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Book Name: The Beekeeper's Apprentice: or, On the Segregation of the Queen

Author: Laurie R. King

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Overall Rating: (4.33/5) View all reviews (total 57 reviews)

Sherlock Holmes takes on a young, female apprentice in this delightful and well-wrought addition to the master detective's casework. In the early years of WW I, 15-year-old American Mary Russell encounters Holmes, retired in Sussex Downs where Conan Doyle left him raising bees. Mary, an orphan rebelling against her guardian aunt's strictures, impresses the sleuth with her intelligence and acumen. Holmes initiates her into the mysteries of detection, allowing her to participate in a few cases when she comes home from her studies at Oxford. The collaboration is ignited by the kidnapping in Wales of Jessica Simpson, daughter of an American senator. The sleuthing duo find signs of the hand of a master criminal, and after Russell rescues the child, attempts are made on their lives (and on Watson's), with evidence piling up that the master criminal is out to get Holmes and all he holds dear. King ( A Grave Talent ) has created a fitting partner for the Great Detective: a quirky, intelligent woman who can hold her own with a man renowned for his contempt for other people's thought processes.Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.


An interesting new spin on the world's most famous detective

by 3rdeadly3rd

Of all the creations of all fiction writers, Sherlock Holmes holds a special place in the hearts of any fans of the whodunit. His sharp mind and ability to deduce the seemingly impossible from such mundane things as the sound of a guest's footsteps have earned him this honoured position. As such, any author or filmmaker who attempts to update or parody him is in a difficult situation (and such updates and parodies have frequently been done).Laurie King's "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" has fulfilled the expectations both of the whodunit reader and the Holmes fan. The title refers to Holmes' leisure pursuit of beekeeping and the "apprentice" is the 15-year-old half-American girl Mary Russell. Much of the novel features the deductive duels between Holmes and Russell, duels in which the apprentice acquits herself admirably.King's setting of "Apprentice" as being considerably after Arthur Conan Doyle's stories (roughly the early 20th century) enables her to make some attempts at social commentary. Russell (as Holmes constantly refers to her) is a feminist and demonstrably equal to many of Holmes' tasks, Holmes of course has some trouble in accepting this. Furthermore, the Russell character is given an interesting background progressively during the novel - without giving the plot away, I'll simply say that it explains much about her family arrangement.The temptation with resurrecting classic literary characters is always that the new author will simply feature the same sort of adventures over again. Rest assured, however, this is far from a rehash of "Hound Of The Baskervilles", "The Blue Carbuncle" or any of Conan Doyle's originals. In fact, Holmes' comments about the inaccuracy of Doyle's work are an unexpected bonus to this novel. That said, the old favourites do put in appearances. Mrs Hudson is still Holmes' housekeeper, Dr Watson still can't quite grasp what Holmes is up to and Mycroft still works at his vaguely-defined government job. There's even an Inspector Lestrade, admittedly the son of the famous one. Even Holmes' most famous nemesis, Professor Moriarty, makes a posthumous appearance - the author of some mathematical problems which Russell encounters.Overall, "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" is a worthy inclusion to the Holmes canon. Nothing of Holmes' acerbic wit has been lost in the transition, and in Russell he has gained a partner considerably more his equal than Watson ever could have been. After the necessary introductions, the novel picks up pace and becomes a veritable page-turner.The downside is that there is a slight over-reliance on Holmes' earlier work. While it is possible to work out whodunit before the climactic ending, doing so requires both the customary Holmesian thought processes and making the odd educated guess about one or two events.That said, "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" is only the first in a series which currently runs to some 5 or 6 novels. As such, it is a highly recommended read, as it sets up much of the events of the sequel ("A Monstrous Regiment Of Women"). While King's constant "literary conceit" throughout the series of having received these novels in manuscript form from an anonymous donor does get a bit pointless at times, the quality of work in these "anonymous manuscripts" is high enough to forgive her that much.A highly recommended novel.

But Our Hero Was Not Dead...

by "ali-alina"

Sherlock Holmes is certainly not dead, nor inactive in any way. Quite on the contrary, he's busy with hives of bees, a nagging Mrs. Hudson (for his own good, mind), and did I happen to mention a young feminist protogee and a stalker out to torture the mind before killing?Anyone who loves Holmes but not particularly the rather more stale and oh-so stuffly worded Victorian works of Doyle, this is a refreshing and relieving story of mystery, suspense, and the human mind. I read this book when I was 13 years old and fell in love with the series. I've passed the book on to over twenty people, including two English professors and a multitude of my friends' parents. You have to love the sparkle of Russell's sharp and pointed personality, a good and sound board for Holmes' own edgy self. If that can't convince you to read the book, I don't know any other way!Enjoy, and remember to start it over the weekend; I stayed up until 4 in the morning on a Wednesday night to finish it in one night!

Good opening novel, need development

by Amazon Customer

Interesting premise, and the principal characters are plausible enough. There is an inordinate amount of time spent on what shoes she should be wearing at any given moment, no doubt an important personal issue but not a real plot mover. There are several, dare I say elementary, mistakes in Sherlockology, most notably a false history of the origin of Holmes' relationship with Mrs Hudson mistaking the Hudson in The Adventure of the Gloria Scott for some relation with the venerable Mrs Hudson of whom little is actually known.The plot is somewhat drawn out but encouraging enough to try a second installment and see if Ms. King can grow this idea.

Excellent Start to a Series

by A. Reid

There's some kind of chutzpah involved in creating an apprentice for arguably the greatest literary detective of all time, but Laurie King takes the plunge fearlessly--and she does it well. The Sherlock Holmes that 15-year-old Marry Russell encounters is not entirely the Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle's description, and King is unapologetic about that. Her first person narrator announces flatly that Doyle's narrator, Watson, got it wrong. But the Holmes that King creates is believable, intelligent, compelling--and an excellent mentor and foil for our young heroine.Some readers may miss the spirit that we find in Doyle or in many other classic mystery writers--Christie and Queen come to mind. There is something satisfying in being presented with clues and offered an opportunity to solve the puzzles ourselves before being, like Watson, completely flummoxed by the ability of the detective to make connections we miss (that in retrospect are sometimes obvious). At least this entry in the Mary Russell series is more passive entertainment. We follow along with her development and the growing risks and challenges of her fledgling detective career.The story did not evoke edge-of-the seat excitement for me, but the smooth-flowing prose and interesting challenges the pair faced were more than enough to keep me reading and to encourage me to pick up the second book in the series. I anticipate spending many happy hours in the borrowed and expanded world of Ms. King.

charming pastiche of the century's favorite detective

by audrey

I have been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for a long time and have enjoyed the parodies written by other authors also. I'd have to say that this first in the series by Laurie King is exceptionally good. Holmes has retired to Sussex to keep bees and one day he meets Mary Russell, a lonely and unhappy teenager, wandering the hills. He is immediately surprised by her intellect and the two strike up an unusual but satisfying friendship. Eventually, and inevitably, they solve some mysteries together.Ms. King is a fine writer, and the story and characters (including Watson, Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade) are quite fun, with Mary acting as the narrator. Wouldn't it be nice for Holmes to have this humanizing friendship! Delightful read, and essential for open-minded Holmes fans.

