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The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

I love the title of this the 9th Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novel. In name and spirit, The Language of Bees brings things back to the beginning once more. Back to the Downs, back to the hives, back to a 15-year-old Mary Russell stumbling over a retired detective tending his bees in peace, thus setting into motion the unlikely formation of a most formidable and engaging partnership. What an adventure it's been, and how fascinating to follow these two dominant personalities meet and clash and meet again, picking their way ever so rationally toward a kind of home.

In this installment, Russell and Holmes indeed come home to Sussex after months and months abroad--tired, anxious, and, in Russell's case, tangled up in self-doubt and disillusionment. They walk through the door to find Holmes' beloved bees have inexplicably fled their hive and a stranger waiting for them. A stranger who is not a stranger after all. They met surrealist painter Damian Adler once before. Now he solicits Holmes' aid tracking down his missing wife and child. Holmes and Adler depart for London, leaving Russell to unpack, unwind, and investigate the mysteriously missing bees. Soon, however, the pair will reunite and blaze a trail across the isles of Britain, following a string of standing stones, gruesome suicides, and sacrifices, as they attempt to locate Damian's family.

There is something of the truly macabre in this volume. Even the cover, which at first glance is merely lovely, takes on a particularly disturbing quality after all is said and done. Undertones of madness course throughout the tale and I found myself, along with Mary, shaking off shivers of fear and uncertainty in my haste to find out what was behind the string of awful deaths and missing people. Interestingly enough, I found the crux of the mystery to be not so much who did it but the effect of fear and uncertainty (and, yes, madness) on each of the major players. Excepting, of course, Holmes' unflappable brother Mycroft, who continues to be a delight despite his sudden loss of weight. Russell and Holmes' stay with Mycroft was one of the high points for me, as was (rather surprisingly) Russell's solo stay at home. Usually I prefer my Russell and my Holmes together for as much of the story as possible. However, I found myself completely riveted as Russell paced the halls of the place that has, after nine years, become her home, trying to find herself once more amid a houseful of Holmes. Laurie R. King pulls out all kinds of stops in this one, managing at once to entertain and make the reader think and feel and wonder, like Russell, if anyone can be trusted. Holmes, Adler, even herself. I will say that this one does end unresolved in certain respects and, as such, left me longing for the next installment. Alas, a not altogether unfamiliar emotion.


  1. I have been resisting this series...

    but you, oh most evil book pimp, are making it nigh impossible!

  2. vickivanv11:01 AM

    I'm so glad you liked it! It turned out to be one of my faves in the series, which is saying a lot, considering my extreme Russellholism. Oh, and the audiobook edition just hit audible's website. I have it downloaded to my iphone, ready for my walk. :D :D :D

    Love your header art--that's fairly new, isn't it?

  3. Oooh:

    "I found the crux of the mystery to be not so much who did it but the effect of fear and uncertainty (and, yes, madness) on each of the major players."

    Well, This sounds wonderful! Maybe I need to jump on this series. Do I have to start at the beginning?

  4. ALady, resist no longer! Get thyself a copy of THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE and don't look back. :)

    CK, I was thrilled at how good it was. It really did take me back to the first time I read BEEK and how happy I was I'd listened to you and picked it up. And, yes, the header art is pretty new. Custom made by my most awesome brother-in-law The Artist. I'm glad you like.

    Carolyn, jump! I do think you need to start at the beginning, if just to understand the way King's set up her Holmes, etc. Also, their first meeting is priceless. The first book is THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE, then A MONSTROUS REGIMENT OF WOMEN, and on from there.

  5. Okay, you evil evil temptress!

    I just spoke with the s.o. and he agreed with you.

    Off to get books... :sigh:

    heh, the hardship, I tells ya!

  6. Strawberry Curls4:35 PM

    Wow, I loved this review almost as much as I loved "The Language of Bees."

    To anyone who is thinking about reading the Mary Russell Mysteries I and only say I'm jealous you have all these wonderful books to discover, savor and reread. They are my favorites, and I can read each of them again and again and still find new things, new nuances of plot and character to delight and intrigue me. Laurie R. King is one of the best writers out there. Enjoy!!


  7. ALady, yay! All kinds of good things in store for you...

    Alice, I'm so pleased you enjoyed the review. Wouldn't it be awesome to get to read the first one for the first time again? They really are nuanced and delightful.


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