The Twentieth-Anniversary Edition of the First Novel of the Acclaimed Mary Russell Series by Edgar Award–Winning Author Laurie R. King.
An Agatha Award Best Novel Nominee • Named One of the Century's Best 100 Mysteries by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association
In 1915, Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honeybees in Sussex when a young woman literally stumbles onto him on the Sussex Downs. Fifteen years old, gawky, egotistical, and recently orphaned, the young Mary Russell displays an intellect to impress even Sherlock Holmes. Under his reluctant tutelage, this very modern, twentieth-century woman proves a deft protégée and a fitting partner for the Victorian detective. They are soon called to Wales to help Scotland Yard find the kidnapped daughter of an American senator, a case of international significance with clues that dip deep into Holmes's past. Full of brilliant deduction, disguises, and danger, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the first book of the Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes mysteries, is "remarkably beguiling" (The Boston Globe).
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Or, On the Segregation of the Queen
By Laurie R. King
PicadorCopyright © 1994 Laurie R. King
All rights reserved.
Two Shabby Figures
The discovery of a sign of true intellect outside ourselves procures us something of the emotion Robinson Crusoe felt when he saw the imprint of a human foot on the sandy beach of his island.
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 defence 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 and brushed 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 see 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 return.
"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.
And I was horrified: Here I was, standing before a Legend, flinging insults at him, yapping about his ankles like a small dog worrying a bear. I suppressed a cringe and braced myself for the casual swat that would send me flying.
To my amazement, however, and considerable dismay, instead of counterattacking, he just smiled condescendingly and bent down to pick up his rucksack. I heard the faint rattle of the paint bottles within. He straightened, pushed his old-fashioned cap back on his greying hair, and looked at me with tired eyes.
"Young man, I —"
"'Young man'!" That did it. Rage swept into my veins, filling me with power. Granted I was far from voluptuous, granted I was dressed in practical, that is, male, clothing — this was not to be borne. Fear aside, Legend aside, the yapping lapdog attacked with all the utter contempt only an adolescent can muster. With a surge of glee, I seized the weapon he had placed in my hands and drew back for the coup de grâce. "'Young man'?" I repeated. "It's a damned good thing that you did retire, if that's all that remains of the great detective's mind!" With that I reached for the brim of my oversized cap and my long blonde plaits slithered down over my shoulders.
A series of emotions crossed his face, rich reward for my victory. Simple surprise was followed by a rueful admission of defeat, and then, as he reviewed the entire discussion, he surprised me. His face relaxed, his thin lips twitched, his grey eyes crinkled into unexpected lines, and at last he threw back his head and gave a great shout of delighted laughter. That was the first time I heard Sherlock Holmes laugh, and although it was far from the last, it never ceased to surprise me, seeing that proud, ascetic face dissolve into helpless laughter. His amusement was always at least partially at himself, and this time was no exception. I was totally disarmed.
He wiped his eyes with the handkerchief I had seen poking from his coat pocket; a slight smear of blue paint was transferred to the bridge of his angular nose. He looked at me then, seeing me for the first time. After a minute he gestured at the flowers.
"You know something about bees, then?"
"Very little," I admitted.
"But they interest you?" he suggested.
This time both eyebrows raised.
"And, pray tell, why such a firm opinion?"
"From what I know of them they are mindless creatures, little more than a tool for putting fruit on trees. The females do all the work; the males do ... well, they do little. And the queen, the only one who might amount to something, is condemned for the sake of the hive to spend her days as an egg machine. And," I said, warming to the topic, "what happens when her equal comes along, another queen with which she might have something in common? They are both forced — for the good of the hive — to fight to the death. Bees are great workers, it is true, but does not the production of each bee's total lifetime amount to a single dessert-spoonful of honey? Each hive puts up with having hundreds of thousands of bee-hours stolen regularly, to be spread on toast and formed into candles, instead of declaring war or going on strike as any sensible, self-respecting race would do. A bit too close to the human race for my taste."
