Book Review | The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King: Vol. 1 of the Sherlock Holmes-Mary Russell Series

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
     'Tis high time for a book review! My 2-week blog-cation has ended, and now, I have found it... this fascinating mystery series of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell's fast-paced, adventurous detective partnership is one that I would like to treasure, and will gladly dedicate my time to for the rest of 2017! Today, I'll be reviewing the first installment of this series written by Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Or, On the Segregation of the Queen.

Though I must say, that if  (and a big 'if') I can stick to the Picador editions of this series, which are much more forgiving on the eyes (larger pages, adequate print size, with nice artistic covers to boot) rather than the magnifying-glass Bantam editions, I will need to preserve my already atrocious eyesight as much as possible, so would rather wait until I have money to actually purchase the sadly lesser available larger Picador editions rather than constantly having to put them on hold at the libraries in my city (the waaait, good grief), or to settle for the microscopic Bantams. Then again, it would be fitting to have this as a series I would need a magnifying glass to read! Ok, too soon, and oh so touche - moving on... 😄

Summary & Setting

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King begins the 20th century tribute of Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes from a fan fiction series that, in my eyes, Laurie has created so impressively and kept in the spirit and likened period-writing of Doyle's original vision (from the bit of Doyle's works that I do remember reading - there are changes in character perceptions from original to fan fiction, though), that it seems like this series by Laurie King should be worthy of being kanon! Granted, I had only skimmed through the first couple of Doyle's novels as a child, and sadly only now remember them as little more than a small representation of my childhood that leaves me wishing I would've finished the series. I will get back to it when I can, but now that I'm reading this series, I wish to just go ahead and finish it. I watch the BBC Sherlock series (both modern and period versions), so have since become reacquainted with the original essence of the genius madman that is Sherlock Holmes and his caring, brilliant sidekick Dr. Watson. 

The story of Beekeeper's Apprentice begins in Sussex Downs, England in 1915 during the Great War. Sherlock, upon meeting his neighbor, a fifteen year old future Oxford student by the name of Mary Russell, who, quite literally, stumbles into him as he's studying bees, realizes quickly that this mature young girl is actually a very sharp tack, whose observing and deducing skills are something he'd been looking for in a partner his whole life. Russell has knowledge and interests that cover a whole scope of disciplines, including maths, theology, languages, Chemistry, feminism, ladies' fashions, a quick wit, chess, and a whole host of other studies. She is also wise well beyond her years. Sherlock, now in his middle-aged years, and a reclusive maddened master of deductive reasoning who is now retired and has taken an indefinite break from the fast-paced grisly detective work, has taken up the hobby and study of beekeeping. Throughout their quips and sarcastic bantering, leading to ridiculous traveling disguises and solving cases full of adventures (and dangers abounding!), Mary finds herself to be quite privileged to be an apprentice under the tutelage of the great Sherlock Holmes, and initially considers him as a father figure. 

In their quest to disguise themselves as gypsies and try to save a young girl's life in Wales, Holmes being arrested, and their adventures in Palestine in wacky disguises and accompanied by two spies on their journey, their pretend-estrangement afterwards, and Mary's studious Oxford life being interrupted numerous times in the book, this is definitely a fan fic that's fun, dangerous, and quite an adventurous read, in my opinion!


This story is told in first person, from Mary Russell's point of view, and she is projected by King as the sole author of these memoirs. 


We are re-introduced to some old favorite characters, such as Dr. Watson (albeit with some tweaks; his treatment in this book was the only thing that made me almost put it down in disregard, but I'm soo glad that I didn't), Mycroft Holmes, Inspector Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson. In Mary's realm, the reader becomes introduced and acquainted with her Oxford crew, including Oxford scholar Veronica Beaconsfield, some other classmates, Mary Russell's brilliant Oxford math mentor, Patricia Donleavy, and Mary Russell's aunt, with whom Mary has been living in her parents' summer home in Sussex Downs since her parents and brother had died in a car crash. 

In this series, the reader sees the more human side to Sherlock Holmes, but his stoic, brilliantly shrewd detective personality reappears in little to no time at all, and these two aspects of his personality are able to balance each other out. The way in which he can present himself as a father figure to Mary comes through in an appropriate manner, and not so much in an idiosyncratic or shocking manner to the reader who isn't accustomed to seeing Holmes in such a sympathetic role. It's believable, as people do change with age!

Author's Writing Style & Structure

Laurie R. King has definitely adopted elements of a late 19th century writing style for this series, though her prose isn't nearly as florid with fanciful words and expressions as Doyle's. The narrative is definitely episodic, as the two go from one case and location to another in a matter of a few chapters.


The game of chess is used quite often in this story between Sherlock and his protegee Mary, and proves to be an effective way for Holmes to discover evermore the intellect and sharp honing of the reasoning and mental strengths which Mary possesses. The metaphor which chess could possibly be representative of, are the game and tactics the criminal(s) and adversary they're trying to outwit uses on them, from the case of the American senator's daughter in Wales to strange mysterious bombings throughout London, and what they, in turn, use on their opponent, such as their mysterious disappearance to Palestine. Yeah, distracting, much? Steps are redirected on both sides, the clues that are left for them from the criminal(s) are sometimes intentional, either as a distraction, or as a direct trap, so that they're led right into the criminal's clutches....check-mate.

Another metaphor is the queen honeybee of the hive, and it is representative of - well, let's just say I would give the story away if I told you. 😉


This fan fiction gets a 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from me! I'm almost finished with the second installment in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and King has captured so much of that period's grammar and overall language with both installments thus far! It's enthralling, charming, the wit is paramount, and the adventures and cases continue to get more interesting and developed with every chapter! I love that the scenarios give the reader a way to sharpen their own methods of deductive reasoning, and since Mary is under the tutelage of Holmes in this novel, it includes many applications and techniques that may be transferred over to the reader, which is astounding and brilliant, on Laurie R. King's part!

My dad, a fan of Doyle's original series, read Beekeeper's Apprentice as well, and he definitely agrees that it was a page-turner, and a great homage to Doyle's vision! Some may view this series, as well as other fanfics, as entirely pastiche, but that opinion is completely individual, and up to the reader's likes and dislikes. I personally loved it, and will continue to read more from this series! 

1 comment:

  1. this definitely sounds interesting!



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