The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King: C-

From the back of the book:
What happens when Sherlock Holmes—a pompous, proper Victorian gentleman—takes an outspoken American woman as his apprentice? Edgar Award-winning author Laurie R. King reveals the answer in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, an absorbing novel steeped in exquisite understanding and charming intelligence.

In 1914, a bold young American named Mary Russell meets a retired beekeeper in the English countryside. His name is Sherlock Holmes. And although many years have passed since he astonished Watson by solving Scotland Yard’s most baffling crimes, the Great Detective is no fool. He instantly spots a fellow intellect in Mary. When his greatest enemy returns with a fiendishly resourceful plan for revenge, Holmes knows he faces the case of his lifetime—and that he needs Mary’s help to solve it.

I had serious trepidations going into this book. I expected Mary to be insufferable, revealing her oh-so-clever deductions to Holmes, who had of course failed to make them previously, leaving him mystified and relegated to Watson’s traditional role. I mean, look at that last sentence up there. That’s cringe-inducing stuff.

I found her quite irksome for the first couple of chapters as she described her mental capacities rather immodestly, though this is certainly something Sherlock’s guilty of himself. I started to maybe kind of like her an eensy bit when she attended university and went about in drag on a few occasions. When they actually started sleuthing together, it was clear that if anyone was relegated to a supporting role, it was Mary. Sherlock was still very much the star, and early on, King does a pretty good job of both maintaining his character as well as providing mysteries consistent in tone and style with those of Conan Doyle. Their first two cases are not bad, and I didn’t want to stab Mary.

That said, about two-thirds through, she does notice something he doesn’t, and goes on in amazement about how she’s rescued him from error and how this causes him angst. Beyond that, by this point it had started to get repetitive. I cannot tell you how many times Holmes attempted to leave her behind, only to be reminded that she did not need to be coddled, and that he had never shown any doubt in the awesomeness of her deductive powers.

Shortly after this, the plot is completely derailed by a pointless side trip to Palestine. Said trip gives Mary the opportunity to start quoting random Hebrew and singing psalms on inspirational hillsides. My head. At least Holmes doesn’t comment on her ‘voice of pure sweetness and light’ or something. Not that he escapes out-of-character behavior here. After he has just agreed that she’s his equal, he envelopes her in his arms and holds her until the lamp runs out of oil. Holmes did this? Eh?!?

Continuing on was not very enjoyable after this point, but I was too close to the end to abandon it. It improves somewhat once they’re back in London, but the revelation of the villain is pretty boring, and the “moving” letter Mary receives at the end had me rolling my eyes. I will not be reading any other books in this series. I’ll actually miss reading Holmes’ bits, but I’ve been spoiled on an event that occurs down the line, and I think I’m better off stopping here and avoiding the risk of aneurism.

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