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Lunch » Tags » Book » Reviews » The Language of Bees (Mary Russell Novels) » User review

Holmes outside his element in this excellent updating

  • Mar 8, 2010
Rating:
+5
Excellent updating of the Sherlock Holmes legend, told through the eyes of his young wife Mary Russell, who joins the master in this adventure which tours the mystical Stone Age sites around England and Scotland. In the end, well, lets just say there's a sequel coming soon (The God of the Hive: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes).

If you are interested enough to read reviews of this updated Holmes, you know the basics of the Holmes legend (and thanks to the latest movie iteration can't help but picture Holmes as Robert Downey, Jr.). What makes the King extensions read-worthy:

1). Elementally not Doctor Watson. Russell is young, energetic, learned in theology (a helpful skiill in this adventure), not susceptible to drug use,--and female. In a word, most everything that Holmes and Watson are not, and thus provides companionship, challenges, and contributions to the mystery resolution that Watson can not. While she clearly loves Holmes as a husband and friend, and respects him as a detective, her voice is not that of the awestruck Watson serving a master, but a loving equal. She's a strong and attractive woman in every way.

2). Holmes outside his element. We see Holmes, with Russell about, as not just a calculating automaton, but as a fully-engaged human being who must act as a husband and lover. This expands Holmes by forcing him out of his "comfort zone", a well-worn cliche most appropriate here because of how well-worn was that single-minded path of mental exercise at the beck and call of crime detection. He is also older now, and has obligations (without giving way plot, it is safe to say these way heavily in this story) and limitations he never had before as a younger single man.

3). The world after war--Holmes is also out of his element as the stories move forward into the mid 1920's. Cars and telephones are no longer oddities, but common place tools in the detective's kit, and it is interesting to see Holmes and Russell use them. Airplanes are still a novelty, but figure heavily in this story. And the cultural landscape has changed--the Great War has shaped society, politics, the economy, demographics, and relationships--including Holmes's own.

Modern extensions of the Holmes legend are a popular sub-genre in the mystery section, and popular updates like this might help fuel the sometimes unhealthy obsession Holmes fans have with the character. That's not King's fault, and this story is certainly worth reading--especially in preparation for the coming sequel which I am reading now after finishing this one. Check my review of that book, coming soon.

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About the reviewer
Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #38
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Book Description
In a case that will push their relationship to the breaking point, Mary Russell must help reverse the greatest failure of her legendary husband’s storied past—a painful and personal defeat that still has the power to sting…this time fatally.

For Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, returning to the Sussex coast after seven months abroad was especially sweet. There was even a mystery to solve--the unexplained disappearance of an entire colony of bees from one of Holmes’s beloved hives.

But the anticipated sweetness of their homecoming is quickly tempered by a galling memory from her husband’s past. Mary had met Damian Adler only once before, when the promising surrealist painter had been charged with--and exonerated from--murder. Now the talented and troubled young man was enlisting their help again, this time in a desperate search for his missing wife and child.

When it comes to communal behavior, Russell has often observed that there are many kinds of madness. And before this case yields its shattering solution, she’ll come into dangerous contact with a fair number of them. From suicides at Stonehenge to a bizarre religious cult, from the demimonde of the Café Royal at the heart of Bohemian London to the dark secrets of a young woman’s past on the streets of Shanghai, Russell will find herself on the trail of a killer more dangerous than any she’s ever faced--a killer Sherlock Holmes himself ...

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ISBN-10: 0553804545
ISBN-13: 978-0553804546
Author: Laurie R. King
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Bantam
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