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The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #1)

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series #1)

4.5 115
by Laurie R. King

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In 1915, long since retired from his crime-fighting days, Sherlock Holmes is engaged in a reclusive study of honeybees on the Sussex Downs. Never did the Victorian detective think to meet an intellect matching his own-until his acquaintance with Miss Mary Russell, a young twentieth-century lady whose mental acuity is equaled only by her penchant for deduction,


In 1915, long since retired from his crime-fighting days, Sherlock Holmes is engaged in a reclusive study of honeybees on the Sussex Downs. Never did the Victorian detective think to meet an intellect matching his own-until his acquaintance with Miss Mary Russell, a young twentieth-century lady whose mental acuity is equaled only by her penchant for deduction, disguises, and danger. Under Holmes's reluctant tutelage,

Russell embarks on a case involving a landowner's mysterious fever and the kidnapping of an American senator's daughter in the wilds of Wales. Then a near-fatal bomb on her doorstep-and another on Holmes's-sends the two sleuths on the trail of a murderer who scatters bizarre clues and seems utterly without motive. The villain's objective, however, is quite unequivocal: to end Russell and Holmes's partnership-and then their lives.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Wonderfully original and entertaining . . . absorbing from beginning to end.” —Booklist

“King has stepped onto the sacred literary preserve of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, poached Holmes, and brilliantly brought him to life again.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Remarkably beguiling.” —The Boston Globe

“A fascinating and often moving account of a friendship so unusual and so compelling that one almost accepts it as being historically real.” —The Denver Post

“Enchanting . . . The Beekeeper's Apprentice is real Laurie R. King, not faux Conan Doyle, and for my money, it's better than the original.” —San Jose Mercury News

“Rousing . . . Riveting . . . Suspenseful.” —Chicago Sun-Times

Product Details

Cengage Gale
Publication date:
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Series , #1
Product dimensions:
6.33(w) x 9.42(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him. In my defense I must say it was an engrossing book, and it was very rare to come across another person in that particular part of the world in that war year of 1915. In my seven weeks of peripatetic reading amongst the sheep (which tended to move out of my way) and the gorse bushes (to which I had painfully developed an instinctive awareness) I had never before stepped on a person.

It was a cool, sunny day in early April, and the book was by Virgil. I had set out at dawn from the silent farmhouse, chosen a different direction from my usual in this case southeasterly, towards the sea--and had spent the intervening hours wrestling with Latin verbs, climbing unconsciously over stone walls, and unthinkingly circling hedgerows, and would probably not have noticed the sea until I stepped off one of the chalk cliffs into it.

As it was, my first awareness that there was another soul in the universe was when a male throat cleared itself loudly not four feet from me. The Latin text flew into the air, followed closely by an Anglo-Saxon oath. Heart pounding, I hastily pulled together what dignity I could and glared down through my spectacles at this figure hunched up at my feet: a gaunt, greying man in his fifties wearing a cloth cap, ancient tweed greatcoat, and decent shoes, with a threadbare Army rucksack on the ground beside him. A tramp perhaps, who had left the rest of his possessions stashed beneath a bush. Or an Eccentric. Certainly no shepherd.

He said nothing. Very sarcastically. I snatched up my book andbrushed it off.

"What on earth are you doing?" I demanded. "Lying in wait for someone?"

He raised one eyebrow at that, smiled in a singularly condescending and irritating manner, and opened his mouth to speak in that precise drawl which is the trademark of the overly educated upper-class English gentleman. A high voice; a biting one: definitely an Eccentric.

"I should think that I can hardly be accused of 'lying' anywhere," he said, "as I am seated openly on an uncluttered hillside, minding my own business. When, that is, I am not having to fend off those who propose to crush me underfoot." He rolled the penultimate r to put me in my place.

Had he said almost anything else, or even said the same words in another manner, I should merely have made a brusque apology and a purposeful exit, and my life would have been a very different thing.

However, he had, all unknowing, hit squarely on a highly sensitive spot. My reason for leaving the house at first light had been to avoid my aunt, and the reason (the most recent of many reasons) for wishing to avoid my aunt was the violent row we'd had the night before, a row sparked by the undeniable fact that my feet had outgrown their shoes, for the second time since my arrival three months before. My aunt was small, neat, shrewish, sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and proud of her petite hands and feet. She invariably made me feel clumsy, uncouth, and unreasonably touchy about my height and the corresponding size of my feet. Worse, in the ensuing argument over finances, she had won.

His innocent words and his far-from-innocent manner hit my smouldering temper like a splash of petrol. My shoulders went back, my chin up, as I stiffened for combat. I had no idea where I was, or who this man was, whether I was standing on his land or he on mine, if he was a dangerous lunatic or an escaped convict or the lord of the manor, and I did not care. I was furious.

"You have not answered my question, sir," I bit off.

He ignored my fury. Worse than that, he seemed unaware of it. He looked merely bored, as if he wished I might go away.

"What am I doing here, do you mean?"