Decent read but not in league of recent Holmes fiction

by B. Capossere

I came to the Beekeeper's Apprentice after reading the three very recent works of Holmes-based fiction: Michael Chabon's The Final Solution, Mitch Cullin's A Trick of the Mind, and Caleb Carr's The Italian Secretary. Unfortunately, I think this chronology did a disservice to Laurie King, who has written a serviceably entertaining book but one that pales next to Cullin or Chabon's takes on an older Holmes (Carr's, on the other hand, was a disappointment and ranks about on par with Beekeeper's).Beekeeper is the first in King's series of Mary Russell books and introduces us to the 15-yr-old title character as she literally stumbles over a fifty-ish and semi-retired Holmes (he's lying on the ground studying bees). The rest of the book details from Mary's perspective the growing relationship between the two of them as Holmes, recognizing her obvious intellect and observational skills, takes her on as an apprentice and perhaps, it's hinted as the book moves along, as something more.Along the way the two solve together (thought the degree of partnership varies) several minor local cases, a more important more distant case, and finally a true "masterminded" mystery that threatens both of their lives.The Holmes here is not exactly the Holmes of Doyle, but is close enough that most fans won't mind. At times his emotions seem a bit uncomfortably displayed for the Holmes we know, and the references to concerns about his mind seem a bit overblown (he is after all 50 not 90, as in the Chabon and Cullin books), but those are relatively minor annoyances. For the most part he's a fondly familiar but still original version.Russell is certainly a strong character with a good narrative voice, but she consistently reads well above her stated ages throughout the book. In a better vein, King does a good job of showing her learning the ropes for though she is clearly a superior intellect, there are many times early on where she is a step or two behind the more experienced Holmes. As she gains experience, these times happen less and less, as it should be.The mysteries themselves are all pretty pallid I thought, the first somewhat intentionally. There is little actual sense of suspense in the book and even the big mystery at the end is sort of ho-hum, not helped by a long interruption as Holmes and Russell decamp for Palestine. The solutions are mostly declared to the reader as Holmes and/or Russell rattle off clues that the reader didn't have. Whether this is a detraction or not depends more on personal whim I'd guess. I prefer having a chance to solve the mystery and so this became a negative for me; others may not mind.Watson, Mycroft, and other well-known Holmes characters make their appearance and while they all have some nice small touches, none of them feel really fully there. Perhaps this changes in later books in the series as we see them more often.In the end, as mentioned above, Beekeeper is a serviceable read. It has some pacing issues where it seems to lag a bit, there are some minor character annoyances, it lacks somewhat in suspense, and if you prefer to try and "beat" the detective you don't have that option here. But it is mildly entertaining, Russell is a strong character (if perhaps a bit too much so), and Holmes is fondly brought to life (again, perhaps a bit too much so with regard to his emotional nature). It doesn't rise anywhere near the quality in terms of writing or impact as either Trick of the Mind or The Final Solution, but it admittedly has different aims (for instance, tough to write a sad near-eulogy for Holmes if you plan on writing an entire series).While I won't continue on in the series myself, there just isn't enough here to entice me in to the exclusion of other books, I can see where some would happily if not excitedly continue in. A mild recommendation.

Not Perfect, But Enjoyable

by Bre "Cthulu Fhtagan!"

He's cranky, antisocial, vaguely brilliant...and bored out of his mind.An interesting take on our favorite detective in his....umm...golden years, I suppose? Holmes has evolved into a cranky, and obviously a bit nearsighted man, because he mistakes Mary Russell for a boy in the first pages. As a heroine, I very much liked Russel, who seems like a strong female lead to me. She's intelligent(right up on par with cranky!Holmes)and seems like a good companion for the retired detective.Apprentice grabs your attention right away, and holds it throughout the book as Mary and Holmes solve various cases, and one very big and troubling one. I liked the interaction between these two intelligent characters, even if maybe Holmes isn't as astoundingly brilliant as the canon. I think, the thing you have to understand is, that Holmes has evolved as a person in this series. So...he is not exactly a blueprint model of canon Holmes. I appreciate this, because it's different from countless carboard pastiches. I think it's good for writers to change him up somewhat.Not perfect, because I hated "stupid Watson" who is a definate deviation from the original tales. He's a blundering fool here, and I think he deserves better.I would suggest this pastiche, even if you haven't read the original short stories/novels. It can be enjoyed on both sides.

An Unique, Creative Holmesian Mystery Series

by Carl E. Ahlm

I have long been a bit of a snob on works about Holmes that are not by Doyle himself. Certainly, my wife had given me Hardwick or Meyer over the years, which I did like, but they just were not Doyle. My interest perked somewhat with some of Larry Millett's work about Holmes, which I found a bit more creative and interesting. When this novel, "The Beekeeper's Apprentice," was first suggested to me - Holmes and a young girl - come on! It actually did take me a few years before I picked it up to read, and . . . . I simply loved this first "Mary Russell" and Sherlock Holmes book. I found the characters to be delightful and refreshing, the plot was innovative as certainly the situation was as well, the tone was well maintained and it was simply believable. This is the beginning to what I hope is a creative, unique, Holmesian mystery series. I am looking forward to following this pair of people into the future and seeing where King takes them. Relax, sit back and just enjoy a well written and clever mystery!

Not bad, but not thrilling either

by Chris Brunner

I am really torn on how to rate this book, I will say it could have gone either 2.5 stars of 3.5 stars I just can't make up my mind so I figured I would split the difference. I will do my best to lay out why I liked it and why I didn't and let you decide what to make of my review. I want this review to be informative and hopefully help some one decided if this is the book for them either way.So here are my gripes, first and foremost I am not a fan of how Dr Watson is portrayed in this book. Mary Russell constantly calls him names and belittles his roll in the Holmes stories. I know these are fictional characters and fictional circumstances but I have grown fond of the characters of Holmes and Watson and I feel like I need to defend John Watson a bit. Yes Miss Russell affectionately calls him Uncle John but that doesn't make up for the fact she tears apart Watson throughout the story.My other big gripe is Holmes and his affection for Marry Russell. I knew going into this that there was going to be some romantic story line in this and I wasn't sure how I would feel about this. I like to see a softer side of Holmes and if it is done well I can easily see this as the next step in the Holmes story. However, in this book it seemed to be the only plot with a mystery thrown in and that bugged me. The mystery could have been something worthy of being written by Doyle himself but because it took a back seat to the on again off again relationship, it was lacking and I wanted more. The ending felt less than spectacular when the reveal came even though it was quite an interesting twist.So what I liked was slightly contrary to my gripes. I liked the relationship between Holmes,and Russell. Yes it took up most of the story and I was left wanting in the mystery department but like I have mentioned before. I do like seeing a softer side to Holmes from time to time. The characters were written well, Holmes felt like Doyle's at times and so did Mycroft and Watson when they were present. The mystery had potential, there was something there that in the beginning I was looking forward to reading about Holmes solving another case with true deductive reasoning. As I have said it took a back seat to the relationship and I felt it needed a bit more action. Less talking and more suspense and mystery.All of that being said my interests have been peaked, I will be continuing on with the series because I want to see where Laurie R King takes these characters. My hopes are that since the relationship has been clearly defined the next book holds more mystery and holds my attention better. The final thing I must touch on is the one thing I have no idea how I feel about. Laurie R King writes at the beaning of this book that she didn't write it. She was sent a trunk full of relics and several manuscripts from an unknown. These were supposedly written by Mary Russell as narratives setting up that these books are true and these characters a real. Sure this is a fun idea and Doyle had Watson write the Holmes stories as narratives so it sort of fits. However, the more I think about it the more I don't know if this is a nice touch, or a sad attempt to please Holmes fans.

