The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (Bantam, 1994)
Agent: Mary Alice Kier and Anna Cottle, Cine/Lit Representation
Summary: 1915. The great detective Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honeybees 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 protegee 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.
Notes: Laurie King does such a masterful job writing about Sherlock Holmes and his new apprentice. What a great reinterpretation of Holmes and his young apprentice, who grows to become his equal. The partnership that is formed between the two of them is so organic and believable, and Mary Russell is a whip-smart protagonist that I rooted for on every page.
The mysteries are enthralling, and the dialogue is full of wit. The set-ups of all the various cases are quite clever, and the way Holmes and Russell solve them, even more so. In addition, there is a lot in here that will please just about any Sherlock Holmes fan. The book almost plays like a “greatest hits” version of the original Holmes mysteries, with Holmes (and now Russell) often donning disguises, cracking codes and analyzing clues just like in Doyle’s mysteries. Also, many significant characters in the Sherlock Holmes mythos are referenced. Some actually make an appearance, and others are merely mentioned, but it’s more than enough to prove Laurie King didn’t just slap Holmes in her book to make it sell better.