"I am watching bees," he said flatly, and turned back to his contemplation of the hillside.

Nothing in the man's manner showed a madness to correspond with his words. Nonetheless I kept a wary eye on him as I thrust my book into my coat pocket and dropped to the ground--a safe distance away from him-- and studied the movement in the flowers before me.

There were indeed bees, industriously working at stuffing pollen into those leg sacs of theirs, moving from flower to flower. I watched, and was just thinking that there was nothing particularly noteworthy about these bees when my eyes were caught by the arrival of a peculiarly marked specimen. It seemed an ordinary honeybee but had a small red spot on its back. How odd--perhaps what he had been watching? I glanced at the Eccentric, who was now staring intently off into space, and then looked more closely at the bees, interested in spite of myself. I quickly concluded that the spot was no natural phenomenon, but rather paint, for there was another bee, its spot slightly lopsided, and another, and then another odd thing: a bee with a blue spot as well. As I watched, two red-spots flew off in a northwesterly direction. I carefully observed the blue-and-red spot as it filled its pouches and saw it take off towards the northeast.

I thought for a minute, got up, and walked to the top of the hill, scattering ewes and lambs, and when I looked down at a village and river I knew instantly where I was. My house was less than two miles from here. I shook my head ruefully at my inattention, thought for a moment longer about this man and his red-and blue-spotted bees, and walked back down to take my leave of him. He did not look up, so I spoke to the back of his head.

"I'd say the blue spots are a better bet, if you're trying for another hive," I told him. "The ones you've only marked with red are probably from Mr. Warner's orchard. The blue spots are farther away, but they're almost sure to be wild ones." I dug the book from my pocket, and when I looked up to wish him a good day he was looking back at me, and the expression on his face took all words from my lips--no mean accomplishment. He was, as the writers say but people seldom actually are, openmouthed. He looked a bit like a fish, in fact, gaping at me as if I were growing another head. He slowly stood up, his mouth shutting as he rose, but still staring.

"What did you say?"

"I beg your pardon, are you hard of hearing?" I raised my voice somewhat and spoke slowly. "I said, if you want a new hive you'll have to follow the blue spots, because the reds are sure to be Tom Warner's."

"I am not hard of hearing, although I am short of credulity. How do you come to know of my interests?'

"I should have thought it obvious," I said impatiently, though even at that age I was aware that such things were not obvious to the majority of people. "I saw paint on your pocket-handkerchief, and traces on your fingers where you wiped it away. The only reason to mark bees that I can think of is to enable one to follow them to their hive. You are either interested in gathering honey or in the bees themselves, and it is not the time of year to harvest honey. Three months ago we had an unusual cold spell that killed many hives. Therefore I assume that you are tracking these in order to replenish your own stock."

The face that looked down at me was no longer fishlike. In fact, it resembled amazingly a captive eagle I had once seen, perched in aloof splendour looking down the ridge of his nose at this lesser creature, cold disdain staring out from his hooded grey eyes.

"My God," he said in a voice of mock wonder, "it can think."

My anger had abated somewhat while watching the bees, but at this casual insult it erupted. Why was this tall, thin, infuriating old man so set on provoking an unoffending stranger? My chin went up again, only in part because he was taller than I, and I mocked him in retum.

"My God, it can recognise another human being when it's hit over the head with one." For good measure I added, "And to think that I was raised to believe that old people had decent manners."

I stood back to watch my blows strike home, and as I faced him squarely my mind's eye finally linked him up with rumours I had heard and the reading I had done during my recent long convalescence, and I knew who he was, and I was appalled.

I had, I should mention, always assumed that a large part of Dr. Watson's adulatory stories were a product of that gentleman's inferior imagination. Certainly he always regarded the reader to be as slow as himself. Most irritating. Nonetheless, behind the stuff and nonsense of the biographer there towered a figure of pure genius, one of the great minds of his generation. A Legend.

Meet the Author

Laurie R. King is the Edgar Award–winning author of the Kate Martinelli novels and the acclaimed Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes mysteries, as well as a few stand-alone novels. The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the first in her Mary Russell series, was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of the Century's Best 100 Mysteries by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. A Monstrous Regiment of Women won the Nero Wolfe Award. She has degrees in theology, and besides writing she has also managed a coffee store and raised children, vegetables and the occasional building. She lives in northern California.