Exquisitely crafted

by Chris "Okie"

I've enjoyed Sherlock Holmes both generally and specifically since I was a young kid. I've had a ton of fun with the various movies and TV shows, both those based directly on Conan Doyle's work and the various spin-offs and parodies.I stumbled across The Beekeeper's Apprentice in a bookstore and figured it would make a great gift for my mystery loving wife. She enjoyed the book thoroughly and has devoured the many books that follow in the series.After being told again and again how good it was, I finally got around to reading Beekeeper over the past couple of weeks. I already had a general sense of what to expect and I've also had a few spoilers of events in future books that shed different light on some of the passages in this first book. Knowing those changes would be coming made me appreciate the way King has woven her tales together with minute allusions throughout.The pace started out slowly and innocently enough with the introduction of Mary Russell and a now-retired Sherlock Holmes settled in a remote countryside estate. The initial conversation between the pair was humorous and did a good job of immediately giving us a lot of depth into Mary's personality.The general flow of the novel was fluid and natural. As Sherlock took Mary into an unofficial apprenticeship, it was fun to read about her training and their interactions. I wasn't quite sure what would happen once Holmes decided she was "ready", but once again I was pleased with the way King handled the transition from apprentice to novice to partner.The various initial "cases" that Mary and Sherlock embarked on together were interesting and I loved the way they grew in importance and complexity. I felt like King did a good job of explaining the in-depth analysis of the Consulting Detective and his apprentice. There were still moments when the minutia felt a little over the top and silly, but I felt the same about some of the explanations given in the Conan Doyle works.Once Sherlock and Mary were involved in their major case for the last ~half of the book, things really took off and I was excited by the intensity of the case. I was a little saddened by the interlude while the two spent time in Jerusalem. It provided great moments for character development as well as opening up a few elements to be used later, but overall it felt to me as a pause in the action that was just a little too lengthy and almost made me want to skip ahead to their return to London. I'm glad I didn't as the narrative was very interesting, but still, it felt a little disjointed.My other complaint (another very minor one) was Mary's age. I acknowledge that she is supposed to be very intelligent/wise and mature for her age, but too often she felt MUCH older than her teenage self (and even her early-twenty-year-old self). The book takes us through ~5-8 years (I forget exactly) and matures Mary from mid-teens to early-twenties. And yet, I didn't feel any real sense of aging in our protagonist. Perhaps that's to suggest that she already had her adult sensibilities in her early teens, but I still would have liked to have seen something a little more dramatic as she aged. At the same time, hormonal instability or teenage angst would have felt very out of place and been rather distracting, so it's better that she stayed constant.Don't get me wrong, Mary did learn from Sherlock and improved in her deductive abilities and trusting her instincts. She had the inborn tendencies to follow in Sherlock's footsteps as evidenced in the first chapter. By the end of the book, she was certainly on par with the master who had taught her and her methods were refined.The story was engaging and entertaining. The mystery was puzzling and fun, though it does sometimes annoy me me when the author doesn't give the reader enough information to solve the mystery without the help of the protagonists. Still, that's a difficult balance to maintain, since providing too many clues can make a mystery predictable and boring. Given the choice, I'd rather have the story end this way.I really enjoyed this book, the story, the characters, the writing. It was a great read and I'll work my way through the rest of the series over time. Fans of mystery and/or Holmes, should certainly enjoy this.****4 out of 5 stars

a different twist on a old favorite

by C. Starelli "avid reader"

enjoyed this book, I love Sherlock Holmes mysteries. A great mystery with a new partner besides Dr. Watson, Sherlock has an apprentice who becomes worthy to be his partner.

Cannot finish ...

by Cyn

I'm annoyed that I wasted an entire day listening to this book.I'm currently at the point where she's in college and has just escaped from being caught disguising herself as an Indian. At this point, I've decided to quit and not throw away any more time on this nauseating piece of work.The main flaw: the MAIN character. She's a Mary Sue, plain and simple - she's annoyingly 'perfect' and oh, so very talented in SO many areas. One reviewer described her as self-congratulatory - and that's quite true. She's self-congratulatory to the point of being annoying and downright unlikable.At first, I thought it was just me - that I had an erroneous perception about the character. But I've realized since then that I'm not alone in this outlook. When I cannot like the main protagonist of a story, it spells doom for the entire book. That's when it's time to stop.So goodbye, Mary Russell - wish I'd never known you.

A great beginning...

by Denise A. Tucker "Author of Keeping House, A ...

One of the greatest icons in the realms of mystery is the great Sherlock Holmes. And Laurie King has masterfully began a new chapter in the great detective's life is this novel. Beekeeper's apprentice gives us a delicious twist in bringing Holmes out of retirement by bringing a young lady into his life, a brilliant orphan teenage girl with skills of observation and deduction to match his own. Now Holmes moves into the unlikely role of mentor and into a new relationship with his new apprentice that saves his own wellbeing. The Beekeeper's Apprentice is a delight from the very first page! An instant classic for all mystery lovers!

Audacious, brave, fun, and well-written

by Erica "Erica"

Give Laurie King credit: it takes nerve to poach Sherlock Holmes, flesh him out into middle-age, and dump a fifteen-year-old whiz-kid misfit into his life. But boy, does she succeed. Mary Russell is every bit as Holmsian as Holmes, and she will not be gainsaid. Nor will she be bullied, patronized, or pawned off to the research end of their growing partnership. Holmes believes in her, and so does Laurie King, and this is where "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" goes from good to great. There's no silly tossing of heads or insults (well, not many), and although Holmes does go haring off into the undergrowth occasionally, there's always a logical reason for it.Smart, beautifully written,lush with detail, and absolutely believable, "Beekeeper's Apprentice" is one of the best reads around.

Wonderful characterization and plot development

by F. Orion Pozo "Orion Pozo"

I was all set to dislike this mystery that matches up a retired Sherlock Holmes with a 15 year old orphan girl. However the book, told from the point of view of the young Mary Russell, is totally captivating. I have fallen in love with this odd couple team of detectives. The author, Laurie King, does a wonderful job of showing the developing relationship between these two brilliant people separated by a generation and gender, and at the same time tells a great detective story. I look forward to more books in this series.

A Great Addition to Holmesian Literature!

by frfubar8 "joe reader"

I am an avid admirer of "The Canon" and indeed all things Sherlockian and I must say that of all the Holmes-Addendums out there, and Ms. King's novels are by far the best. *I have read some horrible attempts at using the Holmes character/genera and a few good ones, none can match this series!* Mary Russell's character has depth, and believability. Holmes is presented in a style that rings true and yet is more dimensional than Conan-Doyle's original creation. I purchased the book initially in PB, and came back to get the series in hardcover. A good investment as these are books that you will want to read over and over again. I cannot recommend The Beekeeper's Apprentice highly enough. Kudos to Ms. King and I hope she continues to add to this great foundation for some time to come.

Very Enjoyable Start to a Series

by Happy Chappy "An Avid Reader."

I found this book very enjoyable. The relationship between Mr. Holmes and Mary Russel evolved very slowly and naturally. There were just enough smaller mysteries involved in the story to advance the plot, while moving towards the main mystery. I really think that Laurie King has not missed a beat with her version of Sherlock Holmes. It is easy to see why this book is so very well reviewed (with the exception of a couple of reviewers on this site; which shocked me). I highly recommend reading this book. I can't wait to read the rest.

reprint of the first Russell-Holmes collaboration

by Harriet Klausner

In 1915 fifteen year old expatriate American orphan Mary Russell meets retired detective Sherlock Holmes in Sussex Downs. The sleuth finds the feisty intelligent heiress much more refreshing than the bees he normally communicates with. He decides to make her his apprentice in the science of detecting on the condition she keeps her studies at Oxford up. When she is at her new home, her aunt's house, and he on a case, he will train her.She works a few minor cases for Holmes when they are asked to investigate the kidnapping of American senator Simpson in Wales. They quickly conclude that a genius is behind the abduction of Jessica. After Russell proves her worth by rescuing Jessica, someone tries to kill her, Holmes and Dr. Watson. The sleuths believe the same criminal behind the kidnapping wants to destroy Holmes.This is a reprint of the first Russell-Holmes collaboration and though over a decade old with several subsequent sequels since, THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE retains a freshness. The story line grips the audience from the moment the precocious teen meets the beekeeper partly because of the terrific rendition of the lead characters as Homes seems Doyle like and more and partly because England in WW I comes alive. The mystery is clever, but it is the meeting of the minds that makes Laurie R. King's tale more than just a well done homage.Harriet Klausner

"Twenty years ago," he murmured. "Even ten. But here? Now?"

by H. Bala "Me Too Can Read"

