I was looking for a light-hearted mystery to fill the requirement for my library summer reading program, and The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King certainly fit the bill. I’m glad I read it.
Mary Russell is an astute young woman residing in the World War I British countryside when she meets her neighbor, a retired middle-aged gentleman known to the world as Sherlock Holmes.
It quickly becomes clear to the reader that Mary Russell’s powers of observation help make her a competent match for the retired detective. From their first meeting, Holmes and Russell form a friendship. And when Russell becomes involved in some mysteries, Holmes takes her on as his unofficial apprentice.
I enjoyed reading this book. From the introduction, Laurie King made it appear that this was a true account and that she had simply came upon the memoir. I loved that little twist to make this feel realistic. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was light-hearted, and it was fun to see a literary character in a new situation.
However, I felt I would have loved it more had I been originally familiar with Sherlock Holmes’ tales and maybe mysteries in general. I do admit that I’m curious to read Sherlock Holmes now.
It’s not that I didn’t like this book: I did. Rather, I feel unfamiliar with mysteries and therefore incompetent to comment on how this compares to others. I’m simply not sure if the mystery genre is for me. I’ve also read many of the books in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith, which I have loved. McCall-Smith’s books seem to be a bit less “mystery” filled, so maybe that’s why I enjoyed them more.
In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, most of the mysteries were solved by the ridiculous powers of observation that Holmes and Russell had (such as observing that the dirt on the scene of the crime was from a certain street in London and that the cigarette ashes were from cigarettes wrapped at a particular tobacconist shop, and so forth). I assume that these observations were a trademark of Sherlock Holmes, but I’m not certain: Are most “mysteries” (real or not) solved by the seemingly impossible-to-detect details? This was not my favorite aspect of the book; it just made it seem unbelievable to me.
But the mysteries were not what drew me in to the novel. Rather, it was Mary Russell. Russell’s development from a 15-year-old to a young woman was most beautifully captured. I liked the book because I liked Mary Russell herself.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is the first of a series of nine books about Mary Russell. While I’m not rushing out to read the others, I really did enjoy this first book. The next time I feel like a modern mystery, I’m definitely going to keep the Mary Russell series in mind!
- A Striped Armchair (the review that got me to read the book)
- Guest Post by Laurie King at A Striped Armchair
- Books and Movies (audiobook review)
- What KT Reads
- Books and Cooks
- Bookworms and Tea Lovers
- Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books
If you have reviewed The Beekeeper’s Apprentice on your site, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.