Story: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
Author: Laurie R. King
Story URL: Amazon Link
Page count: 384 pages
Rating: Young Adult
School Library Journal Summary: At 15, Mary Russell is tall and gangling, bespectacled and bookish. In 1915, the orphaned heiress is living in her ancestral home with an embittered aunt she has plucked from genteel poverty to act as a guardian until she reaches her majority. In order to escape the woman’s generally malevolent disposition, she wanders the Downs. On one such outing, she trips over a gaunt, elderly man sitting on the ground, “watching bees.” This gentleman turns out to be Sherlock Holmes, and the resulting acquaintance evolves into a mentoring experience for the young woman. The story is well written in a style slightly reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s, but is also very much King’s own. The plot is somewhat predictable, but the characterizations are excellent and the times and places are skillfully evoked. Readers come to understand much of Holmes that was unexplained by Dr. Watson. These additions are entirely plausible, and the relationship between the great detective and his apprentice is delightful. Readers see much of Sussex, London, and even of student life at Oxford and the conditions of Romanies (Gypsies) in Wales. Wartime Britain is accurately evoked, and the whole is a lot of fun to read. While a fitting addition to the Holmes oeuvre, the narrative is delightfully feminist. It is likely to please YAs already entranced by Sherlock Holmes and will surely attract a few new fans.
My friend, Lauren, recommended this book to me and I absolutely adored it. The story purports to be the autobiographical account of Mary Russell, a young girl in England during WWI who apprentices to Sherlock Holmes at the age of 15. The historical setting is fascinating (I love WWI studies) and her unique perspective on the man known to most through Dr. Watson’s eyes is captivating. Mary’s brilliant, early-feminist mindset is such a fun contrast to Holmes’ Victorian manners, yet the two of them form an easy and fun partnership. I’ve already put the sequel’s on my library waiting list. This is definitely one of the best books I’ve ready this year, if not THE best.