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The Beekeeper's Apprentice

(Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #1)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  73,295 ratings  ·  6,308 reviews
Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes's pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger. But when an elusive villai ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Bantam (first published January 15th 1994)
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Jane Each CAN stand alone, but each really builds on the previous book, so it's much more satisfying to read in order. Backstory and insider references mea…moreEach CAN stand alone, but each really builds on the previous book, so it's much more satisfying to read in order. Backstory and insider references mean something when you read in order. (less)
Amber It's structured very differently from the average Sherlock Holmes tribute. Mary Russell kind of fills in for the retired Watson, although she is in no…moreIt's structured very differently from the average Sherlock Holmes tribute. Mary Russell kind of fills in for the retired Watson, although she is in no way his replacement, and more like a third Holmes family member. There are several references to the original Holmes canon and it's rather more intense than the original stories, at least in my opinion.
Hope this helps! (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  73,295 ratings  ·  6,308 reviews

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It might have been a matter of timing, or the way I experience the Sherlock Holmes canon, it might even be all Jeremy Brett’s fault. Or even Hugh Laurie’s. The fact is: I didn't really like The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

The three main reasons:

It’s been a long time since I come across such a Mary Sue. Her gifts just keep piling up at an incredible speed from the first moment we meet her. I got the feeling that King simply chose a favorite literary crush and then projected her wish-fulfilment fan
Jun 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
Sherlock Holmes pastiche/continuation/fanfic in which Holmes, retired to beekeeping in Sussex, is so impressed by the intelligence of 15-year-old feminist Mary 'Sue' Russell that he decides to take her on as his apprentice-detective. Wacky adventures ensue.

Okay. There were some good things about this book. King's prose is enjoyable enough, and her dialogue is suitably witty. The narrative is rather too episodic for my taste, but there are some nice atmospheric touches. And I like the idea of Hol
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My friend Veronica Belmont recommended this book and after I watched the first episode of season 2 of the BBC Sherlock (OMG IT IS SO GOOD YOU GUYS!) I got fixated on Holmes and needed this book.

IT"S SO GOOD! What a great reinterpretation of Holmes and his young apprentice, who grows to become his equal. The partnership that is formed between the two of them is so organic and believable, and Mary Russell is a whip-smart protagonist that I rooted for on every page. It's definitely not a romance bo
Aileen Frost
Jul 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mysteries
Let me begin by saying that I am a huge fan of mystery novels. I especially love the character of Sherlock Holmes, so I was very excited when I picked up The Beekeeper's Apprentice. I really wanted to like this book, and hoped that it would propel me into a new and exciting mystery series.

How wrong I was.

First of all, Mary Russell, the narrator, may as well have been named Mary Sue Russell. This book is nothing but a fanfic that was lucky enough to be published because the main characters are ou
4.0 stars. I went through a lot of turmoil both in deciding to read this book and then while I was reading it. The Pre-read turmoil stems from the fact that while I have always liked the “idea” of the character of Sherlock Holmes, I have not always enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes stories that I have read. They have been a bit dry for my taste. However, I LOVED The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which took the character of Sherlock Holmes and put him in bizarre and unique surroundings (i.e ...more
David - proud Gleeman in Branwen's adventuring party
Mary Russell, also known as The Beekeeper's Apprentice, proves to be a wonderful addition to the Sherlock Holmes mythos!

When 15-year-old Mary Russell almost tripped over the peculiar man while he was obsessively studying his bees, she never imagined such an accidental (and clumsy) encounter would change her life forever! But as it turns out, that man was semi-retired detective Sherlock Holmes, and when the precocious Mary is able to match wits with him (both with her deductive reasoning and her
Sean Gibson
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Let’s get this out of the way up front: I’m in the tank for Sherlockian pastiches. That’s not to say that I love them unreservedly and unabashedly, mind you, or even consume them in mass quantities; but, it does mean that I’m very open to them, particularly if they do one of two things: 1) hew as closely as possible to the canonical stories in terms of style, feel, and setting, making allowances for twists and spins that add a well-crafted element of modern sensibility (see, for example, the BBC ...more
Nov 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
Ok, I got to page 60 and am calling it quits.

The Watson bashing is already in full swing.
There is a scene that was basically copied out of Pride and Prejudice.
This is all wrong and too disturbing.

I'm sorry, I am just not compatible with pastiche when it concerns my favourite characters.
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it
This was an easy read, nicely written with some interesting characters but a couple of problems for me. Firstly I was uncomfortable with Mary only being fifteen. She is a very mature fifteen but it seemed far fetched that she could have had the freedom to do as she does in this story. Secondly I struggled with her relationship with Holmes. The author tried to explain it as father/daughter, partner, associate, friend and towards the end (when she has aged a little) more than just a friend. None o ...more
Simona B
Beautiful and entertaining. I'm not sure I'll read the next ones in the series, but The Beekeeper's Apprentice was even better than I expected.

