Thursday 24 June 2010

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Pages - 338

Published in UK in 2006 by Poisoned Pen Press UK. First published in 1994

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.

The year is 1915 and we find a retired Sherlock Holmes living a reclusive life on the Sussex Downs engaged in the study of bees. A young girl named Mary Russell, literally bumps into him and so begins an extraordinary relationship. Holmes takes Russell under his wing and teaches her all he knows about solving crimes. A case occurs where an American senator's daughter is kidnapped and the two detectives set off to solve the case. Only to find that there is more to the case than meets the eye and someone wants them dead.

I will hold my hands up and admit that I have never ever read a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Am I upset by this? Yes, after reading this book, I am definitely upset. My only encounter with Sherlock Holmes has been through the Robert Downey Jnr recent film, where I learnt that Holmes was a bit of a boy and not the stuck up, superior being I had imagined, after glimpsing snippets of the BBC adaption from about twenty years ago. I now know that I need to read the Sherlock Holmes books.

I loved this book. I really enjoyed the feisty Mary Russell, who appeared as an equal to Holmes in this book. She is a strong willed young lady, who has suffered a lot in her young life and a fine example of the phrase -'what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'. Mary Russell is the first character in a book that has come along, that I actually thought I would love to be. I admire the way she deals with Holmes and the fact that she does not appear to be afraid of anything.

I was pleased to discover that other characters I had heard of from the real Sherlock Holmes mysteries were included. Mrs Hudson, Dr Watson and Moriarty were names I that I was already familiar with and I loved learning more about them.

I don't normally read mystery novels at all, but I do feel after this book I may be missing out. I had an inkling who the villian was fairly early in the book and I was right, but I didn't let that spoil my enjoyment of the book.

There was a part of the book that I could see no point to, a whole section devoted to a trip in Palestine. Why? What purpose did this part play in the story? I obviously missed something, as to me, it just seemed like an exercise in adding to the final word count. However, that is just a minor dislike and I wouldn't want it to stop other people exploring the world of Mary Russell.

This book was a perfect introduction to mystery books for me and what is fantastic is there are an abundance of books in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series left to read. I am looking forward to reading the next one.

Other reviews of this book

Things Mean A Lot
A Striped Armchair


  1. I'm so glad you loved it too, Vivienne! And the second one is just as good :)

  2. like you I have never read a Sherlock Holmes novel but your review makes me want to, starting with this. Thanks for this Vivienne.

  3. I've been wanting to read this series. glad it was a hit with you.

  4. I have been wanting to read this like forever...great review..

  5. Bookish Ruth ranted and raved about this series a year ago and I quickly purchased this first in the series. I have yet to read it (shame...shame) but I recommended it to a student of mine and she devoured the entire series last summer.

    I will definitely have to find the time to read it soon.

  6. I have the e-version of this book and really need to read it. I've never read Sherlock Holmes either and admitted it to my mother after seeing the movie - she was aghast and told me how much she loved the books as a child.

  7. Nymeth - I need to get the second one now. Guess what I picked up today? The Red Mystery by A.A. Milne.

    Petty Witter - I definitely want to continue with the series.

    Diane and Forkbootsandapalette - you must read them!

    Molly - I think Bookish Ruth has very good taste.

    Kathy - Nice to see I am not the only one.

  8. I'm such a mystery reader but I've never read any Sherlock Holmes. Gasp! I always say one of these days but you know how that goes. Anyway, I really enjoyed your review of this one. Mary does sound like a great character. I already like her just from the paragraph you quoted!

  9. Havent heard of this one and I do like mysteries so this sounds good. Thanks for great review Viv!

    Hope all is well with you and yours, sorry haven't been by in a while but I seem to have found my blogging mojo again, hope it stays around :-)

  10. I actually have this book on my wishlist and by the sound of it I might have to track it down very soon.

    I read(well listned to really) my first Sherlock Holmes this spring, A Study in Scarlett and I enjoyed it very much.

  11. Illiana - Mary is just super feisty and fabulous. Glad to see I am not the only one not to have read Sherlock Holmes.

    Teddyree - No worries. I think you have had enough on your plate lately, the last thing you need to worry about is us lot. We are always here when you come back.

    Ladybug - I definitely need to read Sherlock Holmes and soon.

  12. I don't read mysteries much either, Vivienne, although I have read some Sherlock Holmes. I bought the first few in this series for my boyfriend -based on Nymeth's recommendation- and he loved them; he has read all of Sherlock Holmes. He's taken a break from the series for some fantasy so I'm going to steal the books and read them myself (not that it was my intention to do that from the outset ;))

  13. i remember my parents reading sherlock holmes novels when i was a kid, but i never took the plunge.

    this review is so enticing--i really want to read this one and am adding it to my library list. but before reading it, i'm going to give a real SH novel a shot.

    did you enjoy the RDJr. movie? i didn't see it...
    --nat@book, line, and sinker

  14. "There was a part of the book that I could see no point to, a whole section devoted to a trip in Palestine. Why? What purpose did this part play in the story?"

    This was the author's set up as she knew she would later write a book devoted entirely to that time in Palestine. It is called "O Jerusalem" and is one of my favorites. It is the fifth book in the series and it is linked by characters to the sixth book "Justice Hall."

    I'm an avid fan of the Russell/Holme series. It is always good to read that someone else has discovered "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" and been drawn into the world of Mary Russell and her partner, Sherlock Holmes.

  15. This sounds really good. I've never read a Sherlock Holmes book myself.

  16. This sounds really good, I will definitely be adding it to my list of books to look for. I have a collection of sherlock holmes stories but I've still yet to read it - really aught to get on that!

  17. I confess as well...I never had any desire to read Sherlock Holmes...but you have me curious. Thanks!

  18. After seeing the Robert Downey Jr adaptation of Holmes, I was definitely interested in reading the stories first hand. My boyfriend's father lists them among his favorite and I have learned to appreciate his taste in books. This sounds a wonderful inclusion of the famous detective that I would definitely be interested in picking up.

    Jennifer @

  19. I've never read a Sherlock Holmes mystery either so don't feel bad. I'm not a huge mystery fan but I do like an author called P.D. James. I just picked up another of her books. I'm glad you did like this one Viv.

  20. This book sounds so good, Viv! The girl Mary is an interesting character and meets Sherlock Holmes. How cool is that! I wish I was her. Glad you enjoyed the book. It's been a while I added a book into my wish list so I'm definitely adding this one. Thanks for the review.


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