Travel Through Books – Discovering Sherlock Holmes In Northern California

My worst fear when I travel is not war or disasters. It is running out of reading material. Now with all the electronic reading devices that will probably never happen, but I still like to read the old-fashioned way.

On a recent trip to San Francisco I started reading a book on the plane. After the first chapter, I knew I was not interested in the story. An hour after landing I was in the indie store, Book Passage in the Ferry building.  I like mysteries so I bought The Art of Detection by Laurie R King.

Ms. King writes two mystery series and novels. I read the Mary Russell series, which is about the adventures of Mary and Sherlock Holmes. They meet after Holmes retires to the Sussex Downs and becomes a beekeeper.

Her other series is about Kate Martinelli, a San Francisco police detective set in modern times. What intrigued me about The Art of Detection was that King brought the two series together.

In a nutshell; a body is discovered in a gun bunker in the Marin Headlands. As it turns out, the victim has discovered what might be an unpublished Sherlock Holmes story. It too is set in San Francisco and also features a body found in the same gun bunker. Fun! The two stories are intertwined in the book, and although Mary Russell is not a character, I loved the story within a story.

Place is very important to me in the books I read. On a previous trip we stayed at a Lodge  in the Marin Headlands with a view of the Golden Gate bridge. At sunset we walked along what were fortifications and gun bunkers. We could not get near them but they were what I visualized when I read this book.

It was also fun to read The Art of Detection in San Francisco and to take the same trolley as Kate, down Market Street to the Ferry building, added to the pleasure of the story.

My connection to Sherlock Holmes did not end when I finished the book.  After a few days In San Francisco we drove to Carmel. On a previous trip we discovered Smallsea: a Metropolis in Miniature,  a dollhouse museum located in the Barnyard Shopping Center.

Although I never had a dollhouse, nor was I interested in miniatures, this village is wondrous.  The owner Diane Birnberg discovered dollhouses on a visit to London. Her husband bought her one for Christmas that year and her collection was born. She furnished the house for the family and then wondered where they would live, shop and play. Thus began the village of Smallsea.

We returned for a visit on the night she had an Open House. It was literally an open house, because all the roofs and walls were open and the buildings lit. Amongst the church, town hall, restaurant and shops, nestled 221 B Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes.

221 B Baker Street

Diane showed us the latest figures, four Baker Street irregulars, clambering up the stairs. I told her about the Laurie King book I had just read and a new connection was made over our mutual love of books and travel.

Baker street irregulars

Laurie King writes in her bio that her childhood was spent in the lives of books. She never met authors, so she thought that God put books in libraries. Now through technology we meet authors live, or through the Internet, and we connect to them and their characters.

How amazing that a character created in the 19th Century has become so real that he connected me to writer Laurie King and collector Diane Birnberg. Now, through this post I connect them to you.

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