Today’s author is an old friend (at least in the reading sense, as we have never actually met) whose series continues to be one of my favorites. Laurie R. King’s The Language of Bees is a wonderful addition to her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Over her eight previous novels in the series, King has created a future life for Holmes that extends Conan Doyle’s vision in a completely believable fashion. Unlike some of the Holmes pastiches that try to reconstruct the exact setting and feel of the originals, King imagines an older Holmes, retired to his beekeeping in Suffolk.
But she adds to the story by introducing the orphaned Mary Russell, who first encounters Holmes when she is in her teens. Over the course of the series, the two develop an increasingly close relationship, both in terms of investigations as well as personally, and by this entry, Holmes and Russell are married and working as professional partners. The appeal of these stories is the skill with which King has added depth to Conan Doyle’s Holmes (and other characters: Watson, Mrs. Hudson and others make appearances in the stories). Over the course of the series, the developing relationship between Mary Russell and Holmes adds a richness to Holmes. The character development here will be familiar to fans of Dorothy Sayers, whose novels took on a new depth as she explored the relationship between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, resulting in her finest work, Gaudy Night.
In The Language of Bees, King introduces a new twist to the story, bringing in Holmes’s son, the result of the affair between Holmes and “the woman,” actress Irene Adler. Damien Adler is a troubled young man, but a brilliant artist, and when he makes his appearance, he and Holmes both struggle to understand each other. Holmes and Russell are drawn into a complex mystery that takes them into the world of drug abuse and cult religion when Damien seeks their aid in locating his missing wife and daughter. Readers interested in Europe in the period between the world wars will find King an able guide to life and customs; crime fiction fans will find an intriguing and carefully crafted mystery; and those who love books with fascinating and multi-dimensional characters will find them throughout the series, but particularly in this entry.
Check the WRL catalog for The Language of Bees