their relationship caused questions, especially when traveling together.

My first response was that King was throwing in a needle
Sue Smith
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Laurie King's writing, she's masterful at sweeping you up into the story without getting you bogged down in details. And it's ever so clever how she has insinuated Sherlock Holmes into the mix. Who would have though about him marrying?! Great way to keep him in the game without letting him take over the entire mystery, all the while keeping their relationship on an equal footing. Very lovely writing indeed!

This one starts with an unexpected visit from an old scholastic friend of Mary Russ
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Am very much enjoying this!

I think one of the tings I like about this series is that there is considerable intellect involved, both in the characters of Russell and Holmes themselves, and in the manner in which the mystery is solved.

In this 3rd installment we see the continuing development of Russell as Holmes' assistant, partner, and wife, and the evolution of the relationship between the two of them.The mysterious Mary M. letter, and it's implications, reflects the character of Russell, her re
A Letter of Mary is the 3rd book in the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes mystery series by Laurie R. King. I have to say that I continue to have mixed feelings about the series. The concept in itself, Russell who started off being mentored by Holmes is now his wife and works cases with him. Holmes, himself, is basically retired from detective work and they live on a piec of land in Sussex where Holmes raises bees and Russell works on a degree at Oxford while also spending time with her husband.
Oct 17, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a good book and a well-written addition to King's Mary Russell series, but I was thirty pages into it when I realized it was another The Da Vinci Code ripoffs. Groan. Can't these people come up with their own all-you-thought-you-knew-about-Christianity-is-wrong plots? This one is actually more realistic than Dan Brown's, but it's been done.

It would probably amaze these people to know that their "abject terror" of the controversy is a bit overblown. Of course Jesus had female followers.
May 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: mystery lovers, sherlock holmes afficianados
Shelves: mystery
Excellent addition to Laurie R. King's alt-Sherlock Holmes universe, A Letter of Mary finds Holmes and Russell, erm, rusticating , for want of a better term at their home on the Sussex downs. Both are relieved to get an intriguing letter from Dorothy Ruskin, an amateur archaeologist Russell had met during their last visit to Palestine.

Russell is shocked when only hours after visiting the couple, Miss Ruskin suffers an "accident" in London, and Holmes and Russell are back on the case.

A very soli
Sep 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, mystery
After the disappointment of A Monstrous Regiment of Women, I was not very much inclined to read the next installment in the Mary Russell series, titled A Letter of Mary. I decided to forge on, though, in the hopes that this will prove better than the last one, and that it might wash away some of the bitter aftertaste of disappointment in the last book.

In this novel, Holmes and Russell appear to be settling well into married life after the events of A Monstrous Regiment of Women, when they are vi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This one started out really strong for me, and then petered out near the end, for a couple of reasons, which I will be marking in spoiler tags.

Mary and Holmes continue to be a great pair, and I find their cerebral marriage a compelling one, though I am beginning to get a bit annoyed with King for discounting Watson so much. Here, we meet an old friend from the first book, the archaeologist Dorothy Ruskin, who shows up in Sussex for a visit, and leaves Mary and Holmes with a strange parchment, wh
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Preferred this one to book 2 though I'm still not sure if I'm down with this relationship
Jun 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Another Mary Russell novel that I tackled as an audiobook. I loved the narrator the last time, Jenny Sterlin, and was happy to see her name as the narrator again.

This one has a lot more mystery involved and several layers to deduce, which made me love it more than the previous two. So, why the lower rating? Well, I have to often take a break from a series or I get burned out. While this was still a lovely book to listen to and far more interesting than the second book in the series, I did grow b
An Odd1
"A Letter of Mary" is a papyrus scrap, penned by a Mariam, apostle of Jesus, to her sister Judith of Magdala, commending the carrier Rachel, her grand-daughter to their care, days before the fall of Israel to the Roman heathens. Days after Dorothy Ruskin presents the gift in a delicate dainty wooden box to friends Mary and Sherlock Holmes, a car runs down and kills the white-haired intrepid archaeologist. Evidence of a deliberate trip-wire points to murder. Men with black hair and sharp knives v ...more
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
Another lovely book in this series.

I don't have much to say about it, honestly. I thought the mystery was pretty good, although it didn't fully consume me as I would have liked. I still love Holmes and Mary. They're so cute together especially since (spoiler for the second book, so don't read the rest of this sentence) they're married now. That comment about the firstborn, though.... baby on the way? I can't see Holmes having a baby -- although it was hinted that he already had an illegitimate s
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is the third Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell mystery, and I read it, hoping to find the magic that captivated me in “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.” It isn’t here. The plot is poorly constructed, mainly focusing on a wild goose chase concerning a character that might possibly be the killer. Then, the real killer pops in out of the blue, and we realize that we were completely suckered, having wasted our time with 200 pages of nothing that mattered at all! And then there’s the title, which refers t ...more
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Every time I read this I want to learn Hebrew and Greek and go study theology. It's probably a bit late for that, so I'll have to settle for re-reading this on a regular basis and dipping into the Apocrypha on occasion.
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I love this series. It's been two years since I've read the last book and everything came back quickly - the awesomeness of the characters, the interesting mysteries, the glimpses into human nature that are striking, quiet, and earned.

