In the latest installment of the Holmes and Russell series, The Language of Bees the bees Holmes is raising in Sussex serve as both metaphor and counterpoint to the action-packed mystery. One of his hives is swarming, something bees apparently do when they suspect their keeper is not returning, and Mary is left alone with that problem, as Holmes as followed their latest client into London.
The nature of this story makes it impossible to review without minor spoilers. The client is question Holmes’ son, we are told, from an affair he had with Irene Adler during the years in which he was supposed to be dead. The mystery: the location of this grown son’s wife and small daughter.
Obviously there are tramps across wet moors, nights spent in boltholes with amenities (or a lack thereof) that are a far cry from the scale of a Riviera hotel – in fact, over the entire series both Holmes and Mary Russell have spent an inordinate amount of time being wet, dirty, cold, or hungry – conditions I normally object to reading about, but don’t mind in these stories in the slightest.
There is also familial angst (what if Holmes’ son murdered is family, what if Holmes’ loyalty is to the son he barely knows rather than Mary?) and a wild aeroplane flight to enhance the mystery.
Sadly, while the mystery is solved, at the end of the novel we are confronted with three words that the author says were meant to offer hope of another story, but which I always find frustrating: To be continued.
Goes well with hot tea and scones or crumpets followed by a hot bubble bath.
My Holmes/Russell reading fest draws to a temporary close with Justice Hall, which, while much later than O Jerusalem in terms of internal chronology, is nonetheless a direct sequel.
In this novel, Holmes and Russell are called to the aid of friends originally met in Palestine, Mahmoud and Ali, who are now back home in the English personalities, and dealing with all the angst and politics that large, wealthy families seem to corner the market on. There aren’t any mentions of modern diseases like mesothelioma, but there are hunting parties, hidden relatives, and even a severe case of sepsis.
It includes many of the favorite elements of all these novels – snarky comments from Mary, wry observation from Holmes, a near-perfect period setting, and great disguises. And, like all of King’s work in this series, leaves the reader wanting more.
I’ve noticed that when I read King’s work the Holmes I hear in my head speaks in Jeremy Brett’s voice, and I think that proves the excellence of her work.
My marathon of Laurie R. King’s Holmes and Russell series reached The Moor last night, and left it this morning. When I’m not sleeping, I’ve been reading, though mainly in fits and starts.
In any case, this book is sort of a loose sequel to The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is, of course canon Holmes, in that it takes place in and near Dartmoor, and involves Baskerville Hall, but it it’s not JUST about that.
Instead, this novel sees Holmes bringing Mary to see his old friend the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, who lives at Lew House, and is near death (of old age), and wants Holmes to track down the strange appearances of a ghostly carriage and a ghostly dog. Of course this dog and the Baskerville Hound become intertwined, and the investigation involves both Holmes and Mary Russell (who are married by now) getting wet, dirty, and injured.
Need a refresher course on the original story? Since you’re presumably already at your desktop or laptop computer in order to read this, you can click over to YouTube where someone has put up the Granada television series version of The Hound of the Baskervilles in several parts.
I’ve reviewed work by Laurie R. King in this blog before, but finding a couple of her Holmes & Russell novels at Half-Price Books last weekend, and then finding out that she had a new book in the series out this year has spurred me to re-read the entire series.
I’d forgotten how refreshing it could be to immerse myself in a novel where no one had cell phones, or worried about upgrading their computer memory, or complained about having 500 channels and nothing to watch. As well, re-reading these novels with a slightly more mature eye gives me the ability to really pay attention to some of the nuances I’d missed the first time around.
If you’re not familiar with the series, the first novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, introduces us to a character who would be a Mary Sue under hands any less deft than Ms. King’s. This Mary – one Mary Russell – is a teenage girl sent from America to live under the “care” of an aunt, who holds her fortune in trust. One of her neighbors in their remote corner of Sussex just happens to be Sherlock Holmes.
The two form a somewhat unlikely friendship, especially considering Holmes’ oft-noted misogyny, that eventually blooms into a partnership of crime-solving equals. Imagine the tag line: He’s a famous detective who retired and took up beekeeping. She’s a young Oxford student studying Theology and Chemisty. They fight crime!
But the thing is, they do.
Of course, they also bicker, banter, and bargain their way through many adventures, and leave the reader – or at least this reader feeling only that the book has ended too soon.