The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King
Book Nine of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series is every bit as good as book one. Better, even. King has matured and honed her craft to an even sharper edge (pick up The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and you won’t think it a possible feat, her writing already being top-notch.) As we open this latest installation we feel like we’re coming back to meet old friends as the return from a trip - they are literally returning from San Francisco via Japan - and we know their backstory and what to expect. And we like it.
Don’t worry, though. If this is your first foray into this series of unauthorized Holmes sequels, King gives you enough detail so that you’re not foundering. The unfamiliar reader would be able to read this one as a stand-alone novel, save for the need to read the next one.
On the cover, plain as day, this book brands itself as “a novel of suspense” and it doesn’t disappoint. From the inexplicable failure of one of Holmes’ beehives to the shadowy figure who appears on their porch asking for their help.The reader is grateful for the map in the opening of the book, because the adventure starts on the Southern Coast of England - in Sussex, where Russell and Holmes live - and takes us up to the northern tip of Scotland (in a hurricane, no less) with many, many stops in between.
We meet Holmes’ brother, Mycroft, again - perhaps his largest appearance in a single novel - and are also introduced more thoroughly to Sherlock’s sentimental side. Yes, it is told in the first person through the eyes of Mary Russell, but she would be no match for Sherlock Holmes if she were not brilliantly observant...and it helps that she becomes very emotionally involved in this particular case as well.
Because she is Laurie R. King, I have to say that I pick up her books merely based on her byline. I have never been disappointed. King falls into that category that only a handful of writers manage: “Books I Wish I’d Written”...or, on my more cynical writers-block filled days: “Stop Now Because You Will Never Be This Good.” Luckily, those days are few and far between and instead she is inspiration. Even if you’re not a writer, I have a feeling that you’ll find inspiration.
Ok - I don’t generally like spoilers, but I want to call attention to a particularly timely scene...so if you don’t want even the hint of a spoiler, stop reading now and go get this book. Otherwise:
There is a scene where Mary has apprehended a suspect...at the very least he is a man who has information that she very badly needs. So she trusses him up and threatens to leave him for dead. The setting is one in which not even the reader is positive she won’t. Yes, we all know that she would call to let someone know his whereabouts, but we can’t be sure she’ll do it in a very timely manner. Under the tenets set out by the Geneva Convention - what she does to extract information could be termed “torture.” Given the situation, I was completely on board. I rooted for her. Granted, what she did wasn’t appalling by any means, but her suspect was terrified and genuinely afraid for his life. Emotional/Mental torture, then. Granted, it is a work of fiction. And we all give fiction a lot of leeway because it’s made-up. But her situation is one that even the most mundane woman could find herself in. And if that woman were me...let’s just say I was taking notes. So go and read, and then come back and tell me what you thought. I have feeling it won’t be a debate, though...which makes me wonder about what anyone would do when pushed far enough.
That being said: READ THIS BOOK.