In creator Arthur Conan Doyle's universe the celebrated Sherlock Holmes almost had no intellectual peer, the Great Detective thumping the wicked with a clinical, disdainful air, because for him it really was that easy and elementary. But anything goes in the realm of literary pastiche. Down the years several authors have proposed that, in his time, Holmes actually ran into women who proved to be his cerebral match. Most famously there is "the woman" Irene Adler, whom Carole Nelson Douglas would showcase in her own series. Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes mysteries recount the adventures of Sherlock's superb younger sister. Lora Roberts'sThe Affair of the Incognito Tenant: A Mystery With Sherlock Holmesfeatures the very clever head housekeeper - and pretty widow - Mrs. Charlotte Dodson. But, off all these female geniuses, the one to whom I gravitate the most is Laurie R. King's tall, gangly, bespectacled Mary Russell.THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE - sub-titled "Or On the Segregation of the Queen," which was originally King's main title for the book before some sense was knocked into her - launches this terrific mystery series, which is nine books strong so far. It introduces Mary Russell as a precocious but troubled 15-year-old orphan who, one day in 1915 and with book in hand, goes on an absentminded constitutional in the bucolic countryside of Sussex Downs and nearly tramples an aging snippy beekeeper who turns out to be the retired Sherlock Holmes. The ensuing (and initially frosty) conversation between Mary and Holmes is crucial in that it serves to either hook you in or turn you off. Happily the person of Mary Russell, so similar to Holmes in surprising ways, draws you in immediately. She right away demonstrates her force of character, her acerbic wit, and her daunting intellect. For a Great Detective in the decline, the brilliant presence of Mary Russell raises an intriguing challenge: '"Twenty years ago," he murmured. "Even ten. But here? Now?"'The first half of the book spans Mary's formative years as she blossoms under Holmes's tutelage. Mary wouldn't realize this for a while, but Holmes's companionship and imparted lessons are geared towards the nurturing of her detective prowess. THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE immerses you in passages recounting Mary's experiences at University, although those moments pale when compared to Mary's collaborations with Holmes on his criminal caseworks (you didn't think he'd stay retired, did you?). In these increasingly perilous mysteries - a poisoning, a pilfering of ham, and a kidnapping of a 6-year-old girl - Mary acquits herself well, gaining invaluable experience which she would call upon in the imminent storm.Laurie R. King is a great writer. She immerses the reader completely in the bustle and atmosphere of a post-Victorian era England, firmly placing her characters in evocative time and place. Hansom cabs have given way to motor cars, and a funny moment surfaces as Mary recklessly tools down the night roads in her Morris with Holmes as an increasingly reluctant passenger:- Holmes: "Russell, if you decide to take up Grand Prix racing, do ask Watson to do your navigating. This is just his metier."- Russell: "Why, Holmes, do you have doubts about my driving?"- Holmes: "No, Russell, I freely admit that when it comes to your driving abilities, I have no doubts whatsoever."Longtime fans of Holmes might shudder a bit because King veers off the canonical in certain spots. One of the most intriguing twists is perhaps that she portrays Holmes as able to co-exist with a *gasp* woman as an equal in all facets. The key again is that King succeeds in creating a willful, dynamic, brilliant female character who will never take a backseat to anyone. And the author invests enough vulnerability in Mary that she earns your sympathy, what with Mary's tragic past and the rapacity of her hateful aunt. The author also does well to explore the sense of turbulence and change so prevalent in this World War I climate, this by fallout rendering Mary's close association with Holmes a more acceptable societal behavior.The main draw of this series is, of course, the delightful and ever developing partnership of Mary and Holmes. Laurie R. King's extrapolation ranges from presenting the two in a father/daughter relationship, in a comrades-in-arms relationship, as well as a tutor/apprentice one. There's even a tastefully rendered romantic possibility raised, perhaps to be more fully explored somewhere down the road. Rooting for Mary Russell results in speedy dividends, proving time and time again what a fine protagonist she is. There are several instances when Mary is the one who arrives at the crucial clue. Mary's prodigious talents as an investigator not only cement her credibility but also, because she does manage to occasionally one-up him, serve to humanize Holmes and make him into a more likeable character. I really like Laurie R. King's interpretation of him, which, while not considered canonical, is still a wonderful exploration of the man behind the myth. She mostly still portrays Holmes as the arrogant genius sleuth, but there's a self-deprecating trait which emerges in Holmes whenever he interacts with Mary. Another constant to savor is the witty, sometimes caustic dialogue between the two, with Mary again giving as good as she gets and Holmes establishing that he does have a sense of humor. Another great moment pops up very early on as Holmes and Mary, still strangers to each other, engage in that longstanding cornerstone of the Holmes mythos, his so-called "parlor tricks," with Mary drawing insightful conclusions thru mere observation and impressing the hell out of Holmes. Thus is the Great Detective's famously misogynistic nature so readily circumvented.Laurie R. King takes these venerable characters and, with a twist here and a nudge there, re-introduces them thru Mary's keen eyes as fresh characters. The matronly Mrs. Hudson still housekeeps for Holmes but now she also surrogates as mother to the lonely 15-year-old. Mary's thoughts on Watson is interesting in that she initially vilifies the good doctor - until, that is, she meets him in person for the first time and is swiftly struck with his aura of "goodness." Yet, even though Watson has a great, selfless heart, I couldn't help but feel a touch of melancholy for him, with Russell having so completely supplanted him as Holmes's partner. This is again a testament to Laurie King's great writing. It's also cool that Mycroft Holmes is given an important role. And there's even a crucial nod to Professor Moriarty.Things get super-deadly in the novel's second half as a determined mastermind begins to target Holmes and his inner circle. This unknown adversary proves to be so devious that Holmes's every act is alarmingly anticipated and thwarted. The first half of THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE is marked by an episodic tone as the author tends to leap ahead in years and focus on unrelated cases and Mary's time in academia. The second half amps up the suspense as Holmes and Russell find themselves pushed to the brink. There are disguises galore, red herrings aplenty, danger lurking from every corner, and then a surprising move on Holmes's part, which would later lead to the fifth entry in the seriesO Jerusalem. The end nears with a painful masquerade and a surprising denouement. In all a very, very satisfying reading experience (and this is my third time reading this).Going off on a tangent now, I guess these last two paragraphs are for those who are jonesing for more Sherlock Holmes stories. This is strictly off the top of my head, but, in the realm of literary pastiche alone, I've read of Sherlock Holmes encountering the likes of Sigmund Freud (Nicholas Meyer'sThe Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. (Norton Paperback), also a fantastic movie), Jack the Ripper (Michael Dibdin'sThe Last Sherlock Holmes Story: Stage 3 (Oxford Bookworms Library, Crime & Mystery), Lyndsay Faye'sDust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson), and Irene Adler in Carole Nelson Douglas's pastiches (which regularly feature a Holmes & Watson appearance). Even more outrageously, Holmes goes up against Dracula (Saberhagen's The Holmes-Dracula File & Estleman'sSherlock Holmes vs. Dracula), Mr. Hyde (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes), and an eldritch Lovecraftian creature (Zelazny's awesomeA Night in the Lonesome October, which also features Jack the Ripper as a protagonist). There's even a book out there somewhere in which Holmes faces off against that Oriental menace Fu Manchu.This last one is kind of cheating, because it's a movie rather than a book, but one of my favorite takes on Holmes & Watson isWithout a Clue, a comedy thriller which postulates that the brains of the outfit was in fact Dr. Watson and that Holmes was a mere drunken actor hired to portray the dashing sleuth. I can't recommend it enough.

a very good step forward in time.

by it's me

An interesting perspective and idea to advance the stories of The Great Detective. The twist of having a woman and being in the modern era and bringing in a different cultural perspective helps make it flow.

Holmes lives

by Jaylia3

A smart mystery set in WWI era England that features an intelligent young heroine who can match wits with the theoretically (but not actually) retired Sherlock Holmes AND there are lots of sequels already published--what more could you ask of the first book in a series?

Five stars for all of Laurie King's 'Mary Russell' books.

by jbg

I started in the middle of the series, and eagerly anticipated reading this book, the first.This is a keeper. The other 'Mary Russell' books I've read on loan on Kindle (and enjoyed them all), but this is the one I wanted in hardcopy to treasure for myself, to have at hand for the comfort and joy of re-reading a favorite story, beautifully told, on a wet rainy evening.