More detailed comment to follow!
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery fans, esp. Sherlock Holmes fans
One of the weaknesses of the original Sherlock Holmes canon is that Doyle doesn't offer much in the way of female characters. The only woman Holmes genuinely admired, Irene Adler, appears only in "A Scandal in Bohemia;" Watson married at the end of The Sign of Four, but his wife's presence doesn't bulk very large in the novels and stories (half the time, Doyle apparently didn't remember whether Watson was supposed to be married or not, just as he couldn't remember if the doctor's war wound was i ...more
3-3.5 stars. An enjoyable mystery with a young, brilliant Mary Russell meeting middle-aged Sherlock Holmes, and eventually becoming his apprentice. The book covers a series of fairly benign, short cases the two work on together, with Mary demonstrating intelligence, quick-thinking and an inclination for action. Mary also frequently takes Sherlock to task for his at times Victorian attitudes towards women. She's smart, forthright, sensible, hardworking, and an enjoyable character to spend time wi ...more
Tim The Enchanter
Posted at The Literary

A Sweeping and Enchanting Tale - 4.5 Stars

In the past couple of years I have firmly decided that I love a great character driven novel. The Beekeeper's Apprentice fits that bill. It takes a tried and true character in Sherlock Holmes and adds a spunky young feminist into the mix. The result is an excellent novel with nuanced and complex characters. If you like your mysteries to be character driven, this one may be right up your alley.

Plot summary

The stor
***2019 Summer of Sherlock***

Holy mixed feelings, Batman! On the one hand, Laurie King is a really good writer. On the other hand, I’m unsure about how I feel about her treatment of Sherlock Holmes.

King has not just borrowed Holmes, she has kidnapped him. And held him long enough that he is exhibiting Stockholm Syndrome and is participating in her nefarious scheme. Most of the time, I could just let go of the Conan Doyle version of our hero and enjoy King’s version, but every now and then th
Jan 19, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bbbookworms
Ugh. This book. The narrator. I absolutely hated the style of narration. Mary narrates her own story 75 years later. Ugh. Mary. Mary Mary Mary-Sue.

There are SO many incomplete stories and thoughts. Mary likes to interrupt the story with a million statements like, “But, I didn’t realize that until later” or “But, that’s a story for another time.” I hated that and it happens every two seconds!

There’s an entire 40 million page scene where Mary and Sherlock are in Jerusalem where she only gives a
An easy enough read but a bit bland. I've wondered whether to read this book for at least a couple of years so I'm glad I finally jumped in to the series, if only to find out whether it was for me. It was not. ...more
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction, kindle
Since joining Goodreads I've discovered a taste for all sorts of books which I would have ignored only a year ago. Some books which I've read over the past few months have simply not come my way before. Others I have made a conscious decision at some point in the past not to read, but have changed my mind about, encouraged by positive reviews or a desire to participate in a group read.

This book falls into the second category. Years ago I read and enjoyed King's Kate Martinelli series (although
I've always thought no book that passed through my hands really deserved the lowest possible rating. The last one to do so had angered me. But this one did not. Yet it gains one star because it's one of those unashamed works of art that should be ashamed of what it's trying to do. It's very tricky to write a decent story regarding Sherlock Holmes.

I've never come across a book which is the musical equivalent of the Shaggs. Most books are professionally written. That's because people who love to
Oct 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sherlock-Lovers
Recommended to Bonnie by: Maja
4.5 stars

Interested in more of my reviews? Visit my blog!

If you’re in any way a fan of Sherlock Holmes, this book/series is a must read for you. I’m new to the world of Sherlock Holmes but I immediately loved him following his first book A Study in Scarlet and I desperately wanted to read more stories about him.

Sherlock Holmes is now a retired beekeeper residing in Sussex Downs. Despite the fact that he is retired, his mind is still just as sharp and he still assists the police in solving local
Jul 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
I know I read some, maybe all, of the Holmes stories when I was a kid. My knowledge of Sherlock Holmes is mostly from the movies, though, including that unfortunate picture in which Basil Rathbone, I mean Holmes, fights the Nazis. (I just googled and there are three Holmes vs. Nazi movies, for god's sake.)

Anyway, this is a perfectly adequate mystery (and I'm deliberately damning with faint praise), but the book is more about the relationship between Holmes and Mary Russell than about the mystery
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This series (of which this book is the first) follows the exploits of a young woman called Mary Russell living in the earlier half of the twentieth century.

