The Beekeeper's Apprentice

Rating: +

Laurie King

The Beekeeper's Apprentice picks up where the Sherlock Holmes stories left off - with Holmes retired to rural England raising bees - and throws him in the path of Mary Russell, a local girl with all of Holmes's powers of observation and a sarcastic demeanor. Mary becomes Holmes's apprentice and we watch her grow into an experienced detective and a young woman. At this point, the real mysteries and murders begin.

This was a very enjoyable book. A slightly different view of Holmes was given, but it was a believable version of how he would appear to Mary. Always important in a mystery novel, the mysteries are interesting. The answers aren't obvious but the clues aren't hidden either. There is lots of Holmes-style puzzling and deducing, but also some behind the scenes descriptions of what he does when he's off investigating mysteries.

It isn't necessary to have read the Holmes stories to enjoy this book, but I think it adds a lot. Allusions are made to previous cases, and other characters make appearances - most notably Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and Holmes's brother. These characters are treated with affection as well, and it was very satisfying to watch them interact with more feeling than the original stories contained. The relationships are given more attention here.

The most compelling relationship is the one between Holmes and Mary. Their transition into one of equal colleagues from a teacher/student role is well done. Holmes has understandable tensions about working with a partner for the first time. Over time, he takes on a paternal role for Mary, who lost her family in a car crash when she was a child and now lives with a hostile aunt. Neither of them are used to trusting another person, particularly with their feelings, and they are both independent people. Taken together, these factors lead to a rich but occasionally tense friendship.

Perhaps the strongest praise I can give this book is that I went out and bought the sequel the same afternoon I finished it. A definite '+'.


Review written July 2001.


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