Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Review: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

I'll be honest, I had a hard time writing this review. Not because the book is bad. On the contrary, I found this book so wonderful, I passed it onto my mother. The reason I'm finding it hard to write a review is because it's so hard to for me to explain it. There's so much that I want to tell you about The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King!

To begin with, it's a mystery. Not just any mystery, though. It's a Sherlock Holmes mystery. On the other hand, it's not a Sherlock Holmes mystery because a) it's not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and b) it's not about Sherlock Holmes.

The book is about Mary Russell, a brilliant young woman who one day stumbles upon the great detective while out on a stroll across the Sussex Downs. From that moment, her life changes completely.

Already graced with her own keen intellect, she is taken under Holmes's wing the summer before her first semester at Oxford. Under his tutelage, she learns the art of detection and disguise.

Yet there's more. Holmes and Russell are not just tutor and pupil. They're kindred spirits. A brilliant mind is hard to find, if you believe the serendipity in Laurie R. King's book, and their's is a partnership that seems to have been divined by the stars. Russell is hungry for knowledge and Holmes is more than happy to provide her with the foundations of a sound detective's mind, yet he recognizes her as an equal, not just an untouched block of clay.

The story begins with Russell's tutelage under Holmes in his Sussex cottage and quickly shifts to the first mystery of the novel. Holmes and Russell travel to Wales to find the kidnapped daughter of an American senator. Disguised as wandering gypsies, they rescue the girl from an unnamed villain by working together. This sets the stage for the main conflict of the story—someone is after Holmes and his close friends, including Russell.

I can't get over how well-written this book is. King is a master at writing well-crafted dialogue that sounds natural. And the narration provided by Mary Russell herself stirred me to read some passages aloud for the simple pleasure of having the words come out of my mouth. With such weighty characters as Holmes and Dr. Watson to work with, there's a danger in losing the true voice of the character, but King doesn't. Each character, both her own and any that she has borrowed, sounds genuine. Holmes in particular is a masterpiece. Compassionate, witty and brilliant, he is a Holmes that you can believe in.

When it comes down to it, though, I have to say that Russell is by far my favourite character, but I believe we're meant to root for her anyway. She holds her own against Holmes' scathing wit and has her fair share of well-crafted passages.

I'm excited for the next book in the series, and then the next, and then the next. I think Ms. King is a fantastic author and I plan on reading the entire Mary Russell series.

I was inspired to read The Beekeeper's Apprentice because of A Striped Armchair. Not only did A Striped Armchair write a great review on the book, but then the wonderful Laurie R. King came along and wrote a guest-post for her!

Rating: 5/5


Kate said...

I was so surprised and pleased to read your review. This series is one of my all time favourites. Isn't this book superbly written? I don't remember much hoo ha about it and yet it is so wonderful.
I found it by accident and I'm so glad I did!

Anonymous said...

I love this series! I've read the first five, and they are all very good - I remember that feeling after finishing the first one, that feeling of "Oh, I love this, and there are so many more left to read!"

Olga said...

@Kate: Thank you for the comment! I think it's one of the most understated books I've ever read. I think a lot of people find the Mary Russell books by accident!

@Carrie: That's exactly how I feel. There are so many more to go! I haven't been this excited about a series in awhile. :)