This is Laurie King’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes in his later life as a secondary character to his apprentice, Mary Russell. I was pleasantly surprised and I believe I am addicted to the Mary Russell series. I downloaded the second book of the series within moments of finishing this book.
I had misgivings about reading this. I love Doyle’s Sherlock and I was worried that King’s interpretation would make me unhappy. So, with trepidation and after recommendations from both my parents and my niece, I picked it up. My niece and I enjoy discussing some YA fiction and as a result I was expecting something on that level. I had made a terrible assumption based on this and forgot that she is an extremely precocious 13 year-old who loves and chooses to read Shakespeare…repeatedly. She sometimes speaks in old english and I have to ask for translations. This is not YA fiction. This is a PG adult mystery, and it is wonderful.
Laurie King did a very intelligent thing. She stated, as Mary Russell our first person point of view, that her interpretation of Holmes was likely to offend or upset a reader who is looking for Watson’s interpretation. Her view of Holmes is quite different, it is the view of an equal, and Watson never viewed himself as Holmes equal. This allowed me, as the reader, to let that go. Bravo Laurie King!
This is the story of how a young woman, recently orphaned and forced to live with a detestable distant Aunt, becomes the Apprentice of the great Sherlock Holmes. The book develops their friendship through her training. Holmes is still endearingly odd, but he is not seen from a pedestal. This is a coming of age story through several mysteries brought to Holmes and Russell while she is going to school at Oxford. Russell grows from the age of 16 to 18 during the span of the novel and Holmes is in his 50’s. Their relationship is not romantic.
The writing is beautiful and spoiled me. I picked up a distinctly YA paranormal romance after this and abandoned it promptly because I couldn’t read it. I couldn’t be fair. My expectations had been raised. King did a fabulous job of staying true to her characters voice, time frame, and local. In comparison, I kept seeing where this other author threw in a few words to try to make it authentic to the local and then would forget and dispense with them. It nearly drove me to madness and I had to remember this was a new author. I will try to read it again later.
I listened to an audible format of this book narrated by Jenny Sterlin. It was wonderful. Her voice perfectly matches the material. Her accents were wonderful and her character differentiation was superb. My preference will be to listen rather than read this series. I don’t think my internal voice could do it justice after listening to her interpretation.
As for ‘The Beekeepers Apprentice’, it was a wonderful period piece during and right after World War I. It allows the reader to enjoy Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, and Watson with a fabulous addition of Mary Russell.