Mr. Holmes had sat down upon his heels during my tirade, watching a blue spot. When I had finished, he said nothing, but put out one long, thin finger and gently touched the fuzzy body, disturbing it not at all. There was silence for several minutes until the laden bee flew off — northeast, towards the copse two miles away, I was certain. He watched it disappear and murmured almost to himself, "Yes, they are very like Homo sapiens. Perhaps that is why they so interest me."
"I don't know how sapient you find most Homines, but I for one find the classification an optimistic misnomer." I was on familiar ground now, that of the mind and opinions, a beloved ground I had not trod for many months. That some of the opinions were those of an obnoxious teenager made them none the less comfortable or easy to defend. To my pleasure, he responded.
"Homo in general, or simply vir?" he asked, with a solemnity that made me suspect that he was laughing at me. Well, at least I had taught him to be subtle with it.
"Oh, no. I am a feminist, but no man hater. A misanthrope in general, I suppose like yourself, sir. However, unlike you, I find women to be the marginally more rational half of the race."
He laughed again, a gentler version of the earlier outburst, and I realised that I had been trying to provoke it this time.
"Young lady" — he stressed the second word with gentle irony — "you have caused me amusement twice in one day, which is more than anyone else has done in some time. I have little humour to offer in return, but if you would care to accompany me home, I could at least give you a cup of tea."
"I should be very pleased to do so, Mr. Holmes."
"Ah, you have the advantage over me. You obviously know my name, yet there is no one present of whom I might beg an introduction to yourself." The formality of his speech was faintly ludicrous considering that we were two shabby figures facing each other on an otherwise deserted hillside.
"My name is Mary Russell." I held out my hand, which he took in his thin, dry one. We shook as if cementing a peace pact, which I suppose we were.
"Mary," he said, tasting it. He pronounced it in the Irish manner, his mouth caressing the long first syllable. "A suitably orthodox name for such a passive individual as yourself."
"I believe I was named after the Magdalene, rather than the Virgin."
"Ah, that explains it then. Shall we go, Miss Russell? My housekeeper ought to have something to put in front of us."
It was a lovely walk, that, nearly four miles over the downs. We thumbed over a variety of topics strung lightly on the common thread of apiculture. He gestured wildly atop a knoll when comparing the management of hives with Machiavellian theories of government, and cows ran snorting away. He paused in the middle of a stream to illustrate his theory juxtaposing the swarming of hives and the economic roots of war, using examples of the German invasion of France and the visceral patriotism of the English. Our boots squelched for the next mile. He reached the heights of his peroration at the top of a hill and launched himself down the other side at such a speed that he resembled some great flapping thing about to take off.
He stopped to look around for me, took in my stiffening gait and my inability to keep up with him, both literally and metaphorically, and shifted into a less manic mode. He did seem to have a good practical basis for his flights of fancy and, it turned out, had even written a book on the apiary arts entitled A Practical Handbook of Bee Culture. It had been well received, he said with pride (this from a man who, I remembered, had respectfully declined a knighthood from the late queen), particularly his experimental but highly successful placement within the hive of what he called the Royal Quarters, which had given the book its provocative subtitle: With Some Observations Upon the Segregation of the Queen.
We walked, he talked, and under the sun and his soothing if occasionally incomprehensible monologue, I began to feel something hard and tight within me relax slightly, and an urge I had thought killed began to make the first tentative stirrings towards life. When we arrived at his cottage, we had known each other forever.
Other more immediate stirrings had begun to assert themselves as well, with increasing insistence. I had taught myself in recent months to ignore hunger, but a healthy young person after a long day in the open air with only a sandwich since morning is likely to find it difficult to concentrate on anything other than the thought of food. I prayed that the cup of tea would be a substantial one, and was considering the problem of how to suggest such a thing, should it not be immediately offered, when we reached his house and the housekeeper herself appeared at the door, and for a moment I forgot my preoccupation. It was none other than the long-suffering Mrs. Hudson, whom I had long considered the most underrated figure in all of Dr. Watson's stories. Yet another example of the man's obtuseness, this inability to know a gem unless it be set in gaudy gold.
