The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes’ pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger. But when an elusive villain enters the picture, their partnership is put to a real test.
This is one of those books that is going to be hard to write a review about because it was just so fine. Like, it was good, but there was nothing to really glow about. But there wasn’t anything bad to whine about either. So I guess I don’t have much to say.
There have been a lot of Sherlock re-imaginings in the last 20 years, and they all present a slightly different version of the world’s most famous sleuth. This Sherlock was maybe the closest to Doyle’s version, but he was definitely more level-headed and prone to shows of emotion.
As I was reading, his relationship with Mary Russell was convincing and sweet. But anytime I stepped away from the book it was so out of character for him. Though King includes an “author’s note” from Russell about how Watson’s description of Holmes had become distorted over time to explain away the differences, his character wasn’t even that consistent internally. Still, it was enjoyable to read about him from a very human perspective, especially in light of recent Cumberbatch and Downey Jr. portrayals that were decidedly NOT.
Russell, on the other hand, was plenty consistent. Consistently dull. I think if I’d read this book ten years ago I would have been much more intrigued by her, but recently books about bluestockings have become dime a dozen, and this didn’t really have anything to stand out.
The main thing The Beekeeper’s Apprentice had going for it was that it was EXCITING. Especially the last quarter of the book was very page turner-y. While a little predictable, the way mysteries often are, this one was decidedly entertaining.
If you’re into period mysteries or looking for some more Holmes in your life, I heartily recommend this fun book. If, however, such things are not usually to your taste, you may wish to take a pass.