March 20, 2009

The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Laurie R King

I have to say I am really starting to enjoy my mystery novels! I have picked up some great ideas from my fellow bloggers, particularly Eva and Danielle and they both recommended The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R King (I'm sure there are others out there that have loved this book too so please let me know if I have forgotten you!). I am fairly new to the mystery genre so recommendations are really the only way I can enter this reading world safely - there are just too many mystery novels out there to wade through.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice is the first novel in Laurie R King's series which brings together the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and a budding young investigator, Mary Russell. I have to admit I have never read any of the Sherlock Holmes writings so I really knew nothing about the character - this didn't impact negatively on my reading of this book at all. King sets up the character and the setting perfectly - the first half of the book where this is all done was by far my favourite - I enjoyed it more than when the actual mysteries and cases started to occur!

Sixteen year old Mary runs into Holmes in the English countryside near her farming home in Sussex Downs - they recognise a similar intellect in each other (although the two characters are not without their considerable differences which leads to some great tension throughout the book) and Holmes becomes a mentor for the orphan Mary.

The relationship between the two characters was the real joy in the reading of this book for me - the mysteries and cases were really only a vehicle for learning more about their relationship and their personalities - I'm not sure if this is supposed to happen when reading a mystery though??

I have to say I'm hooked now - I'll definitely be looking out for the rest of the books in this series.


Eva said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :D The later books have a bit more emphasis on the mystery-since they tend to deal with only one per book-but character development is definitely a huge part of the series. While I read mysteries, I don't read a lot of different authors, so I'm not sure how widespread character development is in the genre. As far as the Golden Age writers go, Dorothy Sayers definitely looks most at character from what I've read. And for contemporary, P.D. James focuses a lot on character, but much of that is on characters connected to just the one mystery, so they're not part of the whole series.

What stands out the most to me from the other mysteries I read is that Russell and Holmes have a truly equal relationship. I think that's part of what allows for more character development...there isn't a sidekick, who's always two steps behind the detective.

Other than the Lord Wimsey and Dalgleish series I've mentioned, I also enjoy Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti books (they're set in Venice) and Kate Ross' Julian Kestrel ones (they're set in Regency England-unfortunately, there are only four because Ross passed away from cancer).

Karen said...

Hi Eva - thanks so much for your wonderful input. I have the first Donna Leon book waiting on my shelves so looking forward to that one as well as the next Russell/Holmes books. I think I will like the focussing on one mystery as opposed to several - I found that a little distracting in the first book although I could see why the author did that.

Danielle said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! I think you'll like the next even more! I liked all back story to Mary and Sherlock Holmes but it was the mystery part I was looking forward to. The next is much more your standard mystery!

Karen said...

Hi Danielle - thanks for the great recommendation! I'm loving finding all these great mystery novels that I had never looked at before - a whole new reading genre to explore!

Tara said...

I recently read this, too any really liked it! In fact I think I'm going to read the seond in the series too. I have never been a big mystery reader, so I rely on recommendations also and so now have a few favorite authors and a few I want to try.

Since you reviewed Girl in a Blue Dress I am seeing it everywhere! Looks like it's on the Orange Prize longlist. And have I mentioned that I love your header photo? Gorgeous.

Karen said...

Hi Tara - Yes, I think I did see Girl in a Blue Dress on the longlost for the Orange prize - I was also excited to see some Australian books/authors on the list.
My header photo is one my partner took in Bath when we were there a couple of years ago - I sigh with the memories every time I see it!

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