The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King, the first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, has been on my to-be-read pile for far too long! I picked it up a few years ago after starting to read/love Doyle’s classic Holmes stories. Finally taking part in the What’s in a Name event 2016 has encouraged me to read it.
One cool, sunny day in 1915 Mary Russell is taking a walk over the Sussex Downs with her nose firmly planted in a book – where she almost tramples an eccentric gentlemen who is out on the Downs counting bees. This eccentric gentlemen is none other than Sherlock Holmes, the renowned private detective, who in his retirement has moved to the country and taken up bee keeping. They immediately strike up an unlikely friendship. Under Holmes’ tutelage Mary begins to grows in knowledge, strength and confidence until she is able to solve some dastardly crimes herself.
When we first meet Mary Russell that sunny day in 1915 she is only 15 years old. Tragically her parents and brother were killed in a car crash leaving her a wealthy orphan. As she is not of age though she must suffer her unpleasant aunt living with her as her guardian. Her friendship with Holmes gives her an escape from her loneliness and boredom. While the age gap is a little creepy when you think about it I didn’t mind because their personalities suited each other so well. I enjoyed watching Mary grow physically and as a character – until she is 19 years old, studying at Oxford University and ready to start helping Holmes fight crime; because Holmes wouldn’t know how to completely retire even if he wanted too.
One of the first crimes Mary and Holmes tackle is the kidnapping of an American Senator’s young daughter while holidaying in Wales. This crime had everything I could have hoped for: an isolated setting, secrets, danger and Mary and Holmes go incognito as Romany travellers; brilliant! Mary and Holmes learn a lot from this first crime together which will stand them in better stead for when they face real danger to themselves and their friends later in the novel. The first half of this book was slower but once we hit the real danger and mystery I had trouble putting this down!
Since I bought this book I have really fallen in love with Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes novels and short-stories. While I don’t feel Holmes was the main protagonist of this book, I do think Laurie R King has drawn him well – he is older, in a new situation and solving new crimes but I always felt what King had him do and say was believable. I think I will always prefer Doyle’s classic stories however I did thoroughly enjoy getting to join Holmes in more adventures through King in this book. I would definitely be interested in reading more from this series and King.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was a comforting, nostalgic and thrilling adventure for me, which helped me to escape the dreary weather of January. Good read.
Have you read this? Can you recommend any other spin-off Sherlock Holmes books?
What’s in a Name 2016 – A Profession (1/6)