The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King

beekeepers apprentice

This is the first in a series of thirteen novels featuring a character called Mary Russell.  She is a crime-solving detective along the lines of Sherlock Holmes, and in this book she is tutored by that very famous literary character.  I read this book for the Sin City Bookers book club.  It is not one I would have picked up otherwise. Since I have never read anything by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I do not know Sherlock Holmes particularly well.

It seems an odd idea to me to be an author and to feature a character created by another author in your work.  I don’t know what the die-hard Holmes fans think of this series of novels but I think King did a pretty good job.  I think she achieved that because of two reasons.  One is that this book is written from the perspective of Mary so Holmes is the secondary character, which I think Conan Doyle must have done, since I believe the narrator would have been Dr Watson.  The other reason is that this is set after the famous Conan Doyle novels finished.  This is after he has retired, so it feels like fair game to resurrect him.

As King points out in the author interview at the back of the book.  The Sherlock Holmes the world knows belongs firmly in pre-WWI London.  These books are not just about Holmes, they are about an intelligent young woman and all the new opportunities the first world war brought them.  If they were in the position she was, of being upper class, having a huge inheritance and no parent or guardian raised in the Victorian age telling her what she ought to be doing.

As nice and refreshing as it is to read a book lead by a female character with other strong female characters in it I did not love this book.  It feels as though there are several mysteries to solve, and therefore almost as thought I was reading several short stories.  It all gets tied in at the end but I still felt as though this might have been a bid for a TV series rather than a novel.

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