Review: The Beekeeper's Apprentice / by Madeleine

In a play off the stories of the infamous sleuth (and avid beekeeper) Sherlock Holmes, King devises a whole new environment, with adversaries and allies both old and new. The Beekeeper's Apprentice chronicles the extraordinary relationship between Mr. Holmes and Mary Russell. When they first meet in 1915, Holmes is a recluse, drug addict, and retiree living in the quiet countryside. Russell- a bright, strong-willed girl in a time of emerging female independence- is newly orphaned and living under the watchful (and disapproving) eye of her insufferable aunt. Though they are an unlikely pair, Russell and Holmes manage to cultivate a deeply meaningful friendship, which starts as apprentice and mentor and grows into roles as equal partners in the solving of more than a few high-profile crimes. Russell's deliberate disregard for her expected role as a meek, womanly companion lands them both in some dangerous situations, but her vast portfolio of sleuthing abilities and expansive intellect contribute much to the maintenance of Holmes's reputation as the best detective in the world. As they discover subtle connections linking their many cases, the two must put their talents to the test as they face an unexpected but formidable enemy.

I confess I've had this book on my shelf for years, and simply was not motivated to delve into it until I recently cleaned out my bookshelves. I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and love that his character (much like a Shakespearean play) can be shaped to any new environment, while the defining parts of his character are kept steady (Sherlock, anyone?). It took me a bit to get into the book, but I loved the addition of a younger, equally bright female character (who was not also a love interest for Sherlock). Though Holmes always plays well against strong female characters, King's idea to place him in not only a mentor, but also father-figure role, felt like a fresh take. By the time I reached the last few chapters, I didn't want the book to end. Like a classic Holmes case, I was unable to guess the ending, though of course the pieces of the puzzle were all carefully inserted throughout the story. Recommended for fans of the beloved character, as well as those who simply like a good mystery. 

Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5

  • Title: The Beekeeper's Apprentice
  • Author: Laurie R. King
  • Publisher: Picador, 2007
  • Price: $10 on Amazon
  • ISBN: 0312427360
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Gifted