The mystery is good but it's not the real reason I'm here. I mean, I enjoyed it, of course! The setup is interesting, and it's always fun to see Holmes surprise Russell in some sort of disguise. But the whodunits aren't why I keep coming back to the series
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes are happily ensconced in their Sussex countryside home. Well, maybe ‘happily’ isn’t quite the right word. Mary has graduated from Oxford and is writing a theological book, while Holmes prowls their little house like a bad-tempered cat. Some days he inhales the London papers, others he’s a bit too calculated in his refusal to keep updated on the goings on of his old city. Mary knows he’s hungry for a new case, but she’s reluctant to admit her own itch ...more
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
This series is a palatable piece of Sherlock Holmes FanFic. Mary is a highly intelligent woman who falls under the tutelage of Holmes when she's about 14. Her parents are dead, she has a large inheritance, but is kept on a short lease by the Evil Aunt. Forward several years (and a couple of books) later, and Mary is now married to Holmes, who has to be 40+ yrs her senior. Did I mention he was her mentor starting at age 14? Because I'm having a tough time getting over that. Yes, she's an adult no ...more
I liked this one quite a bit more than the second book. I'm still on the fence with the whole Mary/Sherlock relationship. Thankfully it's less of a 'romance' aspect and more of a 'just a fact' aspect. I'll take that.
This one had a lot of very sly references and name drops (Tolkien anyone?) that really tickled me as well. I'm looking forward to the next one again.
Edit - I'll say the audio books on these are lovely. I don't like audio books as a rule but this particular narrator is fantastic, at
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-books-read
I am enjoying this series so much. This book was not quite as gripping as the first two (but that may very well be because I was listening to the audio and may have snoozed during important parts). However, the subtleties of the relationship between Russell and Holmes is handled so well. Frankly, I think this book needed more Holmes, and that might have been why it wasn't quite as intriguing. Nevertheless, I shall press on.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A reread of a favorite.
John Owen
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Slightly disappointed with this episode in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. It's very good in parts, especially when Russell is investigating the entrenched misogyny of the middle class in Britain in the 1920s, but the rest of the plotline depends on both Russell and Holmes actually missing a clue that unravels the murder at the heart of the story, a clue revisited only in the last couple of chapters. Still, the characters are well drawn and interesting and Laurie King's evocation of the ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-book
I really love these books. They are fun and fast to read. Yet the descriptions are very rich and reveal a great deal of research and attention to detail.

I remember reading that the author knew this third story was coming after she wrote the first in the series, and that she wrote the second book as the segue from the first to the third. I felt that showed, as the first and the third were more enjoyable than the second was.
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is #3 in Laurie King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. As usual, fascinating and very different from the usual sort of mystery. Mary Russell is doing theology at Oxford (I wonder if Oxford is chosen so often because it's closer to London.) but is visited at home in Sussex (she's married to Holmes by now and the year is 1922) by an "amateur" archaeologist who leaves a puzzle with her, an ancient letter that appears to have been written by Mary Magdalene (Mary from Magdala) as she is pre ...more
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Third in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series.[return][return]In the summer of 1923, Russell and Holmes are at home in Holmes cottage in Sussex. Russell is concentrating on finishing her first book on theology; Holmes is bored. Into their lives pops Dorothy Ruskin, an eccentric older Englishwoman, an amateur archaeologist, whom they met during their adventure in Palestine. She brings with her a letter written on parchment that could very well have been written by Mary of Magdala--Mary Magdal ...more
Mark Robertson
Sep 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Russell, partner in all things to Sherlock Holmes, is not the Mary of this tale's title. That Mary is Mary Magdalane, who may or may not have authored the letter referenced in said title. Russell comes into possession of this letter through a friend, an aging archeologist whom she and Holmes had met years before while working a case in Palestine in the service of His Majesty the King.

I have to say up front that I find it hard to believe that the publication of the letter from Mary, if auth
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Character summary 1 4 Feb 25, 2018 08:30AM  
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  • The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories
Edgar-winning mystery writer Laurie R. King writes series and standalone novels. Her official forum is
THE LRK VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB here on Goodreads--please join us for book-discussing fun.

King's 2018 novel, Island of the Mad, sees Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes travel from London's Bedlam to the glitter of Venice's Lido,where Young Things and the friends of Cole Porter pass Mussolini's Blackshir

Other books in the series

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1)
  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell, #2)
  • The Moor (Mary Russell, #4)
  • O Jerusalem (Mary Russell, #5)
  • Justice Hall (Mary Russell, #6)
  • The Game (Mary Russell, #7)
  • Locked Rooms (Mary Russell, #8)
  • The Language of Bees (Mary Russell, #9)
  • The God of the Hive (Mary Russell, #10)
  • Pirate King (Mary Russell, #11)
“The hand of bone and sinew and flesh achieves its immortality in taking up a pen. The hand on a page wields a greater power than the fleshly hand ever could in life.” 10 likes
“The dead have a claim on us even heavier than that of the living, for they cannot hear our explanations, and we cannot ask their forgiveness.” 4 likes
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