It took me a month to finish the eighth book in Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, not because the story was anything less than captivating, but because I didn’t want it to end. I read the Mary Russell series books two ways – dragging them out like this by reading half a chapter every night, or devouring them whole in a weekend (or one extremely late night.)
The Language of Bees comes barely the time it takes to travel after the events of Locked Rooms, where mysteries about Russell”s mind were tangled up with the plot in California, and we were gifted with whole chapters from Holmes’ point of view. Russell is feeling the strain of the previous trip, but also the inevitable let-down that both she and Holmes suffer at the end of a case, no matter how good it is to be home. They need not worry about being bored for long, though, because they return to find Holmes’ son waiting for them at the house.
This mystery takes us through Bohemia, up into airplanes, through secret passages in Mycroft’s home and into a fascinatingly creepy upstart religious group. Damian, an artist who perhaps walks the thin line between genius and madness, is both like and unlike Holmes, is convincingly written as both a sympathetic figure and a suspect.
The end comes with more loose threads than I wanted, but the implication seems to be that the next book picks up where this one left off. I can’t wait to see what sort of character Holmes’ granddaughter will turn out to be. The God Of The Hive will be published June 2010.
For fun (and book updates), you can follow Mary Russell on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mary_russell
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, or On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King, Bantam, 1996 (oh, wow, was it really that long ago?)
At the beginning of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Mary Russell is 15, plagued by memories of the tragic accident which killed her family, living in the unhappy household of her controlling aunt, and prone to taking long walks across Sussex Downs dressed in men’s clothing (for the utility, not because she has any particular fondness for cross-dressing. Also, it’s foreshadowing about Russell’s skill at disguise, which will come up several times later in the series.) She literally stumbles upon the supposedly retired Sherlock Holmes who is out on Sussex Downs studying bees -he insults her, she insults him, and they start an unlikely and intellectually charged friendship, and, eventually, solve a few mysteries involving missing ham, criminal butlers, kidnapped American children, and math.
One summer, when I was working in a very quiet art gallery, I read every single Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I even read A Study in Scarlet, which was about 150 painful pages too long. But then I still had two more months at the gallery, with an average of one visitor a day, and so I decided to branch out – into books written by authors who came after Conan Doyle, and who very possibly loved Holmes even more than he did (since most of them didn’t try – and then fail- to kill him off.)
There are innumerable Holmsian spin-offs – rewritings of Holmes mysteries, puzzles inspired by Holmes, detectives who study Holmes, detectives who turn out to be Holmes – some stories about what happens before we meet Holmes in Conan Doyle’s books, and even more about what happens after the famous detective retires.
Once you’ve read your way through the original Holmes stories, or at least “Hound of the Baskervilles” as Dea suggested, here are a few spin-offs from our catalog. My favorite of the list below (and I haven’t read them all, but that doesn’t stop me from declaring a favorite) is the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King, though Caleb Carr’s is a close second.
More Holmes love
Posted in Booklist
Tagged A Study in Scarlet, Beekeeper's Apprentice, fan novels, mysteries, Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes and the American Angels, Sherlock Holmes: In His Own Words and In the Words of T, Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, spin offs, Starring Sherlock Holmes, The Dark Water: The Strange Beginnings of Sherlock Holm, The Execution of Sherlock Holmes, The Italian Secretary, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Origianl Stories