Review: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Sherlock Holmes is aging. The great detective who once roamed the seedy streets of London and hunted the depraved and desperate criminals that haunted the city is now retired and living a quiet life studying bees in the Sussex Downs. That is, until the day a saucy 15-year-old girl nearly tramples him underfoot while walking around with her nose in a book. Much to Holmes's surprise, in this unlikely package he finds not only intellect, but a reasoner as adept as himself. This accidental encounter sparks the fire of a partnership that will last for decades and brings together Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell for the first time. Holmes takes the orphaned Mary under his wing and, though she's not yet aware of it, begins to tutor her in his unique craft. Mary passes every surreptitious exam with flying colors, and Holmes is forced to accept more and more that he's finally met his match. The unstoppable duo take on the unimaginative criminals of England with ease, but everything changes when Holmes nearly loses his life to a bomb. As the bizarre clues stack up, and the near-death experiences come with increasing rapidity, Holmes and Russell realize that they may be dealing with a criminal who can not only match their maneuvers, but wants to flaunt it in their faces before utterly destroying them and everything they hold dear.
In The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King takes a literary icon and rejuvenates him in a way that is truly awe-inspiring. In the place of the cold and calculating Sherlock Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation stands a complex and captivating character who is just enough like the old Holmes to be recognizable. The relationship that develops between the detective and his protégé is captivating. Holmes is forced to recognize that he has finally met his equal, and the mixture of eagerness and incredulity is endearing. The banter and warmth between the unlikely pair paints a picture of the deep bond grounded in a meeting of minds that neither ever expected to find.
King judiciously mixes the old with the new. Though Holmes is a very different character, fans of the original will still appreciate her new perspective on the beloved detective. King's original creation, Mary, is spunky and smart and will instantly win over the most hard-hearted reader. Separately, they are interesting, but together they are irresistible. Their partnership is more balanced and engaging than Holmes and Watson's ever was -- though the old companion does make an appearance, and is charming in his own way. The story is less about the traditional mystery and deduction than about Holmes's and Mary's transformation: Holmes into a rounded and relateable human being, and Mary into the next generation of infallible supersleuth. However, the novel still keeps readers on their toes with the string of surprises and dangerous adventures that seem to stalk the great detective's every step.