Matters Unspoken? (My blushes!)

In the twenty years since The Beekeeper’s Apprentice introduced Mary Russell to the world, many questions have been raised about the good lady, and about her relationship with Sherlock Holmes, her religious beliefs, her Oxford college, what kind of car she drives—and just where on the Sussex Downs is that house of hers, anyway? 

In a fervent (if tongue in cheek) commitment to the Game, and in celebration of the anniversary, this year I assembled all those questions and more under one electronic roof.  Some of them get answered; others merely discussed.

Such as: Mary Russell’s sex life.

On Matters UnspokenHolmes & basket chair

One element of the Russell & Holmes memoirs that excites considerable interest among her readers is the question of the marital relations between the principals.  Generally speaking, Russell is decorous when it comes to personal revelation, although she does admit (A Letter of Mary) that Holmes is “as energetic and scrupulously attentive to detail in the physical aspects of marriage as ever he was in an investigation or laboratory experiment”, then adds that he was “not otherwise a man demonstrative of his affections.”  In Locked Rooms, Russell says that not only was she “well matched mentally” to Holmes, she was also “well suited physically, to a man who interested my intellect, challenged my spirit and roused my passions.”

He brushes her hair.  He sits beside her and fiddles with her fingers.  And that is as steamy as the Memoirs get. 


If you’d like to read more about the Russell Memoirs’ “Game”, 

The Mary Russell Companion is available here.



  1. Sheila K. on July 21, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I never doubted for a moment that Sherlock and Mary had a healthy sex life and undeniable displays of affection!

  2. Amy on July 21, 2014 at 8:33 am

    I’ve always loved the way you have written their passionate connection with just a hint, a word, a suggestion. It has always seemed perfect to the characters.

  3. Merrily Taylor on July 21, 2014 at 8:38 am

    I agree with Sheila, I never doubted for a moment that Holmes and Russell are a happily married couple in all senses of the word.
    And have to admit that I am hoping for some more hair-brushing and finger-fiddling in “Dreaming Spies”…the iconic Chair Scene remains one of my favorite moments in Kanon!

  4. Stephanie on July 21, 2014 at 8:40 am

    I love the approach that you take on their sex life, though I’ve always been curious as to what options would have been available to them to keep from getting pregnant. I imagine a child would change their dynamic dramatically despite the existence of nannies and such. Yet again, another topic I could never imagine Mary mentioning in her memoirs…..

  5. Jennifer Vandenberg on July 21, 2014 at 9:17 am

    My favorite quote on the matter has always been from The Moor.

    “My hair was nearly dry by the time Holmes came upstairs. He had paused to change more than his muddy boots, and looked very appealing, tall and slim in his jet suit and snowy shirtfront. One thing led to another, as is the wont in a marriage, and we did not get around to speaking about Ketteridge until after the housemaid had fetched up the morning tea.”

    Wont is such a wonderful word and I too think Holmes does a fine of keeping Russell satisfied in all ways.

    • Merrily Taylor on July 21, 2014 at 9:21 am

      Jennifer, oh, that’s a wonderful moment…I so agree!

  6. Lenore on July 21, 2014 at 9:18 am

    In answer to Stephanie’s query, according to Wikipedia, as early as the mid-19th century, rubber barrier devices such as cervical caps and diaphragms were available (at least, if you knew who to ask). Marie Stopes and her husband opened a clinic in London dispensing cervical caps in 1921.

    • Merrily Taylor on July 21, 2014 at 9:25 am

      Lenore, and condoms were available as early as the 16th century, although in a primitive form (better would have been available by the early 20th century).

      • D on July 21, 2014 at 3:52 pm

        Mary states when caring for Estelle that she was likely not able, physically, to have children, due to her injuries; this has always led me to assume they needn’t bother as much.

  7. Sally on July 21, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Suggestion is better than detailed description!
    Well done 🙂

  8. Mary Beth on July 21, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I must admit I have always been a sucker for these little teasers. Since she was so much younger than Holmes and he was so flabergasted by his total attraction to her, I have always gotten a kick out of their relationship, and wish each book had just a tad more of it. In addition, his confidence that she can take care of herself is so shaken when he realizes that she may be in serious jeopardy that he has a flash of panic replaced by a steely resolve to find her safe and sound. These scenes are so well-written!!!

    • Lindsay on July 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      I feel the same way! The tiny moments are electrifying, and though I prefer this *level* of revelation and titillation, I would certainly enjoy a bit more frequency as well. Not in every scene, mind you, but a few more reminders that they’re married and not just work partners would be welcome.

  9. Jan on July 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I love the scene in The Game where he sees that she has cut her hair and just holds her in front of God and everybody.

  10. Susan on July 22, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I am happy that you leave so much to the imagination. I wish some of the other people who attempt to extend the world beyond the Canon did not write in a manner to make the Literary Agent blush. (Or me, either!)

  11. Leslie on July 22, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Their first kiss told me all I needed to know about their physical life. Brilliantly stated.

  12. sinton on July 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Yes all of this is steamy!! Please give us more of the same

  13. Teresa on July 23, 2014 at 6:31 am

    What they all said.


    • Susan H. on August 4, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Recent follower of your blog, LRK, and first time to comment – simply “ditto” Teresa and all on the delightful “Matters Unspoken”.
      A friend gave me The Bee Keeper’s Apprentice 2 years ago, knowing I keep bees and knowing I was a fan of the new PBS Mystery series. After reading the jacket and a page or two, I knew I wanted to start at the beginning – a whole new world was opening, and I intended to immerse myself fully. Just now getting into The Beekeepers Apprentice and so glad I waited – and very grateful to know that Mary Russell’s memoirs are in such capable hands.

  14. The Bold Flying Officer on July 31, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Laurie – you write crime thrillers, not erotic literature. Bad sex is easy to write (I speak from experience) but Good Sex is hard – taste and tone being the watchwords. When you address intimate relations, it is all done in the Best Possible Taste. Don’t change – the imagination is limitless.

    Mike aka TBFO

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