Book Review: “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” by Laurie R. King
First, a brief summary:
In 1915, teenage genius Mary Russell literally stumbles onto a retired Sherlock Holmes one day in her sleepy Sussex village. Her sharp wit and intelligence impresses him, and he spends the next three years training her in the art of chemistry and mystery-solving. She becomes a student at Oxford, and the two of them go about trying to outsmart a devious criminal mastermind over the holidays.
I needed a Sherlock Holmes fix, so I picked this up from the library. I rather liked Russell’s character, who is a thoroughly modern girl from the time period, a feminist, and basically a female version of Holmes himself. She’s just as perceptive as he is when it comes to solving crimes, and occasionally picks up on details even he misses. All in all, pretty cool. She comes some time after Holmes’ retirement and keeps his brain from wasting away from disuse, but every time they meet with a policeman, eyebrows are raised and everyone is all, “OMG it’s Holmes and some extremely young woman, oh, the implications!!” Russell gets pretty annoyed by it.
At one point Holmes just rolls his eyes and says, “Honestly, Russell, with my reputation as a permanent bachelor, the implications would be far worse if you were a young man.”I laughed my ass off at that. I was so pleased the author took time to acknowledge that.
There were a couple things that bothered me about the book, though, which I shall now relate in detail.
Firstly, Watson is treated horribly- he is described as having become rather plump and doddering, and since he was always useless anyway, he is all but completely written out of the story. I love Watson, okay? I was not pleased by his being utterly replaced and left out of the adventure.
The second thing I take offense to takes place in the sequel to this book, which I haven’t read, nor will I ever. And that’s because Russell marries Holmes in it. I was poking around on the internets to see more about this series, when Wikipedia just casually read, “oh yeah, and their complicated feelings towards one another leads to marriage.” And I was like,
NO. JUST…. NO.
Holmes, THERE IS A 40-YEAR AGE GAP THERE. She’s 21, and you’re 58. You’re not just robbing the cradle anymore. You’re dangerously close to robbing the grand-cradle. (I don’t care if that’s a word or not. I’m making it so, damnit.) Yes, there is an Irene Adler-esque admiration of Russell’s impressive brain, but that’s not the vibe I got from the book that I read. “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” has a distinctive father-daughter vibe to it. He meets her when she’s 15, watches her grow up, and teaches her along the way. The idea that that’s going to turn into sexual attraction and marriage by frickin’ BOOK TWO is just… gross. I think it’d be gross even if the author waited for it to happen for a whopping ten books, honestly. She refers to Watson as “Uncle John,” for gods’ sake.
I think of how Watson barely got ten pages’ worth of attention in this book, and I suspect that Holmes’ replacing him with Russell as his assistant had romantic implications right from the get-go. I know people ship Sherlock Holmes every which way, but personally, I ship Holmes/Watson. I don’t care if they’re in an asexual relationship, or if they’re lovers. You cannot separate them without me getting very upset over it. In the few pages Watson did feature in the story, they muse together about how Watson must feel very saddened at being left out, and they’re both just kinda, “Meh, he’s got a big heart. He’ll forgive us.” Watson has been ill-treated enough in canon, thank you very much. Holmes outright getting married to his replacement just rubs salt in the wound.
I’m sorry, I just had to get that out of my system…
All in all, though, it’s a pretty good mystery novel, and I enjoyed it. Summaries of future books in the series have left me without any urge to continue this series, even if the heroine is pretty damn cool. Making her the best of everything and then making her MARRY one of the most famous literary characters ever kinda smacks of Mary Sue-ism.