Mary Russell stumbles upon the great Sherlock Holmes while rambling in the countryside. He’s retired – supposedly – to take up beekeeping, but her young mind is agile and ready to be challenged. After she proves herself, he takes her on as an apprentice, and the two begin to solve crimes together.
The central premise of this book is the idea that Sherlock Holmes was a real person, and the books and stories featuring him were elaborate fictionalizations of his real-life crime-solving. In his older years, Holmes still solves crimes, but does his best to stay out of the public eye. Still, Mary knows who he is, and as the central narrator, is determined to keep him within her sites. Soon we discover that her intellect is quite up to his as her own skills develop over the course of the novel.
Roughly the first half of this book is set out in episodes. Mary and Holmes set out to solve a couple of crimes together as he begins to train her. After she’s accepted as a fully fledged apprentice, the book gains more speed as the crimes get somewhat more desperate. Naturally, our two central characters also begin to develop a relationship with one another, both a respect for each other’s minds and a whole-hearted affection for each other’s character.
I was surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed this book. Mysteries in the style of Sherlock Holmes frustrate me more often than not; because so much of the conclusions are derived from information that is never presented to the reader, it can be easy to get annoyed that it’s impossible to guess the conclusion. With this, though, I seem to have developed the ability to ignore that and simply follow the two characters along their journey. I suspect this is because the mysteries, while important to the plot, are not all that holds the book together. The narrative is very well done and the relationships between the characters develop naturally and realistically. About halfway through, I realized I just didn’t want to put the book down; I wanted to continue and find out what happened next.
I’m a bit late to this series, and now there are a number of installments that I’ll need to catch up on. I’ve known of it for quite some time, but never really had the impulse to begin until I was offered the latest book for review. So I’ll be skipping ahead to the last book, but believe me when I say I’ll also catch up on the ones I’ve missed. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is a great start to a series I’m very happy to have finally discovered.
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