Mary Russell and her mentor (You may have heard of him)

by J. Carroll "Jack"

Laurie King does something in The Beekeeper's Apprentice that few have been able to accomplish; bring back a beloved character successfully. The Holmes presented in King's novel is more accessible than Doyle's , more human and maybe, more believable. By presenting the reader with an intellectual match for Holmes, in the form of Mary Russell, King has given Holmes an equal to play off of, not a Watson who stood in constant awe of Holmes' skills. The storyline itself presents the author with the typical problem of how to introduce the characters without boring the reader with exposition, and King does an admirable job in solving this difficulty. The mysteries and their solutions are well thought out and fit well into the established Holmes mythology. Any Holmes' fan should be will be well satisfied with this version of the "Great Detective."

The beginning of a beautiful friendship

by Jeanne Tassotto

This is the first book of the Mary Russell series of novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and his protege Mary Russell.Tragedy had struck hard at Mary Russell. Her parents and little brother had been killed in a car accident in her native America. The accident had left Mary scarred both physically and emotionally. It had also left her a very wealthy young woman, one who owned large amounts of property in both America and England but since Mary was still a teenager it was determined that she have a guardian, a suitable older female relative to guide her through the perils that would face a young heiress in the early days of the 20th century. While Mary's guardian might have been deemed 'suitable' by her solicitors her Aunt was far from that in Mary's opinion. The aggravating woman often drove Mary from the isolated Sussex farmhouse they lived in to wander the countryside seeking quiet places to read. On one of her escapes Mary met her reclusive neighbor, an older gentleman who was peacefully tending his bee hives when Mary (literally) bumped into him. Mary was quite surprised to discover that her neighbor was none other than the 'fictional' detective Sherlock Holmes and also that he took an interest in her, a quiet, bookish schoolgirl. The unlikely pair soon formed an unlikely friendship, with Mary becoming the Great Detective's apprentice.When first hearing about a series of novels involving Sherlock Holmes in a relationship with a girl quite young enough to be his daughter most people react with a feeling of distaste but after the first few pages the charm of the story erases the 'creepy' factor. Holmes treats young Mary as an equal, as a young person who may be in need of a mentor but one who can match him in intelligence and insight. The adventures the two share are interesting and challenging, the verbal exchanges between the two are worthy of Nick and Nora Charles.This is the beginning novel into a series that will bring the reader eagerly back to find out what the pair will be up to next.

Sherlock Holmes Meets Nancy Drew ;-}

by J. J. Carew

I must admit, when I decided to read some of the pastiche Sherlock Holmes stories, this was near the bottom of the list. A 15-year old young lady proves to be the match for the Great Detective?But I had the opportunity to listen to the audio book of A Letter of Mary. That convinced me I had to go back to the beginning of the Laurie King books and find out how the Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell partnership started.I was immediately struck by how much Mary Russell reminded me of my other favorite sleuth, Nancy Drew. She's way too smart for her own age, doesn't really have a parental figure to keep her from running around the country solving murders, can reason her way out of a dangerous situation. The great thing about Mary Russell that makes her very DIFFERENT from Nancy Drew is that she is NOT perfect.In fact, I think I identified with her because we seem very similar, right down to the gangly height and myopia. Russell also has an Old Soul, partly because of the tragedy that was forced upon her, which does make one older than their chronological years. While reading this book, I wanted to protect Mary, but at the same time, admired her determination and spunk. I couldn't help but enjoy reading this book.


by Jody M Clark

I found Beekeeper to be absolutely choice reading. Who wouldn't enjoy stumbling over Sherlock Holmes out on the Downs? King's ability to pair youth and experience, female and male, allowing each to be strong, yet deal with insecurities, while my mind is engaged in a study of social issues has me looking forward to the rest of the Russell/Holmes series.

A Honey of a Beekeeper's Apprentice

by John Durkee "j"

Oh my! Who would have thought that Sherlock Holmes would live again in my lifetime! Laurie R. King, that's whom. This is Homes after Conan Doyle put him down to write about England's conduct in the Boer War (which earned him his English knighthood), science fiction stories, historical novels, plays and romances, poetry, and non-fiction. This is Holmes in his 50s, and maybe beyond; and with a woman not-Irene Adler no less!It is the idea of King that Holmes was still alive and active in the early part of the 20th century, but it is her genus to pair him with a young (15 yrs old) woman who shares many of his idiosyncratic characteristics. Holmes recognizes her character, and quality, and becomes her (Mary Russell) mentor.The book tells the story of Russell's growth as a detective, a scholar, an adventurer, an observer, a traveler, and maybe as a woman; and of Holmes' willingness to learn (albeit reluctantly) from someone else.Watson, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson are all here - though in minor roles. The crackling dialogue is between Russell and Holmes. Yet it is the unspoken but pointed dialogue between them which is the basis of the multi-dimensional relationship.The cherry on this chocolate sundae is King's use of the English language. She writes in sentences, paragraphs, and only occasionally in single words. Her prose is the opposite of that of, say mystery writer Stuart Woods. His prose is all dialogue; hers is all clear description and full speech.I am looking forward to reading the King's sequential offerings in this series, and likely will try some of her other mystery writings.Five stars here, for the conception and the execution!

The Worst Writer to Write Holmes

by Khalifa Alhazaa "a_mathematician"

I spent more than a month (maybe two, I don't remember now) reading this novel, and to me that means it was dead boring.King introduces Mary Russell, a young Jewish (claims to be secular) girl who used to reside in the US before her family had a devastating car accident, and now she is under the custody of her scrooge female relative, who is obviously stealing her money and depriving her of food.Holmes, a nice hearted man!, feeds her, and upon finding out that she was good in deduction, he decides to be her mentor. She is not your usual sweet Englishwoman, however, for she scolds him most of the time, and Holmes appears not to be offended by this treatment!Religion is incorporated in this novel extensively, and this is really a draw back. Religion introduced in a Sherlock Holmes's Novel would not strike me as the best idea.There are some small mysteries scatterd throughout the story, but they are utterly simple, even old Watson could have solved them without sweating. And always Moriarty was mentioned. At the end some letter was solved using some mathematics on base 8 (2 thumps up) and it turned out to be the hardest thing in the story, which resulted in a not so interesting conclusion.I do not recommend it for any fan of Sherlock Holmes. But if you are more into romance, you might as well like it!

Love it.

by K. Spangler

I'm always a little hesitant to read author's who tamper with classic literature, but this was well done. Sherlock Holmes is retired and living in the country when he meets Mary Russell, a young woman with a superior mind. She becomes his protege, and it makes for some very exciting detective work. My one complaint was the constant criticism of Dr. Watson. It wasn't necessary, and I didn't understand why the author chose to take that approach to his character. Other than that the story was well-constructed, and I plan on reading the next one in the series.

Great twist on the Sherlock Holmes Mystique

by Ladyslott "Ladyslott"

Mary Russell is a brillliant young woman of 15. While wandering Sussex Downs one day, she literally stumbles over a prone figure in the grass. This person turns out to be none other than the great Sherlock Holmes, and so begins a new friendship and the eventual partnership of a crime solving team of sleuths.In the prologue we learn that the book is a rememberance of Mary Russell's manuscripts, written at the age of 90. Mary is surprised to learn that Sherlock Holmes is perceived to be a fictional character, yet she knew him as a living man.She tells the story of meeting Sherlock, their unusal friendship, and his tutelage of Mary in the fine art of observation and solving puzzles. Eventually when Holmes is called in on a kidnapping case, Mary accompanies him, and helps solve the crime. Within a few months they are being stalked by a ruthless killer, who seems intent on ending their partnership by ending their lives.Having been a Holmes fan for many years, I was pleased to find a book that didn't alter the total character of Holmes, but just added more dimension to him. I throughly enjoyed this book, and look forward to many more.


by Lawyeraau

I very much enjoyed this book. It successfully resurrects Sherlock Holmes, as the author is able to keep his voice true throughout the book. Moreover, the author uses an ingenious and clever concept in order to bring him back to his legion of fans. The idea of Holmes as mentor to a brilliant young woman is certainly one that takes getting used to. Yet, the author seamlessly weaves his transition from retired recluse to mentor without a hitch.That brilliant young woman is Mary Russell, a wealthy orphan who, at the age of fifteen, captures the imagination of Sherlock Holmes, who sees in her a kindred spirit. Under his careful tutelage, this young woman, with a mental acuity that rivals his own, over the span of several years becomes as sage a detective as Holmes. Together they have a series of adventures that involve the fine art of deduction and detection.As their escapades escalate in complexity, they discover themselves pitted against a mind as keen as each of theirs. Their unknown adversary seems hell bent on the dissolution of their partnership and their deaths by whatever means necessary.This is a highly entertaining work of fiction that fans of Sherlock Holmes should enjoy. Old friends, such as Dr. Watson, Myron Holmes, and Mrs. Hudson, are all part of the fabric of this book. Well-written, the characters are engaging, though the book could have used a bit more editing to make the storyline even tighter. Notwithstanding this one criticism, this is a book that will keep the reader turning the pages.

