A book’s heart

A book is a complex blend of the author’s intentions.  Some of them are on the surface: shaping an exciting plot; exploring the lives of the characters; bringing to light a place the writer knows and loves.

Other elements of a novel are less obvious.  Themes of relationship and responsibility are woven in.  Trauma and recovery are explored.  The deeper feelings and motivations of the characters are gently teased into the light.

For various reasons, I have been thinking about The Art of Detection recently. cover_art_deception_homepbk1This is a book I wrote eight years ago, the last (so far) of the Martinelli novels.  It began with a suggestion by my editor, who mused that it might be interesting to see a meeting between Kate Martinelli, modern homicide cop, and Mary Russell, early 20th century amateur sleuth.

So I set off into a world linking Sherlock Holmes with a modern police department, and since it’s San Francisco, there is as much humor as there is darkness.  I felt my way into the central plot, and found ways to tie the secondary plot in, and I guess the mechanism worked because Booklist later wrote:

Sometimes a mystery takes one’s breath away with its impeccable, inexorable logic. King makes two such tales here, whose wheels interlock with a perfect, audible click.

But to my mind, all those elements of the story that a reader rightly expects of an entertainment—tight plot, a compelling slice of history,buttons-0314-002

complex and amusing characters, ideas the reader hasn’t come across before—are not the point.  If I have done my job right, the story also serves to cradle something ineffable, a truth both emotional and spiritual, that stays with the reader.

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently considering the constitutionality of California’s Prop 8, which banned gay marriage.  What the Court are considering is also the central concern of The Art of Detection.  I would love to send those nine men and women a novel, a mystery in which a SFPD Inspector meets the historical Sherlock Holmes.

My publishers agreed that the pending Supreme Court decision made for a good time to introduce The Art of Detection to those who have not met it.  So they’ve put it on special offer, currently 99¢.  Perhaps it may contribute some small part to the discussion of whether or not two people of the same sex have the right to marry.628x471

The Art of Detection:

Independent booksellers (Kobo) here.

Barnes & Noble (Nook) here.

Amazon (Kindle) here.


  1. Merrily Taylor on June 17, 2013 at 5:53 am

    The ending of “The Art of Detection” was so joyous and hopeful – in the years since, when I’ve listened to the audio version (several times), I’ve been sad that California backed away from what appeared a bold and bright future. The tide seems to be turning now and it is a great time to celebrate the vision you portrayed in this particular book. (And, it’s a wonderful mystery!).

  2. Elisabeth Flaum on June 17, 2013 at 8:06 am

    This post explains exactly why The Art of Detection is one of my all-time favorite books.

  3. Betsy Hansbrough on June 17, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I must say I have missed Kate a bit. This is also one of my favorites. Not sure where Kate could go after the lovely wrap up in this book though. Sure your imagination could take her to new places though.

  4. Michal on June 17, 2013 at 11:05 am

    I own Art of Detection but of course picked it up for my kindle when it came out for $.99 and am re-reading it (and this is a week before my trip to San Francisco so also re-reading Locked Rooms) but I just love both Kate and Holmes’ story. Last time I listened to it on CD, I was crying at the end. It’s so frustrating when hate overtakes love but so joyous when love triumphs.

  5. Lisa on June 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

    This is also one of my favorites, and I know there are a lot of us hoping for another Kate book!

  6. Jess Faraday on June 18, 2013 at 7:19 am

    I loved the Kate Martinelli series, and I consider “The Art of Detection” to be the best of them. I think it’s time to re-read it =)

  7. Rebecca Wegner on June 18, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I just finished re-reading The Art of Detection last week so it was interesting to see this post today. You did an excellent job of bringing the very human element of a social discussion to the forefront. Sometimes people get so caught up in “positions” or ideals that they lose track of the reality that our decisions affect real people with real lives. I wish you would send your novel to the Supreme Court and to State legislators as well. Perhaps that would be the impetus to think things through before making decisions.

  8. Linda Rogers. on June 18, 2013 at 7:51 am

    I love the Kate Martinelli series. I really hope you return to that series.

  9. Laurie Oberg on June 18, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Thank you, Laurie, for this wonderful gift.

  10. Suzanne Gordon on June 18, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Thank you for this very nice gift! Just ordered for my Kindle.

  11. S. on June 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    This seems the perfect time for what I’ve been wanting to tell you for years: you did such a wonderful job of capturing the feeling of stunned and incredulous joy in that wedding scene, that it brings me to tears every time I read it. Like Kate, I spent a couple decades thinking I would never be able to legally marry. Like Kate, the fact that I was so fortunate to be in a time and place where I could marry my wife filled me with awe and amazement. I remember my hands shaking as I filled out the application for the marriage license, overwhelmed at having the opportunity. Yesterday was our third wedding anniversary, and the Supreme Court gave us the best wedding anniversary gift ever. I hope Kate comes back again, and in the meantime, I’m sure you can picture her and Lee and Nora smiling just as hard as my family is.

    • Laurie King on June 28, 2013 at 6:18 am

      Happy anniversary! And thank you for this, it just made my morning.

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