The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Posted February 24, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

by Laurie R. King

Series: Mary Russell #1
Publisher: Bantam on January 15, 1994
Genre: Classic Retellings, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Retellings
Target Age Group: Adult
Rating: ★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes' pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger. But when an elusive villain enters the picture, their partnership is put to a real test.


For a little while, I was ready to tear apart The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.  I found the writing bit flat and there was a scene early in the book that involved characters tinting the color of their skin for a disguise.  Still generally intrigued, I waited it out.  This review is going to be mostly informative – no passion one way or the other.  To be honest, I’ve never been intrigued enough by Sherlock Holmes to pick up Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, and The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was very much a cover pick.  Seriously – that honeycomb cover is gorgeous.

Despite my initial misgivings, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice stepped back from racist undertones and addressed a bit of the prejudice against the Romani people.  The deeper I got into the book, the more it felt like not only was Laurie R. King honoring the Sherlock Holmes character, but also addressing the unfortunate choices that had been made by Doyle in writing in the first place.  More than once does Holmes appear in a garish and unnecessary disguise, which Mary Russell internally tears apart. At one point, she finds herself in a safe house and spends some time pondering the unlikeliness of the location.  Without reading the original Holmes work, I got the impression that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made a lot of ridiculous choices, and while Laurie R. King respected her source material, she also spent some time correcting it. And I appreciated that.

The writing, as I said, felt flat to me.  Again, this could be King trying to emulate Doyle’s writing style, which I could certainly see.  The characters are guarded and there’s a lot of dialogue.  I didn’t get a sense for what Mary Russell, our protagonist, looked like until we were about halfway through the book.  The story also ambles, and while it all comes together at the end, I felt like it took the scenic route in getting there.  To be honest, I kept speeding up my audiobook because while I didn’t want to DNF it – I wasn’t quite that bored and had already invested a lot of time – I just really wanted the story to get on with it already.

I suppose The Beekeeper’s Apprentice does just fine for its genre and while it wasn’t my particular cup of tea, I can appreciate it as a successful next-generation evolution for a beloved classic character.  Fans of Sherlock Holmes will most likely enjoy Mary Russell’s tales and seeing their favorite sleuth brought back to life.  For myself, the pacing was just murder and the voice dull, so I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series.  But it was a good book for what it was, and I can appreciate that.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★
Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Writing: ★★★
Narrator: ★★
Personal Enjoyment:


Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes?  This is the second Sherlock Holmes retelling I’ve read, and while I enjoyed A Study in Charlotte more, I can appreciate the skill here.  If you can think of any other excellent Holmes retellings, let me know in the comments!

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