Excerpted from The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. Copyright © 1994 Laurie R. King. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Book One: Apprenticeship,
1. Two Shabby Figures,
2. The Sorcerer's Apprentice,
3. Mistress of the Hounds,
4. A Case of My Own,
Book Two: Internship,
5. The Vagrant Gipsy Life,
6. A Child Gone from Her Bed,
7. Words with Miss Simpson,
Book Three: Partnership,
8. We Have a Case,
9. The Game, Afoot,
10. The Problem of the Empty House,
11. Another Problem: The Mutilated Four-Wheeler,
Excursus: A Gathering of Strength,
13. Umbilicus Mundi,
Book Four: Mastery,
14. The Act Begins,
15. Separation Trial,
16. The Daughter of the Voice,
17. Forces Joined,
18. Battle Royal,
Postlude: Putting off the Armour,
19. Return Home,
By Laurie R. King,
About the Author,
Reading Group Guide
1. In an Editor's Preface, King playfully discloses the "true" origin of the story at hand: that what follows will be the actual memoirs of Mary Russell, which were mysteriously sent to her out of the blue, along with a trunk full of odds and ends. Why does King begin with this anecdote, essentially including herself in the story? Does it bring the world of the novel closer to our own? Have you read any other books (Lolita, for example) which begin with a false-preface, and what effect does this device have on the rest of the novel? Were you fooled?
2. It is 1915, the Great War is raging through Europe and the men of England are in the trenches. How does this particular period in history allow a character like Mary Russell to take the stage in areas of post-Victorian society usually reserved for men? In what significant ways does she seize these opportunities? Would she have thrived if born into a different, more oppressive social climate, say, one hundred years earlier?
3. How would you characterize Mary Russell based on her first opinion of bees? Does her disdain for their mindless busy-work and adherence to hive social structure reflect a particular attitude toward the social landscape of England at the time? Do you agree with Mary?
4. Holmes uses the game of chess to sharpen Mary Russell's strategic thinking and intuition. How does chess - and, in particular, the Queen - serve as a metaphor throughout the story? In what ways does King herself use the game to comment upon the master- apprentice relationship?
5. Russell and Holmes don disguises throughout The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and their work sometimes requires them to cross dress. Discuss each point in the novel where either Russell or Holmes takes cover in the opposite sex; what special access does this method of disguise give them to the other characters? Is gender reversal necessary in order to win the confidence of certain people? How does Mary Russell's world change when she dresses as a man?
6. Watson is eternally known as the great detective's sidekick. Who, in your opinion, is a more effective foil for Holmes, Watson or Russell? What different aspects of Holmes's personality emerge in the presence of each? What would happen if Holmes were paired with a different partner, one more timid or less tenacious?
7. At Oxford, Mary Russell concludes that theology and detective work are one and the same. In your opinion, how are the two subjects related?
8. The art of deduction is constantly at play in The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Even when Mary notices that Watson has shaven off his mustache, she cares to look closer at the skin and imagine that it was done "very recently". Is Laurie King training the reader's perceptions to be more acute throughout the novel? Does every detail of our lives hold a mystery and a story?
9. What are some crucial differences between the training Patricia Donleavy received from Moriarty and the training Mary Russell received from Holmes? What mental and emotional strengths do both women have in common, and what separates them? Holmes comments: "A quick mind is worthless unless you can control the emotions with it as well." How does this maxim apply?
10. At what point in the novel did you suspect that Russell's adversary was a woman? When you read a mystery, what assumptions do you typically make about the gender of the villain? In what ways does King toy with the reader's assumptions about gender throughout the novel?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 !