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The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell Series #1) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 115 reviews.
onetruebrit More than 1 year ago
This was one of our book club books, and I must admit to not being interested, Once starring it, could not put it down. and have already read a couple more in the series. Even a Brit can be anti Sherlock Homes and while it's not really about Sherlock Holmes he is an important part of the story, Mary Russell is the lead character and that fact is quite clear from the outset. All I can add is, try it, you will absolutely love it.
Koneko_no_Yami More than 1 year ago
This first novel of the Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series hits every note just right. The aging great detective Sherlock Holmes takes on Mary Russell, a brilliant 15 year old girl as his apprentice, who is our narrator. Although King takes a few liberties with Conan Doyle's cannon - Holmes is a little younger - she gets the characters exactly right. She also brings Holmes into the "real world" by having Conan Doyle be Watson's literary agent. The voices of the characters ring true, from Holmes' sardonic laughter, to Dr "uncle John" Watson's bumbling good heartedness. The best non-Conan Doyle Holmes out there by far. I've read this book more times than I can tell you.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1915 fifteen year old expatriate American orphan Mary Russell meets retired detective Sherlock Holmes in Sussex Downs. The sleuth finds the feisty intelligent heiress much more refreshing than the bees he normally communicates with. He decides to make her his apprentice in the science of detecting on the condition she keeps her studies at Oxford up. When she is at her new home, her aunt¿s house, and he on a case, he will train her.------------ She works a few minor cases for Holmes when they are asked to investigate the kidnapping of American senator Simpson in Wales. They quickly conclude that a genius is behind the abduction of Jessica. After Russell proves her worth by rescuing Jessica, someone tries to kill her, Holmes and Dr. Watson. The sleuths believe the same criminal behind the kidnapping wants to destroy Holmes.------------- This is a reprint of the first Russell-Holmes collaboration and though over a decade old with several subsequent sequels since, THE BEEKEEPER¿S APPRENTICE retains a freshness. The story line grips the audience from the moment the precocious teen meets the beekeeper partly because of the terrific rendition of the lead characters as Homes seems Doyle like and more and partly because England in WW I comes alive. The mystery is clever, but it is the meeting of the minds that makes Laurie R. King¿s tale more than just a well done homage.-------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Way too much filler here. Not to mention that everyone is very sexist towards Mary, even Holmes himself on occasion. The third mystery was even more filler-packed and boring than the first two, but I couldn't skim for the fear that I might miss something. It had great potential, but didn't live up to it.
Odessa More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of Doyle's original Holmes stories, so I was a little skeptical. This story was a wonderful homage to Sherlock Holmes, though King's presentation of him is unique, she makes it her own while respecting tradition. Part of why it is successful is that King makes her protagonist the original character of Mary Russell, a modern girl with a gifted mind and a troubled past. The audience gets to experience Doyle's characters through her and it it thoroughly enjoyable. A great adventure with an intruiging mystery, danger and friendship.
NancyLibrarian More than 1 year ago
I was very impressed! Laurie King has resurrected Sherlock Holmes not by adding yet more improbable adventures with Watson in his heyday, but by bringing him another confederate in his "retirement years". He was supposed to have moved from London to the country to study bees, so enter 15-year-old Mary Russell, parent-less and living with a detested aunt, possessed of a keen, observant mind very like Holmes himself. They hit it off and Holmes tutors Russell in observation and reasoning, and shares esoteric research with her. I really enjoyed the book, and was happy to learn that there are, so far, 7 sequels. I am on book 5 now, and just as impressed !
Anonymous 24 days ago
Anonymous 4 months ago
Exquisitely and ingeniously written w/scholarly reasoning and vocabulary. Lovely historic and geographic accuracy combines with a touch of romanticism. It's a good thing Ms. King chose to write about Sherlock and Mary in series form because I am completely enamored and hooked and would likely mourn the end of each book if I didn't know there were another to follow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love Sherlock, give this a try. The only part of the story that I did not enjoy, was her disrespect towards Watson. I am still trying to move past that. Hence, I am now going to read book two of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After listening to the short story Beekeeping for Beginners which takes place during this story, I realized I needed to go back and read this first book in the series again. I'm glad I did, because I had forgot some of it, but it also made me realize how much the characters have developed from the start of the series. The Beekeeper's Apprentice is just a good story in itself. A retired Sherlock Holmes meets feisty, opinionated, and highly intelligent fifteen-year-old Mary Russell when she almost steps on him on the Sussex Downs. He sees a logically mind behind the teenage outrage, and finds a new purpose for himself in taking her on as an apprentice. Mary is a wounded bird, but they both help each other heal and grow, though Holmes would not admit that. King keeps fairly true to the classic Doyle characters (she's treating them as if they really existed and that the original stories were somewhat sensationalized for the newspaper that they were published in), but allows them to grow as well. I recommended this book and the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have read all series but borrowed. have come back to give this review.t only bought one nook was the one where they are in india with kim. Formalic but getting a little annoyed as they keep separating in series on separate missions and holmes less and less as a team and she knows nothing a curious style buska
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well written mystery that needs to be read! Captures you from the beginning - you won't want to put it down!!
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ValMT More than 1 year ago
This is the first in a series of Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books written by Laurie King. I've read them all, and eagerly await the newest installment (The Bones of Paris). The Beekeeper's Apprentice is carefully-crafted, intelligent, and well researched. I recommended this book to a book club I belong to, and it's the first book we've read that everyone loved! If you're a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, or you love a good mystery, this book (and series) is for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written. However, speaking as a Sherlockaholic, it is not well thought out.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the best non-canonical Holmes book I've read, but still very enjoyable. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fascinating followup on the beloved Shherlock holmes stories