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Winter trees

The Moor - Laurie R. King

Busy, busy just lately so the book I'm talking about here, The Moor by Laurie R. King, took me ten days to read. That's no reflection on the book - it was an excellent read, perfect for those dark, chilly, autumn evenings and, in fact, I did read it as part of my Halloween challenge.

This the fourth book in the celebrated Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. It begins with Mary, busy with her studies at Oxford, receiving a telegram from Sherlock Holmes. He's on Dartmoor, staying with a friend, The Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould. He needs Mary's help but doesn't say why and, albiet reluctantly, Mary hotfoots it down to Dartmoor immediately. She arrives in the middle of nowhere, isn't met, and has to walk the two miles, at night, in the pouring rain, through muddy lanes. She arrives wet, muddy and dishevelled and isn't best pleased at the rather snotty reaction she gets from the men of the house. Worse still the house is freezing and the food appalling: Mary is more than a little bit inclined to return to Oxford the next day. Instead she allows Holmes to tell her about a strange death that has occurred on the moor and about a ghostly coach accompanied by a large black dog that has apparently been seen in several parts of the moor. Russell and Holmes set out to travel the moor, gathering as much information as they can about the dead man and the apparitions people have seen. Baskerville Hall, the scene of one of Holmes's most famous cases, has new residents, Americans, Richard Ketteridge and his secretary, David Scheiman. Holmes and Russell get to know them and then suddenly the mystery deepens when a man is found dead - floating upside down in a quarry pool. Can The Moor be persuaded to reveal some of its secrets to the two sleuths?

I think this is probably my favoutite Holmes/Russell mystery so far. I live not far from Dartmoor and visit occasionally, so some of the locations were quite familiar to me. That could explain why I like this one so much but I think too the air of mystery and suspense is quite intense. But really, I think it actually is all down to Dartmoor itself. The author describes the wildness of Dartmoor very vividly - it's as though the moor is an important character in its own right, so strong is the atmosphere of wild but slightly menacing beauty.

I must admit, I wasn't aware that it rained quite as much as the author suggests on the moor, although a standing family joke is that if you're going to have rain anywhere on the trip from Devon into Cornwall, it'll be at Okehampton which is of course the northernmost point of Dartmoor. So perhaps Ms. King is right after all.

I also enjoyed the use of a real life person in the shape of the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, parson, antiquarian, historian and expert on the folklore of Devon. I'm not even sure where I'd heard of him but when I looked I discovered that I do actually have one of his ghost stories, H.P., in one of those 'Mammoth' anthologies. (This one is The Mammoth book of Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories.) I'll have to give it a read... I'm presuming it's not about 'sauce'.

Anyway, an excellent read... as are all of the Holmes/Russell series in point of fact.


It is so good to hear from someone who knows the area! King seems to be the sort who is accurate, but I wonder.
My overall impression from the four books I've read is that she's very accurate but then I would never claim to be an expert on everything she covers in her books. All I can say is that she got Dartmoor spot on.
I've read one or two of her Holmes series, but have enjoyed the modern crime fic ones more (aside from the standalone thriller which I couldn't finish!)
I haven't read any of her modern crime series - can't remember the name of it now - but I know it has quite a good reputation. Would the stand alone thriller be something called Touchstone? An online friend read that and loved it and recced it to me, but I haven't picked it up as yet.
The Kate Martinelli series is the police procedural one. I'm slightly behind on it, and seem to recall that the latest one somehow links the modern day police story with Sherlock Holmes.

According to the wonderful Stopyourekilling me site, which I refer to all the time, there are four non-series books:


I have a feeling Folly is the one I gave up on. I haven't read Touchstone.
Thanks for the link. I've bookmarked the site. I usually use FantasticFiction for my book refs. but a specific crime one is useful.