REVIEW: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. KingFifteen year old Mary Russell does not fit in. In 1915, her proclivity for trousers, feminism, and Hebrew theology alienate her from her peers as well as her nearest relatives. However, Mary Russell's life takes a significant turn when she meets Sherlock Holmes. The former detective-turned-beekeeper strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mary. Under the tutelage of Holmes, Russell's intellect and powers of observation become important tools as her friendship with Holmes morphs into apprenticeship. The adventures of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes take them from Sussex Downs to the rolling hills of Wales. However, as Russell and Holmes come to discover, betrayal and murder are closer than they think.Generally speaking, I am a much too impatient reader to truly enjoy mysteries. I usually find myself rushing through the plot points to find out how it ends. However, this book is one of my all time favorites. I imagine that Mary Russell and I would be great friends (if she were real, of course). As a character, she shines with intelligence, courage, and a sharp sense of humor. The plot demands attention; it is quick, fast, quite exciting, and in some instances very subtle. Laurie R. King masters the art of characterization- putting a flair on Doyle's Sherlock Holmes as well as writing the novel in first person from Mary's perspective. I am a sucker for a strong female lead as well as witty, intelligent dialogue (some of Holmes' and Russell's humor I didn't understand until the second or third read through). Wonderful!
Mary Russell, a young woman of intelligence and a keen sense of logic, stumbles upon Sherlock Holmes. He is now semi-retired and staying at a quaint country cottage, puttering away his days. Has time passed him by?First a conversation, then friendship and finally training under the great detective, helping in his experiments.But things don't stay quiet long as an attempt is made on Holmes' life! By who? And almost as important why?And so we follow along a merry chase as we try to solve the crime along with Holmes and Russell. Back to London, returning to his old lifestyle and haunts, revisiting old friends and adversaries in search for clues. Can they solve the mystery before the attempts on Holmes' life succeed? This is book one in a series. I'm hooked. I think you will be too!
This book is the first of a series in which Sherlock Holmes - "retired" to beekeeping in the country - meets the narrator/protagonist Mary Russell and takes her on as his apprentice. Since Russell's intelligence and powers of observation match Holmes the relationship seems to be missing something as they are both almost too perfect (King allows both her characters to make some mistakes to make them a little complementary). Much of the early half of the book involves Russell's long apprenticeship and training and drags. There are a number of mysteries to solve and the novel becomes episodic as a result. The conclusion actually tries to tie these mysteries together which doesn't work for me. I wanted to like this book but just found it a bit dull. Still, I still see promise that maybe future installments could be better now that this backstory is filled in.
I was very skeptical about this -- being a passionate Holmes fan, but it definitely won me over. The author nailed Holmesian logic and I found it intellectually interesting as well as a page turner. Maybe not the absolute best mystery, but then neither were many of the Doyle stories. And I did like the fact that Watson came in and played a crucial and sympathetic role.
Has Sherlock Holmes met his match in an opinionated half-American Jewish girl on the Sussex Downs? Purists may clench their pipes in distaste, but Holmesians who enjoy a good pastiche will not be disappointed.
-Mary, at fifteen, is a precocious and very intelligent orphan, forced to suffer through her maiden aunt¿s bitterness, until she stumbles over the famous and now reclusive Sherlock Holmes, who is now in his fifties. They strike up a friendship, and soon Holmes is tutoring Mary in the skills and deductive reasoning used in detective work. Once she heads off to university, she becomes more of a partner, and their friendship and lives are put at risk when a mind equal to their own comes a challenging. Very well written, interesting and a teensy bit romantic!
