One of the many books I was given for my birthday this year was a cute little mystery novel with a beehive cover. I liked it immediately because I don’t own any other yellow books! This was a very thoughtful gift because I don’t think I would have picked this book for myself, but I loved it.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is a tale concerning the world of Sherlock Holmes, but the renowned detective is now in his retirement years, living a peaceful life in the countryside. He happens to stumble upon a young, bookish girl named Mary Russell and during their first conversation he is astonished by how similar their minds are. Of course, this piques his interest and he spends a good long time tutoring her, sharing his observations with her, and honing her mind to become even sharper.
Eventually, she leaves to attend Oxford, but in no way does this mean the end of their partnership. At first, Mary merely accompanies him on several petty theft cases, and more often than not she feels out of place and in the way. But when they are assigned to recover the kidnapped daughter of a Senator, Mary finds herself in the optimal position to retrieve the child and makes the decision to solve the case, even though her actions disobeyed Holmes’ orders.
Their lives become more complicated when a criminal mastermind begins pursuing the detectives themselves, first by attempting to kill both and then by setting a “watcher” on the pair at all times. The mastermind’s tricks grow increasingly more dangerous and frustrated, they leave the country to cool down. When they return, they act as if they have grown apart and have no desire to work together anymore in hopes that this will draw out the would-be murderer. Mary puts together the clues at the last minute, just as the criminal’s final plans are set in motion, and she escapes Oxford to hide out in the countryside–only to find the mastermind waiting for her in the most unexpected place of all.
I had no idea I loved mystery so much! I found myself constantly intrigued by this book, pushing myself to solve the case before Holmes could, and making wild guesses as to who the perpetrator could be. But not only did this book have intelligent conversation and subtle humor, it also explored the characters’ emotions very well. Both Holmes and Mary are academics, and therefore fairly no-nonsense, but there is a scene I like in which Mary, plagued by violent dreams, finally finds the courage to open up to someone about her troubled past and Holmes has the ideal response: he listens. He does not attempt to relieve the pain; he acknowledges that it exists, and that it will always be with her, but also that there are far better ways to live life than to dwell on the past and what you cannot control.
I also really enjoyed the diction in this book. Laurie King successfully mixed simple speech with more scholastic words, which not only fit the characters perfectly but was a satisfying read. I love to note words I don’t know when I am reading, but it feels tedious when the sentences have been padded with a dictionary. This book had plenty of high language, but it was definitely not pedantic.
I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a stimulating read, anyone wanting to challenge their mind or expand their vocabulary without reading a dictionary, anyone who likes a clever plot and well-constructed characters.