I’m annoyed at Laurie R. King. Those of you who know me will be shocked, shocked, I tell you! She’s one of my favorite authors. I respect her a great deal. Her Mary Russell series, the exploits of a young woman who becomes involved with Sherlock Holmes in his retirement, has been a touchstone for me ever since I read the first book about ten years ago. I respect King as a writer, and I follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Therein doth the problem lie.
“Mary Russell” has her own Twitter account, maintained by King herself. (It’s not a fan account, as she has occasionally linked between the two on her author’s Facebook page, which is how I found the Twitter account in the first place.) I don’t like this very much. It feels too cute to ask us all to believe that this character, set very firmly in her time, is still alive and well, along with Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and John Watson, nearly a full century after the books are set. A lot of people seem to like it, though, so I’m happy to leave it alone as a concept. However.
About a week ago, @mary_russell tweeted, “Just because a body was woman found on the Queen’s Sandringham estate our phone won’t stop ringing. Holmes and I may have to visit Mycroft.” My eyebrows raised. Certainly not in the usual vein of her tweets. I thought for a moment that King decided to make up a tale to have us all follow, so that she could later write a book about it. Fun, I thought! But it still wasn’t sitting right with me, so I googled. Then my mouth dropped open.
It actually happened. A young woman, later identified as a teenager, found dead and possibly murdered on the grounds. And Laurie King thought it would be “cute” to have Holmes and Russell on the case, as it were.
Subsequently, Holmes has gone down to London for a consultation, and a few other tweets have happened, including these from yesterday and today:
“Just heard from Holmes and reading between the lines it appears Brother Mycroft is asking Holmes to hie off to Sandringham. I may join him.”
“Although neither of us actively pursue cases these days, but…I’ll not leave Holmes to do this alone. If I go silent that is the reason.” “Holmes will consult again today, but not go to Sandringham (Mycroft and I had a few words). Really, the local constabulary will handle this.”
I can’t tell you how offended I am. A woman–now we know she was a 17-year-old girl–is found dead, and King is using this as a way of padding her Twitter feed? A girl died, probably scared and alone, and King’s response is to tweet about it as a fictional character and claim some role in the case? I’m appalled. Half the people following her probably don’t know it’s real. They think, probably, that it’s a fictional turn. One woman tweeted back that she’s worried for Russell and Holmes, and wonders if this is going to make it into another memoir. I can see how it would make for a good Russell/Holmes story. You could write a dandy story with the possibility of royal involvement, danger, scandal on the Queen’s estate, there’s a lot to be done with it. But that would be fiction, and this is real life.
It’s one thing to have Russell tweeting from 2012. Her immortality, such as it is, is only conferred by the limits of her fictional existence, but it’s cute enough, I suppose. I love the idea of characters coming in and out of our world, it’s a main plot point in one of my nebulous novels. But this goes beyond the limits of decency for me. By all means, make up a fictional case and have Russell get as involved in it as she wants. Make it up. But for pity’s sake, don’t use a real tragedy as a jumping-off point for your interaction with your fans, claiming agency where none exists.