Saturday, July 3, 2010

The great Sherlock

My first literary love affair was with Sherlock Holmes. I met him at the highly impressionable age of twelve and fell instantly in love. I read every Conan Doyle story that featured him - read them more than once.

Since then, I have had many loves in my life. Indeed, I have been a very loose woman, literarily speaking, but one never forgets one's first love. He is always special.

A few years ago when I read a review of a book called The Beekeeper's Apprentice, I was both fascinated and a bit outraged. How dare anyone tamper with Conan Doyle's perfect creation! But in the end fascination won out over outrage and I picked up the book and read it, and thus a long ago love affair was rekindled, but this time with the added fillip that it became a three-way affair - Sherlock, Mary Russell, and me.

Mary is Laurie King's unique creation who was introduced in The Beekeeper's Apprentice as a young orphan girl in Sussex who came under the sway of her neighbor, the beekeeper Sherlock Holmes. She became his apprentice, his partner in adventure and then (Conan Doyle must be spinning in his grave!) Holmes' wife. As weird as that might seem to lovers of classic Holmes, King actually makes it work and has built a very interesting pastiche mystery series on the premise.

I have read - I could even say devoured - every book in the series. The God of the Hive is the tenth one and a very good one it is. It is actually a continuation of the story begun in the last book, The Language of Bees, in which we were introduced to a son and granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes, as well as a doomed daughter-in-law. In this book, the son and granddaughter are in great peril from which they must be extricated by the efforts of the great Sherlock and Mary Russell, along with a ragtag but interesting cast of supporting characters, and the godlike Mycroft Holmes who also plays his part.

I think that I will be giving away nothing by saying that Sherlock and Mary again solve the mystery and triumph in the end and their stories will be continued in yet another book in the series. Thank goodness!

Laurie King is a very good writer who sets the stage of the early 20th century well. One feels that one is there and experiencing the events of the day. The reader feels, too, that King has real empathy and understanding for her characters and she makes us want to know them better. A very good skill for a writer of an ongoing series to have!

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