[The Beekeeper¿s Apprentice][[Laurie King]]First in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series.The year is 1915. Mary Russell, the 15 year old daughter of an American Gentile father and an English Jewish mother, who was orphaned the year before due to a terrible car accident that wiped out the rest of her family, is now living in England with her aunt at her family¿s home in Sussex. Striding along the Downs with her nose in a book, Russell inadvertently steps on a reclining form--that of Sherlock Holmes.Thus starts the beginning of a remarkable relationship and a four-year apprenticeship for the lonely, brilliant, prickly Russell under the most famous detective of modern times. Towards the end, she begins an academic career at Oxford, studying Theology (to the disgust of Holmes who grumbles that it¿s a waste of her mind), and also begins applying what she has learned in a series of interesting cases.I¿ve never read one single book or story about Sherlock Holmes and still don¿t want to, because I want nothing to interfere with my picture of Holmes and his equally fictional ¿apprentice¿, Mary Russell. King does an absolutely brilliant job of evoking both Holmes and Russell, developing characters that are totally believable and a story line that is gripping. King also uses England during World War I as an effective backdrop for the story.The last of Russell¿s apprenticeship cases is so perilous that the two flee England in 1919 to Palestine for a brief time, which is the subject of what I think is the best book in the series, O Jerusalem. In fact, in my rereads of the series, I have taken to stopping at this point in The Beekeeper¿s Apprentice and reading O Jerusalem; although it is the 4th book that King wrote for the series, I find that I¿d rather read it at this point than continue with the next two books before O Jerusalem. I do urge those who have never read the series to do the same, because it makes perfect sense in the development of the story line. However, the events in that book are summarized briefly in The Beekeeper¿s Apprentice in a way that reveals nothing of what happened, and the first book finishes with Russell and Holmes returning to England in a wonderfully exciting, page-turning climax.The writing is superb, the plotting excellent, the characters totally engaging. A must read for those who enjoy period mystery/police procedurals. Highly recommended.
I've just re-read "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Laurie King for our May theme and enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time.It begins in 1915 in war time England, when Mary Russell stumbles across the retired Sherlock Holmes in the fields between their homes. These two are well met, both anti-social and highly intelligent and just a bit arrogant.The forty year difference in their ages is initially irrelevant between teacher and apprentice. Holmes always worked alone as spy and/or detective, doing his best to keep the lovable Dr Watson out of harm's way. Now, he struggles to accept and treat his well-trained apprentice as his partner.Mary is thoughtful, feisty and well drawn.
I love Laurie R. King and this book really hooked me!
I'd read this once years ago, and remembered it as OK, but I disliked the sequel, Monstrous Regiment of Women, enough that I wasn't reading the series. Then I encountered a couple of later ones and enjoyed them, so I thought I'd try this again. It is good. I don't like Sherlock Holmes much, he's too much of a know-it-all, but it's fun to see someone striking sparks off him. The early scene where she tells him what he's doing with the bees is lovely. I definitely fall into the category of 'not familiar with Watson's writings so many references escape me' (mentioned in Mary Russell's prologue), but I know enough to be amused by links and (some) references, and the story pretty much stands on its own. If you'd never heard of Sherlock Holmes some bits would definitely confuse you - Watson, for one, and mentions of Moriarity and Reichenbach Falls (all of which get somewhat important by the middle/end of the book). But if you'd never read Holmes (or seen any movies/TV shows) and were only aware of him as a cultural reference, you'd probably get all the important bits of the story. I enjoyed it enough that I'm going to make another run at Monstrous Regiment (though the snippet included in this book tells me at least part of why I didn't like it - I don't like reading about people being unnecessarily embarrassed). Definitely worth reading and re-reading.