This books begins in 1915. Mary is an orphan living with her aunt, whom she doesn't get along with, in the English countryside. One day while wandering the Sussex Downs reading Virgil, she nearly steps on a man lying on the ground observing bees. His name is Sherlock Holmes.

King handles the inclusion of Holmes well, she even states that thi
Sep 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Peggy
A witty, big-hearted book narrated by Sherlock Holmes's teenage apprentice-cum-partner, Mary Russell. It was a delight to be party to Russell and Holmes's verbal parrying and dry humor. Mary Russell is a heroine that would be hard not to love, with her unapologetic independence and rampant bookwormery.

The dialogue from both main characters is delicious. I love passages like this, after Mary asks Holmes if her presence is inconvenient (they do make an odd pair):

"To my considerable surprise, Russe
Sep 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads, mysteries
Rating Clarification: 3.5 Stars

It takes guts to mess with a canon as sacred to fans as the Holmesian one. It takes skill (and a healthy dose of respect) to do it well. Author Laurie King shows off all of these traits in abundance in her debut novel featuring famed and beloved master detective Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick John Watson Mary Russell. Yep, you heard me, Mary Russell: half American, half Jewish, 15 years old at the beginning of the story, and 100% Holmes' equal in spirit and intel
I really enjoyed this story. I thought the writing was excellent and the character of Mary Russell fit well into Sherlock Holme's later life. ...more
I had so much fun reading this, and it was much better than I thought it was going to be. It totally charmed me.

It’s a good thing Laurie King is such a good writer, and is so good at creating atmosphere and characters you can love, because she was in real danger of stepping in that quicksand trap some writers get stuck and die in, where they take something truly beloved and either try to insert themselves, or completely mangle the original thing that is loved.

In this case, of course, that thing
Caidyn (he/him/his)
Just as good as the first time around! Super intriguing and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Original review:

For a while now I've heard of this series, and I bookmarked the list of books on my computer along with a huge list of other series that I need to get to/finish. So, finally, I decided I would try this one. And, being me, I already knew what would happen in some fashion between Mary Russell and Holmes. I didn't go into this completely blind, but I went blind enough.

The mystery
Feb 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I was living my carefree, ignorant life until I decided to visit my best friend last November in Kansas. What do best friends do when they get together? We hunker down with slouchy pants, greasy processed foods, and keep that Netflix streaming, sugar!

I introduced her to Flowers in the Attic and other awful films, and on one cold Wednesday, she started me on Sherlock. Sometimes I don’t know whether I was better off before, when I didn’t have to wait for the next year to roll around for a new seas
Connie G
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Mary Russell, a precocious fifteen-year-old, is walking with her nose in a book when she trips over Sherlock Holmes. The semi-retired detective is sitting in the grass in the Sussex Downs observing bees. Mary has been recently orphaned, and is living with a difficult aunt until she reaches adulthood. Holmes is impressed with the girl's intelligence, her skills of observation, and her powers of deduction. He becomes her friend, and later takes her on as an apprentice. His housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I finally finished the Beekeepers Apprentice - No reason due to the book, sadly more life getting in the way of things.

However I have completed it and I must admit that it was a interesting one. On the one had you have yet another Sherlock Holmes story and as you can imagine there are a fair few of those, of varying quality and style - to be honest I am not sure if it even warrants its own genre (wait for it I am sure someone will tell me there is).

In this case you are looking at Mr Holmes'
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, this ended up being wonderfully charming! I was three star enjoying it for awhile so I was surprised when the narrator kicked up the pace and turned it into a very suspenseful four stars.

15 year old Mary Russell is wandering across the downs with her nose in a book one day and unfortunately almost steps on Sherlock Holmes, who is quite rudely and unexpectedly in her way. A verbal fencing match ensues and Sherlock finds, to his utter amazement, that not only does "it think" but it is in fa
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Edgar-winning mystery writer Laurie R. King writes series and standalone novels. Her official forum is
THE LRK VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB here on Goodreads--please join us for book-discussing fun.

King's 2018 novel, Island of the Mad, sees Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes travel from London's Bedlam to the glitter of Venice's Lido,where Young Things and the friends of Cole Porter pass Mussolini's Blackshi

Other books in the series

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #2)
  • A Letter of Mary (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #3)
  • The Moor (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #4)
  • O Jerusalem (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #5)
  • Justice Hall (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #6)
  • The Game (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #7)
  • Locked Rooms (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #8)
  • The Language of Bees (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #9)
  • The God of the Hive (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #10)
  • Pirate King (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #11)

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