Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Laurie R. King

Book: 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


  1. I read this book earlier this year. I tried to read book 2 right afterwards and it wasn't working for me. I am hoping to try again soon!

  2. I've read her entire mary russell series and loved them all!! I think you will enjoy more of Mary Russell and Sherlock if you keep reading her books

  3. I want to read this series. I like the new cover version the best.

  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I hope you continue with the rest of the series. I don't love them all but there are some great ones in there.

    Oh, and I have the copy with the yellow honeycomb on it. It's actually my favorite of all the covers. :)

    (I was at the beach this weekend so I didn't get your email until today.)

  5. Oh, how I loved this book! The top cover is my favorite. I've only read the second in the series and haven't gone beyond that but plan to.

  6. I love this series. It's about time to go back and re-read it. If I just didn't have so darn many other books that I haven't read for the first time....

  7. I've read all this series since getting hooked last year. Love them. Think my favourite in the series is A Monstrous Regiment of Women, but they are all great.