This is one of those ideas that Should Not Work. It should foment outrage in the heart of even the mildest Sherlockophile that Laurie R. King should choose to bring a retired Sherlock Holmes together with a young woman, even as his apprentice, much less more. Pastiche, fan-fiction, homage; there is a lot of debate (if you know where to look) about what it is and what to call it, and it has ¿ especially under the banner "fan-fiction" ¿ earned a reputation for sheer and utter execrableness. It is so often a terrible, terrible idea for a writer to co-opt someone else's characters and use them to their own purposes, offensive both to other fans of the characters and to the writer, or the memory of the writer. But I have read fan-fic that glowed with pitch-perfect characterizations, which either echoed the original author's style beautifully or married the writer's own voice to the material without a ripple. Barbara Hambly wrote Star Trek novels ¿ that's how I found her ¿ and a couple of Beauty and the Beast novels, and they are splendid. That's why people read it ¿ or at least, that's why I read it, and that's why people write it ¿ or at least why I've written the handful of LotR things I've done: for the deep, warm satisfaction it gives to read something new about dearly loved characters from a different angle, to make somewhat real imaginings about what happened in the gaps the original writer left, to use the knowledge of a beloved writer's work to speculate about what would have happened if - ? I remember a LotR fan-fic about Éomer and Éowyn and Théodred, coping with the deterioration of Théoden ¿ and, for her, coping with the increasing power and ubiquity of Wormtongue. It was powerful, and simultaneously shone a light on the characters I knew and gave voice to a character we never meet in LotR. It can be good. It can be great. Unfortunately, it's more often so very, very wrong-headed and bad. So very bad. Badly written, badly conceived, ill-interpreted products of sometimes warped imaginations ¿ fan-fic, like self-pub, is a sphere which must be explored very carefully, and with protective gear: eye protection, heavy (preferably chain mail) gloves, and a bottle of brain bleach nearby. Just in case. What is seen cannot be unseen, unfortunately. A synonym Word coughs up for "pastiche" is "appropriation". That works. I like it. Laurie R. King's appropriation of the Holmes universe ranks very high among the Good Stuff. This isn't merely the expression of a desire to play in someone else's sandbox. This is homage, a knowledgeable and loving ¿ and respectful, that's key ¿ extension of what Conan Doyle wrote. It is a logical continuation to show Holmes retired among his bees in Sussex, and going spare with the boredom. The introduction of a non-canon character frequently results in a Mary Sue, and Mary Russell comes perilously close at times ¿ but she has a three-dimensionality and humor that lets her escape that label. It could have been bloody terrible, the idea of Holmes taking a teenaged girl under his wing ¿ and into his heart. Mary Russell's middle name is not Sue, however, and this Holmes is in need of a diversion ¿ how badly in need we don't really see till "Beekeeping for Beginners" ¿ and Laurie R. King is firmly in control of the situation. I still remember being a little shame-faced at buying the first books, and approaching them with caution. I very soon learned that LRK is one of those writers who consistently allows a reader to relax and enjoy a book without concern. "Reliable" is a lukewarm word of praise, but it is an adjective for a quality of great price in a writer. Laurie R. King is reliable. The LRK Holmes is neither worshiped nor turned into a parody. This series digs down into the canon and its conceits to build a depiction of a real, if extraordinary, man called Sherlock Holmes. His exploits have been t
¿I freely admit that my Holmes is not the Holmes of Watson,¿ announces Mary Russell in the preliminary pages of Laurie B. King¿s novel The Beekeeper¿s Apprentice, and she is absolutely right. Her Sherlock Holmes is not the man John Watson wrote so fondly of, and it becomes the Achilles heel of an otherwise superficially entertaining mystery.As a genre all its own, the Sherlock Holmes pastiche may have no equal (with the potential exception of H.P. Lovecraft¿s memorable Cthulhu mythos). There is something indefinably singular about the exploits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle¿s Great Detective and his companion Watson that captures the imagination of both readers and writers alike; as a result, there are now more books starring Holmes than Doyle ever published. It seems almost a mandate that authors must, at some time, try their hand at breathing new life into Doyle¿s creation. And well they should; no character, no matter how beloved, is above a little literary tinkering now and then.The results range from the typically fawning to the invigoratingly bold, some authors remaining content to emulate while others move to broaden the parameters of the canon. Nicholas Meyer adhered slavishly to Doyle¿s writing style in his enjoyable thrillers The Seven Percent Solution and The West End Horror. Stephen King twisted the format slightly, allowing Watson his only success at one-upping Holmes in the short story ¿The Doctor¿s Case.