So, I have to ask you. Do you like mystery? Do you like a clever 15-19-year old female protagonist? Do you love English history, especially surrounding the Great War? DO YOU LOVE SHERLOCK HOLMES?! If you like any of these things, then you’ll want to read on.
This week, for my Throwback Thursday pick, I have chosen The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King.
Okay, so this is not an outright YA book, but hear me out. I first laid my hands on this book when I was 15, and the only reason I did was that a fanfiction I was reading kept alluding to it (Riley’s Pawn to Queen, a Harry Potter classic). I believe it was first published in 1994, so it is a definite throwback.
First, the synopsis from Amazon:
- The great detective Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honey bees when a young woman literally stumbles into him on the Sussex Downs. Fifteen years old, gawky, egotistical, and recently orphaned, the young Mary Russell displays an intellect to impress even Sherlock Holmes – and match him wit for wit. Under his reluctant tutelage, this very modern twentieth-century woman proves a deft protégée and a fitting partner for the Victorian detective. In their first case together, they must track down a kidnapped American senator’s daughter and confront a truly cunning adversary – a bomber who has set trip-wires for the sleuths and who will stop at nothing to end their partnership.
Now, you don’t have to be too familiar with the original Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle stories to appreciate this book. I think I had only read The Hound of the Baskervilles when I first approached the book, and anything I questioned was easily available online. If anything, the current Sherlock series (although it is in a modern setting) does help fill in some of the gaps (being lifted from the original stories). King also does a brilliant job of supplying this information as well.
What I love about this book: having attended a school where I was teased for being bookish and intelligent, I loved having Mary as a role model. Delving into her mind (as these are written in the first person) taught me how to deduce. I always find my mind to be a just a little bit sharper after I’ve read this. Some people have complained that writing her with intellect comparable to Sherlock’s has made her a Mary Sue, but we already know (from the original Conan Doyle series) that this has been bestowed upon a female previously! The notorious Irene Adler.
If you have ever picked up a Laurie R. King book before, you’ll notice two things: she loves integrating religion into her writing (Mary studies religion and maths at university), and she also loves incorporating LGBT characters. This volume is no different. While this is attractive to me (I have a degree in Religious Studies), I realize that it can be off-putting for others. Although it is a feature of the books, it is not overbearing.
This book grew into a series which is now at an astonishing 14 volumes with a few companion short stories, so if you enjoy this, there is definitely more for you to explore! I believe Mary’s age in the current and most recently published novel (Garment of Shadows) is 24.
I also gotta say, I had such a hard time choosing a cover to display for this book. I’ve been through three different copies of this book because I have loaned it out to so many people and they’ve loved it so much I haven’t gotten them back, so I’ve had the privilege of owning the silhouette cover, the honeycomb cover, and the one I’ve decided to choose. Now they have re-released them with gorgeous art nouveau style covers that are glorious.
You can visit Laurie R. King’s website here. I have to gush that she is brilliant and lovely and sooo interesting to follow on Facebook!
I hope you have enjoyed my selection for this week!
Have you read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice? What did you think? Are you interested in reading it at all?