Excellent !

by LoriDee

The Beekeeper's Appprentice the first of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series is nothing short of wonderful. I enjoyed this book so much I couldn't wait to read it every night. Laurie King has created a brilliant human portrayal of Sherlock Holmes imbued with believable sentiment and skills that embellish his already well known character. But most stunning is the character of Mary Russell. She begins as a 15 year old orphan, brilliant, lonely and broken who goes on to forge an unlikely but endearing relationship with Mr. Holmes. It is a stimulating meeting of the minds. The story includes several cases and Russells training as Holmes' apprentice and her development into his partner over the course of several years. The finale includes a mastermind foe who is equally as brilliant and determined as Holmes and Russell. The story concludes with a susupensful climax that keeps the reader glued to the pages. Perhaps though, more than the suspense, it is the portrayal of the relationship between the two and their development as acquaintances, apprentice, partner and dear friends that keeps the reader entranced. An excellent read.


by Marva Lourder

I simply love this story. Ms. King has created a loveable Sherlock Holmes, a man who has the capacity, not only to love, but to feel more than the plastic characterizations of Conan Doyle, et al. I thought Russell was a wonderful counterweight to Holmes and the chemistry between the two was electric. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

faded fast

by Matthew Ptak

While this book started well, it started degenarating about half way. Holmes is portrayed as very old and slow. He is outsmarted several times by the main villian in the second half of the book. While the idea of the young student is interesting, the general plot and Holmes' energy and strong deduction skills are seriously lacking.

The beginning of a great series!

by meiringen "meiringen"

In his retirement, Sherlock Holmes becomes acquainted with Mary Russell, a very unconventional 15-year-old whose mind is a match for his. He begins to train her in the art of deductive reasoning, and they have many adventures together. It is the start of a partnership that grows and matures as the series progresses (this is the first book in the series).Ms. King has done a wonderful job of giving us a very believable Holmes in his later years, and Mary Russell is a perfect match for him. A well-written book, and great start to a continuing series that I hope will flourish for some time!

Great Beginning

by M. H. "Art Lady"

I love this book. My uncle recommended this for a person who loves Sherlock Holmes. This a great series. I recommend any book in this series. I can't wait for the next one to come out!

Wonderful Combination of Old and New

by Middle-aged Professor

There are a truly stunning array of books that employ Sherlock Holmes as a jumping off point for a new novel or series. Just this year I've read The Sherlockian, two of the Holmes on the Range series, and now, the Beekeeper's Apprentice. For true Sherlock Holmes fans, this has to rank at the top. This series combines an older Sherlock Holmes (retired, in his sixties, living through the First World War) with an 18-year old, brilliant female protege. If you told me, "we'll keep the Holmes story fresh by introducing a proto-feminist sidekick to the proceedings," well, suffice to say I would have been skeptical about your pitch. Yet, somehow, by introducing Mary Russell, a hard-edged, no nonsense woman of the early 20th century, this book pays wonderful homage to the original Holmes stories, staying very true to their nature, while adding needed complexity, variety and freshness. As the mystery itself goes, this is no great shakes, but in every other way, the language, the characters, the relationships, its masterful. Mary Russell brings Holmes back to life in the story, and author Laurie King has accomplished the same thing. I look forward to discovering whether she can sustain the excellence as the series progresses.

I'll Stick With The Original

by Nancy "Stepfordmomto2"

I don't like being the dissenting opinion, but this book just hit me a little wrong or maybe it is my inability to have a beloved character toyed with; but this story of Mary Russsell, a precocious 15 year old, whom after the death of her family moves to a farm with an aunt, and who just happens to run into the famous Sherlock Homes on one of her daily sojourns into the country is just too contrived for me.The idea that this young woman can match wits with Sherlock is a little overdrawn and as the years go by and they investigate a few cases much in the same way as Holmes and Watson, just seems as if the author is stealing an idea instead of coming up with one of her own.Unfortunately, I don't think I will continue on with this series, but will once again go back and read the original Conan Doyle accounts of a fascinating character.

Holmes takes a n apprentice

by Neale Blackwood "Neale"

An interesting idea (Holmes takes an apprentice) fairly well told. I enjoyed it up to about 3/4 thru. The last 1/4 was not as good, but I finished it. It had a enough good points to try another in the series.

Wonderful, satisfying, completely successful return of Holmes

by N. Ferguson "Two, Daisy, Hannah, and Kitten"

Many reviews here detail aspects of plot and character development. I will simply say briefly that:1) Holmes is beautifully rendered and true to Arthur Conan Doyle's vision.2) Mary Russell is a wonderful character and a witty, insightful, delightful narrator.3) The relationship between Holmes and Mary is developed with an emotional richness and truth which made me run, not walk, to purchase the next 4 books in the series.One of my very favorite books this year! Highly recommended.

Mary Jane Novel

by No BS guy

A Mary Jane novel is one where a woman author creates a new female character(usually a wife or daughter) who makes a beloved character look like a fool and who all the other male characters(also stupid) all fall in love with. It is a lame form of romance novel. They used to be rejected by editors out of hand. Ths one obviously made it through. Too bad. It's crap.

BLASPHEME!!! Oh wait, this is pretty good......

by Oddsfish

I picked up this novel wanting to hate it. Really. It's just wrong to take the most popular character in Literature and make him your own....or at least I thought. The only thing that interested me about this novel at all was the astounding audacity of Laurie King, but that audacity did intrigue me. I picked up the novel, and it really blew me away. The writing is so superb, and the characters are so loveable and wonderful.The premise of this novel really sounds absurd. Sherlock Holmes is getting older, moving into his fifties, but he's still just as sharp as he ever was. He's officially retired and taking care of bees, but he still manages to take on the occasional interesting case. Into his world, moves Mary Russell, the narrator, who at the beginning of the novel is 15 and is an American. Russell's mind is every bit as sharp as Holmes's, and he takes her under his wing to develop it. Together, the two go through a series of cases teaching Russell, and are eventually confronted with a case which challenges both to their upmost abilities.There are so many strengths to this novel. First, the plots of the succeeding cases are extremely entertaining. The first cases develop the characters, and set the reader up for the enormous, suspenceful finale. I just love the narration, too. Mary Russell is humorous and insightful, and her prose and pace flows as elegantly as Jane Austen's. And of course, the primary success of The Beekeeper's Apprentice are the characterizations. Doyle created one of the great characters in literature with Sherlock Holmes, and King certainly respects the creation. King just shows newer dimensions to the character, her little take on him. In this novel, Holmes has every bit of the cleverness Doyle gave him and quite a bit of added humanity. Mary Russell is a wonderful counterpart for the aging detective, and the relationship developed between the two is really touching. The Beekeeper's Apprentice is truly a fantastic novel. I think that most, if not all, of Holmes's older fans can be won over by King's novel.


by Orrin C. Judd "brothersjudddotcom"