¿ Michael Chabon ¿ winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and possibly the most acclaimed author to continue Holmes¿ exploits ¿ gifted the public with The Final Solution, portraying Sherlock as an elderly, anonymous eccentric attempting to solve the mystery of a mute Jewish boy and his talkative parrot during the declining years of World War II.Laurie B. King takes the revisionist tact, relocating Holmes in time to the era of World War I, and adding a decidedly feminist slant to the (up to this point) determinedly male exploits of Holmes and Watson. King explains the necessity for such an innovative variation thusly: ¿During the war the very fabric of English society was picked apart and rewoven. Necessity dictated that women outside the home, be it on their own of that of their employers¿, and so women put on men¿s boots and took control of trams and breweries, factories and fields." Consequently, King sets about meshing the nineteenth-century charms of Holmes with the slightly more modern sensibilities of an early-twentieth century womanSpecifically, King introduces Holmes to Mary Russell, a wildly precocious teenager who exhibits a level of intelligence remarkably parallel to that of Holmes. Thankfully, King sidesteps the worrisome possibility of a Sherlock Holmes Meets Nancy Drew scenario, quickly aging Russell into a mature, gifted, and decidedly headstrong young woman. As Holmes takes her under his tutelage, they find themselves the targets of a mysterious bomber who taunts them with intentional clues, challenging their considerable intellects in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.Suffice to say, the plot unravels in classic Holmesian fashion; the clues are laid out, the identity of the assassin is shrouded and bizarre, and throughout it all, Holmes (and Russell) demonstrate instances of brainpower that would boggle lesser detectives. Doyle was never above using an intensely convoluted plot to keep the reader guessing, and King meets this challenge admirably.Where King falters, and badly, is in her complete re-imagining of Holmes. There is no reason to bemoan the fact that she never captures the tenor of Doyle¿s writing style; after all, Doyle¿s tales were narrated in the distinctive words of Watson, whereas Russell¿s narration takes a far more modern tone. The quality of Doyle¿s writing was not the element that made his tales unique, and indeed King is no remarkable stylist herself. What made the tales memorable was Holmes himself, and King¿s interpretation of the investigator is wholly unsatisfying. Cla
Enjoyed this foray into Sherlock Holmes's "retirement" from the point of view of his apprentice Mary Russell. Like the atmosphere and characterization very much, though I found it very easy to put down and not come back to for long stretches (it is fairly episodic, though in the end much of the bits get tied together)--but that may not actually be a criticism.
I know I read some, maybe all, of the Holmes stories when I was a kid. My knowledge of Sherlock Holmes is mostly from the movies, though, including that unfortunate picture in which Basil Rathbone, I mean Holmes, fights the Nazis. (I just googled and there are three Holmes vs. Nazi movies, for god's sake.)Anyway, this is a perfectly adequate mystery, but it's more about the relationship between Holmes and Mary Russell than about the mystery. I got kind of tired of the slow pace and the stilted Edwardian language, though it's well done and feels accurate. Russell is way too much of a Mary Sue to take seriously: rich, brainy, and beautiful, with a tragic past. She's supposedly under her aunt's control, but she seems to do whatever she wants. Everyone from her tutors to Watson and Mycroft Holmes adore her (you'd think, given the era, they'd just dismiss her as an annoyance.) She's incredibly open minded and liberal for her time. When she and Holmes travel to Palestine you'd expect a young lady of her time and place to have disparaging things to say about filthy Arabs and that sort of thing, not to mention when they mix with working class people and impersonate Gipsys [sic]. And surely a Jewish scholar of theology would refer to reading a copy of "the Pentateuch," not the "Jewish bible".Another problem is that just like in the Basil Rathbone movies, Watson is condescendingly treated like a doddering moron. Jeeze, he's a doctor, he can't be that dumb. I figure he must be pretty smart, if Holmes hangs around with him. He's just not as smart as Holmes. Well, people like spunky heroines, so I can see why they like this series. Lots of reviews by young women who profess their adoration of Mary Russell. But it's not for me. It's not the kind of psychological mystery (i.e., Ruth Rendell) that I like, so I'm not going to bother with the other books in the series. Too bad I bought more (used, but still) when I got this one.I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that Holmes and Russell are going to get married in some later book. In many ways that seems less interesting than if they didn't. Say they realize they're too similar to be a good couple, a la Jo March and Laurie What's his name, or that they're both too autistic to care about each other "that way". Or if one or both of them declared themself asexual and not interested in romance. Or Mary is a Lesbian, which explains some of why she so readily dresses up in male clothing and impersonates a boy! I think I like that one the best. No, wait, Holmes has a thing for working class rent boys and this becomes part of their sex play. "'Ullo, gov'nor, got a warm place where a poor boy from the country could stay the night? Say, you dropped your pipe, why here it is. Summat else I could do for you while I'm down there?"Anyway, far more interesting if the books would explore the tensions with those situations, or how one of them falls in love with someone else and that affects their partnership. But no, it's the usual everything leads to romance plot.
