Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Report: The Beekeeper's Apprentice

The March edition of Book Report is all about lady detectives!!!!! And even though Nancy Drew might be the first female detective to come to mind (and will make an appearance, rest assured), I'm starting with Miss Mary Russell, the protagonist of Laurie R. King's novel The Beekeeper's Apprentice. 

This novel, the first in a series of twelve, was recommended by my favorite high school teacher, Mrs. Thomas. (She also happens to be the person who told me that thing about the Brontë girls.) Could be that her recommendation has a little something to do with my falling in love with these books, as she told me that the main character, Mary Russell--an astute, inquisitive, plucky, nose-in-a-book fifteen year old--reminded her of me. Obviously, fifteen year old Christine (flattered to be compared to any character in a book esteemed by Mrs. Thomas) had to investigate this Mary Russell--or Russell, as she's known by her dear friend and mentor, Mr. Sherlock Holmes...

That's right! The Beekeeper's Apprentice includes that most famous detective, but truly, it's Russell's story. He is the beekeeper and she the apprentice. I find it intelligent, funny, well-written, and charming as charming can be. And although I can see Catherine rolling her eyes already, Monika might be intrigued. Well, intrigued but also suspicious, as any Sherlock Holmes fan would be when confronted with a re-envisioning of their beloved detective. 

Thus my life began again, in the summer of 1915. I was to spend the first years of the war under Holmes' tutelage, although it was some time before I became aware that I was not just visiting a friend, that I was actually being taught by Holmes, that I was receiving, not casual lessons in a variety of odd and entertaining areas, but careful instruction by a professional in his area of considerable expertise. I did not think of myself as a detective; I was a student of theology, and I was to spend my life in exploration, not of the darker crannies of human misbehaviour, but of the heights of human speculation concerning the nature of the Divine. That the two were not unrelated did not occur to me for years.                  --Laurie R. King

I must say that I do admire a good detective novel. Being someone who is terrible at plotting out stories, I have nothing but respect for authors who not only sustain a good plot, but a mystery plot to boot. King is certainly a master, or rather mistress, of the Sherlock Holmesian detective genre. And while, in my opinion, A Beekeeper's Apprentice is the best of the series (so often the case with the first book, don't you agree?), Russell and Holmes' subsequent adventures are equally entertaining. So, any of King's books in this series would be fitting recommendations as well as Conan Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and, I think, I Capture the Castle, which is not a detective novel but does have a similar feel...perhaps due to the narrator. 

Nevertheless: The game's afoot! Cry "God for Harry, England, and Saint George!" --Henry V

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