The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Ah, here I am again, staring at that blank rectangular space, watching my cursor blink furiously at me. The post title glares at me: ‘The Beekeeper’s Apprentice’. Because I’m trying to think of a way to write this post that will do justice to this book. Because it seems like so many of you have read – and loved – this book. And I think a large part of this hesitation of mine is the fact that I still have yet to read an actual Sherlock Holmes book. So how can I say that I loved Laurie R. King’s version of Holmes, when I don’t even know Holmes?

But I did! I loved King’s Holmes. I hope to find out what Doyle’s Holmes is like, and I’m hoping it’s not too far off. A goal for 2012? And more importantly, Mary Russell is a fantastic character. She’s witty, determined, smart, and just so gung-ho about everything, even when the odds are against her (she meets Holmes in her teens in 1915, a time not exactly conducive for the development of a clever young girl, she is also haunted by the ghosts of her past, and hampered by an overbearing aunt). She is also observant, and an intrepid sleuth herself, as she shows the semi-retired Holmes when assisting in his cases. There’s a wonderful camaradarie and plenty of fun banter between the two, and an intriguing case set out before them. One that is playing with their lives, and the lives of other familiar (yes even to those who have yet to read Doyle) characters like Watson and Mycroft.

Wonderfully crafted characters, an interesting plot, a gorgeous setting (they meet on the Sussex Downs, a place always dear to my heart, as my university’s very backdrop were the Downs). More please!

Here’s the list of Mary Russell books (via Wikipedia)

  • The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (1994)
  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women (1995)
  • A Letter of Mary (1997)
  • The Moor (1998)
  • O Jerusalem (1999)
    (Although written fifth in sequence, the events in this book take place during the latter part of those described in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice)
  • Justice Hall (2002)
  • The Game (2004)
  • Locked Rooms (2005)
  • The Language of Bees (2009)
  • The God of the Hive (2010)
  • Beekeeping for Beginners (an ebook novella) (2011)
    (This short story describes the early events of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice from the point of view of Sherlock Holmes)
  • Pirate King (2011)

Have you read other books by Laurie R. King? I’m curious about her Kate Martinelli series, and would love to know what you thought about it.


  1. I guess I’m one of the few who hasn’t yet read a book by King, but after reading your review, I think I’ll have to add it to my to-read list in 2012. I haven’t read a Holmes book by Doyle either, so I’ll have to add one to the list too 🙂 Nothing beats a good detective story, don’t you think? Especially one with a lovely background.


  2. Oh I hadn’t read Doyle’s Holmes either when I read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Still haven’t. The banter is indeed very great in this book. I also love Russell’s interaction with the little girl in the story. And her description of her times in Oxford and when Holmes drops in on her there – one of my favorite parts in one of my favorite books. Glad you enjoyed it!


  3. I felt the same way about the debut in this series; I loved it. But, ironically, I haven’t yet read any further. I read the first two in the Martinelli series and wholly enjoyed them too. Yes, I know I have loyalty issues when it comes to sticking with series, but I did really enjoy both of these!


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