My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I'd never heard of The Beekeeper's Apprentice (by Laurie R. King) before my friend Kristin recommended it as a book group selection. It's the first in a series of five, and I will definitely be reading more of the series.
Mary Russell is a girl of 15 when she is wandering about in Sussex Downs, her nose in a book. Right at the beginning, I knew I would like her--I do not know many other people who are crazy enough to read while they are walking. Like Mary Russell, I have had one accident while doing so...but I was not too terribly injured. I'm just more careful now!
Whilst she was wandering, she nearly tripped over Sherlock Holmes, who was bee peeping at the time. After an initially rough start together, the eccentric Holmes realizes what a bright spark she is and adopts her as his apprentice and erstwhile daughter/friend.
"Russell," as Holmes calls her, goes off to Oxford when she comes of age (she is an orphan and was living in the care of her unlikable aunt) and returns home to visit Holmes and his housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson. Russell has a brain similar to Sherlock Holmes; she is extremely observant and intuitive, in addition to being off-the-charts bright. She and Holmes get involved in some small cases, followed by a rescue of an American senator's daughter, who has been kidnapped. These all lead to the penultimate case, in which someone is trying to kill both Russell and Holmes. At last, they meet their match.
I have never actually read any Sherlock Holmes stories. The most I know about him comes from that clumsy Robert Downey film that came out a few years ago (I saw it while riding on an Amtrak train going up to Tacoma). From what I've deduced, the author paints a faithful picture of Holmes and Watson. She doesn't shirk from his drug habits, but they are minimized.
The story is told from the perspective of Mary Russell, and what a great young feminist role model she is! It's also rare to find a novel about the purely platonic friendship between a young woman and an older man. They had a marriage purely of minds.
Definitely recommended for mystery or historical fiction fans who like spunky young heroines.