Ms King is the Edgar award winning author of the Kate Martinelli series, an entirely pedestrian policewoman cycle, distinguished only by the fact that Martinelli is a lesbian. In The Beekeeper's Apprentice she brings a feminist touch to the Sherlock Holmes mythos. The 19th century bequeathed us four iconic literary creations: Frankenstein, Dracula, Moby Dick/Ahab & Sherlock Holmes. We see them revived over and over, most often with some cute modern twist (my personal favorite Holmes revivals: the Nicholas Meyer novel The Seven Percent Solution, wherein Sigmund Freud helps him with his cocaine addiction; the film They Might Be Giants, with George C. Scott as an insane? Holmes wannabe & Joanne Woodward as his psychiatrist/reluctant Watson; and the Magnum, PI episode with Higgins playing Watson to Patrick McNee's Holmes), but the characters are so strong that they survive most any mutilation and so this new treatment seems semi inevitable.King has picked up the tale in 1915, with Holmes retired to his beehives in the Sussex countryside. Into his life of seclusion stumbles a precocious teenage orphan girl named Mary Russell, who quickly proves to have a mind that is a ready match for Holmes. They begin to solve crimes together and eventually, by this time Mary is attending Oxford, they run afoul of an archvillian who is intent on bringing about Holmes' demise. Of course, this master criminal is also a woman.King has picked up a double edged sword here; the mere presence of Sherlock Holmes (& Watson & Mrs. Hudson & Mycroft & Lestrade) virtually guarantees a decent tale (unless the author's a total butcher), but by choosing a figure who comes to us with such a weighty reputation & then trying to craft her own characters to set up as his equals, she has bitten off more than she can chew. Unable to bring Mary up to the level of the Holmes of the Conan Doyle series, she instead brings him down to the level of her own character Mary Russell. The result is a middling mystery, but one ends the book more than willing to read the future entries in the series.

absolutely marvelous

by Peter D. Springberg "retired M.D., now an author"

I had just downloaded the most recent volume in the Holmes-Russell saga, but decided to re-read The Beekeeper's Apprentice first, having done started with the initial book in the series years back. I knew the basics, of course, but had forgotten the subtle details. It's a wonderful book, well worth reading a second time.

My Favorite Of This Genre

by Peter L. Swinford

This is simply my favorite Sherlock Holmes-ish book (and among my favorite among all books). I recommend it without reservation.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice is a worthy feminist

by Rebecca Brown "rebeccasreads"

This was my introduction to this author & was I glad I found her! What a relief to find a thinking woman sleuth - steeped in history, religion & self-esteem! It's been a long time since I found something with that breadth of language. Something which drew me in with familiar mystery & curiosity. It's 1914 & young Mary Russell striding over the Sussex Downs, stumbles upon a retired beekeeper with an extraordinary past. Both are unkempt & at a loss for direction yet recognize in each other's keen mind a fellow thinker & together they set out to solve a few local problems. what a brew of tea! ...............

The Holmesian Apocrypha

by Roger Brunyate "reader/writer/musician"

This engaging entertainment, first published in 1994, is but one of many that attempt to continue the Sherlock Holmes saga beyond the point where Conan Doyle left it, with the great detective in retirement as a beekeeper on the Sussex Downs. Laurie King's twist is to imagine a young woman, Mary Russell -- a precocious teen with an intellect approaching Holmes' own, conveniently deceased parents, and an independent income -- meeting the great man in the countryside and becoming first his apprentice and then his partner in detection. It works by first exploding the canon and then confirming it, so Mary denounces most of Dr. Watson's narrative as false or poorly understood, but then comes to respect and even love Holmes' old friend when she finally meets him. Laurie King is excellent in recapturing the Conan Doyle tone for modern readers, and although the book is slow to start, she is skillful in building from brief standalone cases into an adventure that starts about halfway through and lasts for the rest of the book.Two more recent books bear some similarity to this one. Michael Chabon'sTHE FINAL SOLUTION(2004) also brings the old beekeeper out of retirement; though relatively lightweight, it is also the work of a more major writer. Even closer is the relationship of the heroine of Jacqueline Winspear'sMAISIE DOBBS(2003) to her Holmesian mentor, Maurice Blanche. This connection is interesting in that both authors portray their heroines as mold-breaking figures, given the limited opportunities for women in the years following the First World War. Laurie King is less concerned than Winspear with the legacy of the War itself, though she also gives her heroine a university education (Oxford, in this case) and some wartime experience in the medical field. But both authors allow themselves some fantasy in creating their heroines' backgrounds: Maisie Dobbs rises like Cinderella from the servant classes; Mary Russell is the daughter of a Cockney Jewish mother and a rich American father. A portion of King's novel takes place in Palestine, where for a moment there is the possibility of these mixed roots really meaning something. But on the whole, the heroine is insufficiently grounded to avoid coming over at times as precocious and arrogant, created as a foil for Holmes rather than a human being in her own right.I gather, though, that this is the first book of a series. Much will depend on how the character of Mary Russell -- and her relationship with Holmes -- is developed. If these get set into a formula, I would have no interest in reading further. But if Laurie King explores Mary with more of the depth of a novelist, there could be a lot of promise here.



The author gives us a very interesting spin on what Sherlock's life might be had he met Mary Russell. Absolute fun for those Sherlock Holmes fans looking for more stories.

Fantastic addition to the Holmes legend...

by Ruth Anderson "Book Reviewer"

In The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King introduces Sherlock Holmes to the most unlikely companion - a young woman with an intellect that matches the legendary detective in every way. Holmes is well-known for his lack of tolerance for the mental acuity of others - so for Mary Russell to have won his admiration, respect, and affection is a remarkable feat. This series needs to achieve two objectives to succeed - the character of Holmes has to be true to the canon and Russell has to be a true equal to him in mind and mettle. To speak to the first point - in my view King absolutely nails it in her depiction of Holmes's character, voice, and mannerisms. I've read most, but not all, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, and I'm a huge fan of Jeremy Brett's portrayal of the detective in the classic television series. For me Brett is the definitive Holmes - when I read Doyle, his is the voice I hear and the face I see, and the same applies for King's incarnation of Holmes. King lets us see the "real" Holmes, devoid of the glow of "celebrity" that his good friend Dr. Watson applied (much to the detective's chagrin) in the stories that documented his cases. Russell's appearance throws Holmes out of his comfort zone and injects new energy into his personal and professional life. Plus, it's wonderful fun seeing him cope with Russell's maturation from a gawky teenager to a capable adult. Russell's voice is the second half of the puzzle that makes this series a successful Holmes pastiche. By the age of fifteen she's already been to hell and back through the loss of her parents & younger brother. The early tragedy informs her reaction to everything that follows, most importantly her developing relationship with Holmes. For all her hard brilliance, King allows us to see Mary's vulnerable side - and since she is essentially the other half of Holmes, it provides fascinating insight into his character as well. Finally, the novel's brisk pace and attention to historical detail results in a tale that positively drips with atmosphere. I particularly enjoy reading about Russell's college experiences at Oxford and her interest in theology, especially her reaction to her first trip to her mother's homeland, Israel. The world King builds here is a joy to get lost in, and the characters - both new and canonical - are so real, and such a joy to spend time with. That's why I keep coming back to this series - the characters are multi-faceted and the world-crafting is so richly done, I feel like I take away something new from the story with each reading.

