The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King – Book Review

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Published by Picador, an imprint of Macmillan

An incredibly bright young woman, it was perhaps the happiest accident in Mary Russell’s life when she nearly trod directly upon a lounging and retired Sherlock Holmes in the hills near her home. Impressed by her quick wit and powers of observation, Sherlock welcomes the young orphan into his home and his life and, as she grows, takes her to be his partner and intellectual equal in a way that Watson never was. The first in the Mary Russell series, “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” covers approximately the first four years in the Sherlock Holmes-Mary Russell partnership.

Laurie R. King gave me warm fuzzies beginning with the prologue of “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice,” wherein she wrote a note to the reader asserting that she had received a chest in the mail containing a pile of manuscripts from, ostensibly, a woman named Mary Russell, who she could not track down. King goes on to say that she was so taken by the story within that she did little more than clean up the spelling and grammar and slap the work with a more appealing title, and then publish it for the anonymous Ms. Russell. This fits perfectly into the grand tradition of Sherlockians, many of whom dogmatically assert that Holmes was a real man, and Conan Doyle only Watson’s literary agent (whether they actually believe this I am unsure, but it is an amusing, if baffling device). Thus, this forward by King sets her series up to be a real continuation of Conan Doyle’s beloved work. King is also quite smart about how she sets up Mary and Holmes’ world. From the beginning, the characters make note of some of the literary license which Watson took with Holmes’ adventures, thus assuring that any deviation on King’s part from Conan Doyle’s canon is explained away ahead of time.

“The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” is a highly engaging Sherlockian pastiche. Mary Russell humanized the famous detective, who was already somewhat mellowed by his partial retirement, making for a much more likable Holmes than in many of Conan Doyle’s later stories. The beginning of a lengthy series such as this requires a great deal of characterization and set up, but King did a great job providing this while still keeping the story moving.

I really enjoyed “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” and am looking forward to continuing the series. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Source: library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye – Book Review

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye
Published by Simon & Schuster, reprint edition

Sherlock Holmes on the trail of Jack the Ripper. Enough said.

Honestly, I’m not really sure what other synopsis to add to that, that is pretty much what you need to know. Essentially, this is a Holmes pastiche (new vocabulary I learned from Graham Moore!), in other words, a work not by Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes as the main character, doing what he does best: solving crimes.

If you need more Sherlock-lit in your life (and, the Sherlock Holmes edition of What’s Old is New, I think I do), this is an incredibly entertaining one. Not entertaining in an ‘oh, isn’t this funny?’ way, but entertaining in an ‘I wish Sherlock Holmes was real, because then just maybe somebody would have actually solved the Jack the Ripper crime. Faye wrote in a convincing Watson style with a very engaging Holmes. She also had prose lovely enough that I was occasionally moved to stop reading and tweet sentences – that is always a good sign.

Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Source: Library
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore – Book Review

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
Published by Twelve Books, an imprint of Hachette

One of the youngest Sherlock Holmes-enthusiasts ever to be inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars, Harold White is very much looking forward to his first gathering of Sherlockian societies, not least because there is a rumor that one of the most illustrious of Sherlockians has actually discovered Arthur Conan Doyle’s missing diary. Let me tell you, these people are SERIOUS about their Sherlock, so this is somewhere on par with confirmation of the existence of life on other planets, or a huge inheritance from a distant relative. Everything is going swimmingly, until said Sherlockian with the huge news is found dead in his hotel room, apparently murdered. Suddenly Harold is certain that he can solve the crime, using the methods of his oh-so-famous hero: Sherlock Holmes.

In alternating chapters, we are taken back in time approximately one century, to Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in the time after he killed off Sherlock Holmes. These days, Conan Doyle is nearly as hated as his character was beloved. Feeling that Holmes has begun to outweigh him in importance, Conan Doyle is trying to prove that he is still relevant as an author and a human being – and not just so he can sign some of his stories as Sherlock Holmes. When a letter bomb explodes in his home, Conan Doyle is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, one he is convinced is connected to the death of a young woman found murdered in a bathtub, a wedding dress on the chair next to her. Along with his less-successful friend Bram Sroker, who had not yet published “Dracula,” Arthur begins an investigation such as would have been undertaken by Holmes himself. Surely the creator is at least equal to the creation?

Oftentimes in a book which alternates storylines, particularly one with dual time periods, one of the stories is much stronger than the other. I can think of numerous books I think would have been better served by cutting out one of the storylines altogether. Such is not the case with “The Sherlockian.” Both stories were engaging and well-plotted, the measure of this is that I was disappointed at the end of each chapter that I would have to postpone following the current storyline, but my disappointment never lasted even half a page, as I was immediately thrust back into the other story. As ridiculous as this may sound, I also loved the chapter length. Each chapter was short enough to maintain suspense and great pacing, but not so short that nothing happened and I became annoyed. Nor did Moore engage in the manipulative technique of manufactured cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, which occasionally happens in suspenseful books with multiple storylines.

Not only was this an exciting, suspenseful, well-plotted story, it was also based loosely on real events. There was really an illustrious Sherlockian found dead by suspicious means, and Arthur Conan Doyle truly did work on cases after initially killing Holmes off – not to mention the fact that he really did feel almost oppressed by the character he created. Moore’s Author’s Note at the end of the book provides a great guide to what was true and what wasn’t. I got a better handle on the fervor of Sherlockian societies and particularly on Conan Doyle’s life, and his attitudes towards Holmes and his reception.

I thoroughly enjoyed Graham Moore’s “The Sherlockian” and have, in fact, already recommended it highly to a number of people, one of whom seems to be crediting it with releasing her from her reading slump. Highly recommended.

Nicole and I spoke with Graham as part of our What’s Old is New podcast on Sherlock Holmes, give it a listen!

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Disclosure: I am writing this on Monday morning. Around noon, Graham and I will be having lunch together, because I was not able to make it to his book signing last week. I will not alter the content of this review after meeting Graham in person, and knowledge that I would have lunch with him did not alter the content of this review (and, really, I would never have suggested lunch had I not thoroughly enjoyed the book, because that would just be awkward). I do reserve the right to correct typos though.
Source: Publisher at BEA.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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