The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Author: Laurie R. King
Paperback: 341 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books
Published Date: 1994
I can't believe I've never read this before. This book is the first in a series that introduces young Mary Russell who becomes an apprentice to Sherlock Holmes. I love the Sherlock Holmes stories and even have an original illustrated collection which I've read front to back. I first heard of this series when I read Heather's review over at Age 30 + A Lifetime of Books and she became a huge fan. She even got to meet the author (I am incredibly jealous). So I decided it was high time to check this one out (literally at the library) and read it for the R.I.P. V Challenge.
The story starts out with Mary Russell walking with a book to her nose and she literally walks right into Sherlock Holmes who is sitting on a grassy knoll studying bees. It's 1915, right before WWI and Russell is just 15 years old.
Wait wait, that's not really how the story starts. There's an Editor's Preface written by Laurie R. King which tells of the discovery of this story. One day she is sent a mysterious huge package. It is an old steamer trunk and among the various articles inside is a manuscript. She finally decided to publish it and thus starts the true life of Mary Russell.
So, Mary (or Russell as Holmes calls her) impresses Holmes with her incredible intelligent and starts what becomes to many outsiders as an odd apprenticeship/partnership. She's an orphan being raised by an incredibly evil aunt but she has a substantial inheritance waiting for her when she comes of age. Eventually Mary goes to Oxford and grows up into an attractive young lady. She's almost six-feet tall, blond and wears glasses. Here's a photo of Mary Russell taken from Laurie R. King's website (I think all the paperback versions have Mary in this pose with different dressing gowns. I want this dressing gown.):
I absolutely love that she's such a book worm and spends hours in Bodleian Library (wish my university had that kind of library). This book ends in 1918, Mary is 18 years old and the two solve about three mysteries in this book - a practice case, a tough kidnapping case, and then attempted murder of the two.
I loved this book and the interaction between the two characters. These two get each other. And since Holmes is getting on in age, it gives him a purpose in life to train Russell. Mary gets a sort of family that she lost with Holmes, Uncle John (Watson) and the housekeeper Mrs. Hudson. And I love Mary's observation of Holmes. A beautifully written book and I will be reading the rest.
I love alternative covers to this book as well. I might start collecting these.
This is the UK version. I think it's beautiful, depicts the right time-line but it makes Mary too flowery. She wears men's clothing I think more than women's:
Here's a newer popular version:
Here's the mass-market paperback version with Mary on the cover.
Wow, I just found that Laurie R. King likes this stuff as well. Check out her website's page called Art in the Blood: a Beekeeper's Gallery for fan photos, art, and tons of other cover art. Her website is very cool. You can also read the first two chapters of The Beekeeper's Apprentice if you want to get hooked into the story. I'm off to explore her website!
Also Reviewed By:
Age 30 + A Lifetime of Books
Things Mean a Lot