Book Blog: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
In 1915, Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honeybees when a young woman literally stumbles into 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—and match him wit for wit. Under his reluctant tutelage, this very modern twentieth-century woman proves a deft protegee and a fitting partner for the Victorian detective. In their first case together, they must track down a kidnapped American senator's daughter and confront a truly cunning adversary—a bomber who has set trip wires for the sleuths and who will stop at nothing to end their partnership. Full of brilliant deductions, disguises, and dangers, this first book of the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes mysteries is "wonderfully original and entertaining... absorbing from beginning to end." (Booklist)
The evolution of a relationship of mutual respect and affection between the sharp-witted Mary Russell and the iconicly remote Sherlock Holmes was not only utterly beguiling but frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Structurally, the use of excerpts from Holmes' fictional manual on beekeeping, which preceded each chapter, served as deftly wielded metaphor for philosophical observations of human nature. This first book in a series of thirteen novels focuses primarily on the detective training that Holmes gives to Russell, and is exactly the blend of intelligent, well-crafted literature and rousing, compelling genre fiction that I've been longing for.
It was nominated for the Agatha best novel award and deemed a Notable Young Adult novel by the American Library Association.
Readers who are tired of the "kick ass female" trope as a default response to a desire for a "strong female characters" will delight in the development of the adventurous but acerbic Mary Russell into Holmes' intellectual and deductive equal.