There is a vast canon of Sherlock Holmes related fiction out in the world. Some of it is better than others. Laurie R. King’s take on the Sherlock Holmes canon introduces us to Holmes’ intellectual match, Mary Russell, a 15 year old girl with a sharp tongue and fiery wit. Set in 1915, readers find Holmes retreated from his life in London, instead keeping bees on the Sussex Downs. Worlds (almost literally) collide when Mary, her nose buried in a book, almost treads upon the famed detective, with what she self-consciously believes to be her overly large feet. From there, a friendship and partnership is born.
Before encountering The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and the subsequent series of books that follows, I would have counted myself to be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes purist. Why mess with a good thing? However, I have since recanted what is ultimately, an unnecessarily narrow world view. Ms. King expertly preserves the character of Holmes as told by Conan Doyle. His essence and spirit remain the same, but she plunks him in an entirely novel scenario, from which the character must necessarily grow. People already believe Holmes was a real person, a great testament to the power of Conan Doyle’s renderings as well as the collective imagination of a devout fan base. Now the presence of Mary Russell adds an entirely new dimension to the character that, if anything, compounds the realism. Ms. King can do this because Holmes is not our protagonist; Mary is, and she is such a lushly fleshed out character that you cannot help but believe that these stories are also true. Mary is everything that you want from a protagonist. She has flaws, failings, a dark and troubling past… She has wit, humor, and most delightfully, an unflagging curiosity about the world and a continually developing intellect.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice begins a journey and, with each subsequent installation of her series, Ms. King envelops us in a highly researched period scenario that is brimming with excitement, conflict, and one of the best buddy pairings of recent literature.
Now, off to your local tea purveyor, library or favorite bookstore, and treat yourself to a pleasant afternoon!
TEA PAIRING: To accompany your new adventures with one of the quintessentially British characters, why not choose what has become a quintessentially British tea, Earl Grey. One of the most popular blends of flavored black tea in the world, Earl Gray is a lighter bodied cup, with an energizing splash of citrusy bergamot.