Beekeeper's Apprentice

by Samantha Helle Sebens

Beekeeper's Apprentice is the first book in Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. It starts with a young Mary meeting a retired Sherlock who now raises bees in Sussex. They become friends and, as Mary grows older, colleagues.What King does so well is reconstruct Sherlock Holmes and then create a female protagonist who is his equal. In a way, she brings Holmes to life more surely than Conan Doyle did. While Mary is learning from Holmes, Conan Doyle is publishing the stories about Holmes' past cases with Watson. Holmes' popularity as what most people believe to be a fictional character and his reactions to these stories, are hilarious (and ongoing throughout King's series). All your favorite characters are here. Watson and Mycroft make appearances and Mrs. Hudson is still Holmes' long suffering housekeeper. And they can all be seen through the new eyes of Mary Russell.Make no mistake, Russell is the main character of this series. Holmes plays a large part in her life and so features prominently, but this is her story. And she is a match for Holmes. Smart, quick-witted, and adventurous, she is able to meet him as an equal. In this first adventure together they go up against a ring of kidnappers who are puppets in a much larger plan aimed at the downfall of the great Sherlock Holmes.This book is a first look and a reintroduction to great characters and to a continuously enjoyable series. I would have given it five stars except I actually enjoy some later books more and wanted room to give them a higher rating! If you enjoy Conan Doyle's stories, pick up with Holmes here, you won't be disappointed.The next book in the series is O Jerusalem.

Hmm, Not Sure

by Samantha L. Sayre

I'm just not sure about this book. I was torn. I really loved the concept of Sherlock Holmes having a young apprentice to show the ropes to. Mary Russell is his match, but I'm not sure how I felt about how the book flowed. There were times that I felt like it was dragging things out. There were other times that I couldn't put it down because I wanted to know what happened next. It's a good starter book for a series but not great. I enjoyed the interaction between the characters most of the time while other times it was just frustrating and confusing. I'm going to give this series a true chance and read the next book or two in it. But I'm just not sure about it. I really enjoy Ms. King's other series better so far. It's interesting, but not great.

A good read

by S. Schultz

I don't normally read mystery books but was pleasantly surprised by this book. It is a quick read that draws you into the plot.

Hooray! A New Author

by Susan ""Mystery Lover""

I had my doubts that this conceit would work but the author is very good at portraying the Sherlock we know and creating a female character who becomes his student/friend/assistant in mystery solving. I will definitely continue with the series and have recommended it to my sisters and friends. Not too sweet. Not too bloody. It's just right!

I absolutely adored this book

by Tawni

When I first read the description for "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" I was very apprehensive. The thought of a girl-meets-Holmes story sounded like it could be cheesy, and I was sure I was destined NOT to like a spunky, young female lead as they are usually annoying and not done well. I could not have been more wrong about this book. I absolutely loved it. Mary Russell is an extremely believable and real character. She seemed to easily fit into the world of Holmes without my doubting the story at all. It works amazingly well and makes for a wonderfully fun and exciting read! I am supremely happy to know there are more of these excellently written books.

Enjoyable read...new light on old hero!

by Terry Mathews

I enjoyed Laurie King's new take on Sherlock Holmes.Putting him in partnership with smart, sassy Mary Russell, a feminist long before her time, breathes new life into a jaded character. It's fun to watch Holmes teach AND learn from Ms. Russell and it's great to observe Ms. Russell's growth during story.The mysteries are almost secondary to the story of Holmes and his young, headstrong pupil.I'll be reading more of this series. King has done a superb job in bringing one of my all time fictional heroes back to life!Enjoy!

This is one of those ideas that Should Not Work.

by Tracey

It should foment outrage in the heart of even the mildest Sherlockophile that Laurie R. King should choose to bring a retired Sherlock Holmes together with a young woman, even as his apprentice, much less more.Pastiche, fan-fiction, homage; there is a lot of debate (if you know where to look) about what it is and what to call it, and it has - especially under the banner "fan-fiction" - earned a reputation for sheer and utter execrableness. It is so often a terrible, terrible idea for a writer to co-opt someone else's characters and use them to their own purposes, offensive both to other fans of the characters and to the writer, or the memory of the writer. But I have read fan-fic that glowed with pitch-perfect characterizations, which either echoed the original author's style beautifully or married the writer's own voice to the material without a ripple. Barbara Hambly wrote Star Trek novels - that's how I found her - and a couple of Beauty and the Beast novels, and they are splendid. That's why people read it - or at least, that's why I read it, and that's why people write it - or at least why I've written the handful of things I've done: for the deep, warm satisfaction it gives to read something new about dearly loved characters from a different angle, to make somewhat real imaginings about what happened in the gaps the original writer left, to use the knowledge of a beloved writer's work to speculate about what would have happened if - ? It can be good. It can be great. Unfortunately, it's more often so very, very wrong-headed and bad. So very bad. Badly written, badly conceived, ill-interpreted products of sometimes warped imaginations ... fan-fic, like self-pub, is a sphere which must be explored very carefully, and with protective gear: eye protection, heavy (preferably chain mail) gloves, and a bottle of brain bleach nearby. Just in case. What is seen cannot be unseen, unfortunately.A synonym Word coughs up for "pastiche" is "appropriation". That works. I like it.Laurie R. King's appropriation of the Holmes universe ranks very high among the Good Stuff. This isn't merely the expression of a desire to play in someone else's sandbox. This is homage, a knowledgeable and loving - and respectful, that's key - extension of what Conan Doyle wrote. It is a logical continuation to show Holmes retired among his bees in Sussex, and going spare with the boredom. The introduction of a non-canon character frequently results in a Mary Sue, and Mary Russell comes perilously close at times - but she has a three-dimensionality and humor that lets her escape that label. It could have been bloody terrible, the idea of Holmes taking a teenaged girl under his wing - and into his heart. Mary Russell's middle name is not Sue, however, and this Holmes is in need of a diversion - how badly in need we don't really see till "Beekeeping for Beginners" - and Laurie R. King is firmly in control of the situation. I still remember being a little shame-faced at buying the first books, and approaching them with caution. I very soon learned that LRK is one of those writers who consistently allows a reader to relax and enjoy a book without concern. "Reliable" is a lukewarm word of praise, but it is an adjective for a quality of great price in a writer. Laurie R. King is reliable.The LRK Holmes is neither worshiped nor turned into a parody. This series digs down into the canon and its conceits to build a depiction of a real, if extraordinary, man called Sherlock Holmes. His exploits have been turned into potboilers of which he disapproves by his erstwhile partner/assistant (depending) John Watson, and promulgated to the masses by Watson's agent Doyle. Where old friendship spares Watson most of Holmes's contempt at the style, content, and distribution of the stories, Doyle in this universe is not spared; Holmes hates him - and in the context of this universe, he ought to. He has to. It's a slightly brain-wrenching existential situation in which the fictional character would purely loathe the stories and books which gave him life - and truly would have the utmost scorn for his lurid-penned, fairy-seeing, ghost-seeking creator. I mentioned respect earlier; perhaps most of the Holmes-and-Russell books' respect centers on the creations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while the author himself is granted little. But it isn't LRK who despises him - it is his own creation, and in an odd way it's a great compliment to Doyle that his creation has become independent enough to hate him.The evolution of the relationship between Holmes and Mary is given a good and solid launching in this first book in a kidnapping story that resonates with the original stories. Before the story is half over their partnership is being given a test that would shatter a lesser partnership. This is a firm foundation for the series, with a beautiful "and then there was another adventure in there which you'll be told about in due course because you don't need to know just now" that is somehow very 19th /early 20th century. After an extended period in Holmes's august company, Mary Russell removes to Oxford, and sees him much less frequently. I enjoyed watching Mary expand to fill her space, the glimpses of her academic life and the hijinks that followed her. She is not merely another of Holmes's appendages; she is Mary Russell, whose interests overlap with but are not identical to her partner's, who can do rather well on her own separate from Holmes, does so at need, but would prefer not to.To be honest, I've never had the deep attachment to the Doyle stories that many mystery geeks do; I don't think I've even read all of them, or not more than once. I'm not an Irregular. But, still, Holmes is an old friend, and I am as protective of him as I am of the Enterprise crew or the Baggins clan, or even of Jane Austen. Which is why reading appropriations by someone who is, I believe, even more protective of and certainly more knowledgeable about him is such a joy. It's a marvelous thing to have negative expectations completely upended.

Great fun!

by wills "wills2003"

This was a book club selection for me - wasn't sure about it at first, but once I picked it up had trouble putting it down. I managed to put it down long enough to run out to the bookstore and buy the rest of the series. Good stuff!

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