As a young Holmes fan with a vivid imagination I always wondered what kind of woman could capture Sherlock Holmes's attention. This book, and the series it introduces answers that question beautifully, in my opinion. I am sure there are plenty of Holmes purists that did not appreciate this book, as it is not really a book about Holmes as a production of Doyle, but a book about Holmes on a personal level. The Beekeepers Apprentice is about not only detective exploits, but an exploration of the human side of one of the most beloved and enigmatic characters of all time. I loved it, and am looking eagerly forward to the remaining books in this series.
This is the first volume in the "Mary Russell" series, a new set of Sherlock Holmes adventures. The same cleverness, skills and thoughtful logic prevail with a new twist: a female counterpart. Mary Russell is not just thrown in as some sort of token or romantic female -- she is quite bright and becomes Holmes' student and colleague, eventually his equal in solving crimes. Very highly recommended.
As a lifelong obsessive with Holmes I can't tell you how many Holmes pastiches I read before I found this one, but seriously, once I'd discovered these there was no need to look further.The fact that I immediately went on to start the first web page devoted to the Russell books and then spent ten years moderating a mailing list called RUSS-L will probably give you another clue to how much I love this book. None of the sequels have surpassed it in my view (at least not yet), but I've enjoyed them enormously (and subjected them to enthusiastic dissection) as well.
I have spent the past two & 1/2 months enmeshed in the world of D'Hara and the Midlands. Translation: I just read all 11 Sword of Truth novels by Terry Goodkind, back-to-back-to-back. And when I emerged from the land of war wizards and confessors, I was stuck with "what do I read next?" When you are so completely wrapped up in an author, it's difficult to switch gears. However, The Beekeeper's Apprentice was the perfect bring-me-back-to-reality (almost) book. From the back cover: 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 Russel and Holmes's partnership - and then their lives.I was hooked on this book from the opening sentence: "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." That's me! Except I don't step on anyone nearly as interesting as Sherlock Holmes. Rather, I walk into light posts (which Mary Russell does later on in the book), or tables. I have innumerable bruises on my hips from walking into the corner of one table or another.You get to see the softer side of Sherlock Holmes in this book, in his affection towards his protege. And the feelings are enhanced by the sheer intelligence of Mary Russell. It's always nice to read about smart, she would say brilliant, women and I was interested to see that although Holmes accepts her as an assistant, then associate, and finally partner, males in positions of authority still refuse to believe in her abilities, always deferring to him.I was disappointed in the heavy of the piece. After an intricate chase, where the villain leaves all manner of misleading and disturbing clues, the denouement was a bit of a let down. The pursuit was like a chess match with first one side then another getting the advantage, but the antagonist was almost 2-dimensional when introduced. I was not shocked at all by the identity or the motive. All in all, I would give this book 4 stars out of 5. I truly enjoyed reading about the deductive methods Holmes and Russell employed during their adventures. I was just disappointed in one or two chapters at the end. However, I'm not going to let that stand in the way of enjoying more books by Laurie King, both in her Russell/Holmes series and in her Kate Martinelli Mysteries.
Set in 1915, we find a retired Sherlock Holmes raising and studying bees, when he encounters fifteen year-old Mary Russell. Mary is an orphan living with her aunt. She is a voracious reader, and seems to have a knack for the Holmesian methods of detection. The two become fast friends, and as Mary goes on to study at Oxford, they partner in minor cases, until they realize that someone is trying to kill them both. This is a good story, with all the fun Sherlock Holmes deductions. I enjoyed reading it, although I found the romance a bit of a stretch.