Mary Russell’s War (seventeen): moats and murders

24 November 1914

The Valley of Fear is a murder mystery set in a moated house. At night, the owner puts up the drawbridge, yet someone gets in and kills him.

England is an island. The moats around her, the seas and channels, only appear to protect her.

Forty Zeppelins Are Ready for Service.


British Birdmen Raid Zeppelin Works.

Why is Mr Holmes so interested in a candle? Why does Mrs Douglas show so little reaction at her husband’s murder? Why have British warships seized a load of German toys? Why are the Mexicans shooting across the border at Americans? Why does Dr Ginsberg think I am hallucinating an uncle, just because my parents never told her about Jake?

In the story, the dead man says, “I have been in the Valley of Fear. I am not out of it yet.”

He speaks for me.


The earlier episodes of Russell’s War are collected here.


  1. Nancy Beckham on November 24, 2014 at 7:55 am

    If you were trying to pull different facts together to solve eventually you have achieved your purpose. You did not introduce the Valley of Fear other than a murder mystery. I understand the clue about the candle if in fact Sherlock is trying to solve the Valley of Fear mystery by watching a candle to see if there is a breeze indicating a tunnel or another way in and out of the castle. I also understand the ship full of toys as many things can be hidden in toys. However how and why the Mexicans are shooting at the Americans over the border has anything to do with Mary Russell, You never told us if she had ventured down near the Mexican border. I have no idea why you included this fact this morning. You never said one word about who Mrs Douglas was or what her relationship was with her husband. For that reason I have no idea why she showed little reaction to her husband’s death. Maybe she hated him.
    I do enjoy reading these mutterings but this mornings was quite frustrating. Not enough information.

    • Laurie King on November 24, 2014 at 8:13 am

      Russell is indeed in a diffficult state. Although if you want to know about the Douglases and the candle, The Valley of Fear is available here:

    • Sabrina Flynn on November 24, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      When a reader can feel a character’s despair and confusion without the writer telling you that the character is supposed to be confused and despairing… that’s called excellent writing!

    • Chuck Haberlein on November 25, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      I just guessing here, but possibly “the Mexicans shooting across the border at Americans” has something to do with the Mexican revolution that was underway in 1914. That likely would have been the subject of articles in the San Francisco newspapers in November of that year. The Mexican revolution might also have had something to do with her father’s rather vague association with U.S. Army intelligence.

  2. Catherine on November 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

    LRK writes mysteries, which by definition don’t tell the reader everything at once. Also, my reading of all
    of the Mary Russell novels and and companions suggests that Mary, like her biographer, tends to be very devious. Much of the fun of this series for me lies in going back to see which ‘facts’ are real clues and which are brilliant red herrings.

  3. Merrily Taylor on November 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    This was so sad, the last line particularly wrenching. Obviously Mary is mixing up the big questions in “The Valley of Fear” with those in the real world around her, and in her own life. The difficulty is that she expects a Sherlock Holmes story to be full of danger and mystery, but never anticipated finding herself in such a story, herself…
    Beautifully done! I have been enjoying this so much.

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