The Past in the Present

The threads running from past to the present have fascinated me since I was a grad student. Back then, my academic interest was on certain themes that could be traced from the pre-Israelite cultures and through the Hebrew Bible into the New Testament and beyond.

Of course, now I write fiction, and there’s only so many places in a mystery series that you can weave in Canaanite poems and imagery of the Divine. But there are other kinds of threads that run through stories—threads of theme, or secrets, or an event from the past.

I seem to use those last threads a lot.  In Locked Rooms, Russell’s memories of the 1906 earthquake, followed by her flawed memory of the 1914 motoring accident that killed her family, are still strongly binding her life together when she reaches San Francisco in 1925.

Not that she realizes it at first (since this is a tale of a woman slowly discovering that she has spent her life as an unreliable narrator) but her problem of now turns out to make sense only when she begins to trace it back to then.

And I’ve been thinking this month about The Art of Detection, a book that is generally listed with the Kate Martinelli stories, although it has one foot firmly in that same Russell & Holmes visit to San Francisco in 1925.

(Or does it? Maybe the Billie Birdsong case is an unpublished oddity from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle, following his own disgruntled visit to SF…)

(I’ll be writing a little more about Billie Birdsong in a few days.)

And of course, The Murder of Mary Russell.  I have to say, I had a load of fun with Mrs Hudson’s unexpectedly racy history. (You’ve seen Una Stubbs’ Mrs Hudson in Sherlock? Well, mine is closer to her interpretation of the landlady than the one developed by Rosalie Williams, who played opposite Jeremy Brett.)






(Which Mrs Hudson looks like she’s having a better time?)

And—for those of you who liked that book’s window into Mrs Hudson’s world—you may be pleased to find that she’s the central character in the next one.

In Riviera Gold, as in The Murder of Mary Russell, one of the threads that spins back into the past is a case of embezzlement committed by a man named Jack Prendergast, a year or two before Mrs Hudson was even born.  This crime led to a mutiny and shipwreck in 1855 (from the Conan Doyle story about the Gloria Scott), which in turn became a blackmail case that set a young Sherlock Holmes onto the path of being a consulting detective.  Everything is tied to the Prendergast crime: Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes/Dr Watson partnership, his retirement to the Sussex Downs where he met Mary Russell….

And in Riviera Gold—which launches four months from today, HOORAY!—that same embezzlement surfaces again, the thread glimpsed through the events of the present.

I’ve had such a great time writing Riviera Gold, from researching it to chuckling over the mischievous deeds of old women.   At this point, I’m like a kid with a secret, clapping my hand over my mouth so as not to give things away.  I’m really looking forward to being able to share it with you, so we can talk about it at last.

Wouldn’t you say this lady has a secret?

Riviera Gold (you can read about it here) is available for pre-order, if you’d like to demonstrate your enthusiasm to my publishers.  Signed from Bookshop Santa Cruz or Poisoned Pen—or get it from your local Independent bookshop, or Barnes & Noble/Nook, or Amazon/Kindle, or as CD or audio.


  1. Adriene Grzenia on February 9, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I’ve been re-listening to your Mary Russell series. I’m a bit obsessed at this point. When I hear your words again, the nuances are greater and the meeting deeper. You’re an amazing writer Ms. King. I love the deep (beyond words) and abiding relationship between Holmes and Russell. I am looking forward to the next installment. Best of luck with the launch.

  2. Fran polacco on February 10, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    I’m really looking forward to Riviera Gold. The cover is amazing. She reminds me if Nancy Drew, another favorite. My first introduction to the mystery genre,for which I am forever grateful.

    • Laurie King on February 16, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      I could never get into Nancy Drew, I’m afraid. Maybe I should try her as an adult!

  3. Josephine on February 12, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    I do so hope the incomparable Jenny Sterlin will be recording Riviera Gold in its entirety (unlike in several of the novels where a male narrator was used for certain sections focusing on Holmes and where a different woman narrated the Mrs. Hudson story – significant errors in judgement on the part of the producers of those 3 audiobooks) and that the audiobook will be released contemporaneously with the hardcover. For anyone who has only read the novels on paper, the Sterlin audiobooks are a revelation of character and nuance and the transcendent beauty of so much of Ms. King’s writing in this series.

    • Denise on February 17, 2020 at 11:09 pm

      I agree with Josephine. Jenny Sterlin is amazing and brings Mary Russell to life in the audio books.

  4. Susan L. MIller on February 16, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    I, too, am enthralled with how you weave all the different threads in your stories, and even have characters appear from other’s series. I laughed out loud when Lord Peter Wimsey showed up, and I look forward to other chuckles and vast enjoyment of your writing.
    Here’s to your continued success!
    Warmest regards,

    • Laurie King on February 16, 2020 at 6:38 pm

      Yes, I’d love to sneak Peter W in again, but it’s not permitted…

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