Book Review: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1)First off, you should know that while I enjoyed the BBC’s recent remake of Sherlock, and loved the original Sherlock Holmes stories as a child, I’m not fanatical about my Holmes. He doesn’t have to be a certain way to keep me happy. Judging from the mixed reviews on this series on Amazon, I suspect this isn’t true for everyone out there.

With that caveat:

For those of you who haven’t heard of this series before, King’s series takes a retired Sherlock Holmes who has become thoroughly bored with life in the country, and pairs him with a precocious and opinionated orphan, Mary Russell. Holmes breaks the tedium of his existence by training the teenaged Russell in his methods of detection. Over time, the various tests he lays for her lead to Russell taking a more active role in a few minor cases. That role escalates as Russell matures. By the time she goes off to study at Oxford, Mary Russell has become his full-fledged partner.

I enjoyed watching the relationship between Holmes and Russell develop over the course of the book. In Mary Russell, King has created a convincing female Holmes, complete with the requisite emotional scarring to keep her from being intolerable. King has also managed to soften Holmes’ acerbic personality without losing the spirit of the character entirely. King introduces Russell into Holmes’ life in a manner that makes it completely reasonable that Holmes would a) take an interest in shaping this young girl and b) become rather fond of the mature female detective he has created.

The multiple mini-mysteries that wrapped up into one big question style was enjoyable enough, but it gave me too many openings to put down the book and go do something else. On the one hand, I do actually have lots of things I need to do other than read, so having lots of chances to put the book down and attend to them was kind of nice, even if it meant that a book that should take me a day to read ended up taking ten. On the other hand, I much prefer books that engross me to the point that I simply forget those other things exist. Still, the multiple mini-problems in one book style is definitely true to the Holmes canon (at least what I remember of it), so I can’t really fault King for using it.

King’s writing quite competently stays out of the way of the story, so although I didn’t find myself racing back to my book nook to read the next installment, I also enjoyed the time I spent in said nook with the book.

Now for the most important question: Would I read more books in the series?

Yes. Probably. Most likely on my next vacation. These would be great beach, airplane, or stuck-on-a-train reads. But while I’m still here in town, I’m going to catch up on a few other books on my to-read list first.


About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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