The God of the Hive. Laurie R. King Paperback – Jun 1 2011
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'The Mary Russell series is the most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today, and this is the best instalment yet' Lee Child
About the Author
Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of ten Mary Russell mysteries, five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, and the acclaimed novels A Darker Place, Folly, Keeping Watch, and Touchstone. She lives in Northern California where she is currently at work on her next novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I wonder if some well-meaning but misguided editor told King that she needed to produce younger characters and add more action to her books? If she's listening to that editor - don't do it anymore. Christie did well with an aging Miss Marple and an aging Poirot - and Sherlock is more interesting than any young son could be. If you need more characters, bring back Peter Wimsey as a buddy. (He made a small appearance in one of the earliest King books, and I was thrilled by the possibility that he might be a recurring character.)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The highlight of this book for me was an odd, delightful new character, a man who comes to the rescue of Russell, her pilot, and Holmes' young granddaughter, Estelle, after their plane crash-lands in the forest. He introduces himself as Robert Goodman, and Russell can't help thinking of him as Robin Goodfellow, or "The Green Man," which was the author's original working title for this book. Ms. King is also reviving her theme of the holy fool, which she used so effectively earlier in her Kate Martinelli mystery "To Play the Fool." As exciting and well-plotted as the thrilling story of Mycroft, Holmes and Russell vs. the villains is, I saw this book primarily as a powerful mythic tale, with the fey Robert Goodman at the center of it. It's certainly one of the very best books in the series.
Be sure to read "The Language of Bees" before you start this one. And if you haven't read the earlier installments in the Russell-Holmes series, start with "The Beekeeper's Apprentice." It's a great series for anyone who enjoys well-written mystery and suspense with intelligent, likable characters, and it's a must-read for Sherlock Holmes aficionados.
To sink back into the world of Sherlock Holmes...of bolt holes, Irregulars, disguises and detecting far before the world of DNA & CSI...is a delight. And with Mary Russell as our guide - the experience is all the more delightful. She has all of the intelligence, common sense and perception of Holmes - with the very needed addition of compassion and a sharp wit.
"The business end of a gun is remarkably distracting. It dominates the world."
"The God of the Hive" brings the reader into the world of Holmes's brother Mycroft, usually a background character. The reader is also introduced to newly revealed family members for Holmes and a fascinating character Russell encounters under desperate circumstances.
"He stood, torn between the choices I had given him. It might be nothing. A charabanc of travelers benighted and looking for help. A band of Wordsworth fanatics looking for a host of golden daffodils by moonlight. Even some of Mycroft's men coming to our assistance - the last made for a lovely thought. But until I knew for certain, we had to treat this as an invasion, and I hated the thought that this damaged man's generosity of spirit had brought an abrupt loss of his hard-won peace."
Although the story is at the forefront almost all of the time...there seems to be a thread of social commentary running through the events that was not unwelcome.
"Were five armed men another symptom of unrest? Or was this simply what modern life would be, a place where a homicidal charlatan is embraced as wise, where children can be shot out of the sky, where a Good Samaritan can be driven from his home by armed intruders?"
This takes place in 1924...but during a time of great social change when a great schism existed between those eager for a brighter future and those who wanted to maintain their death grip on the past.
As described by Mycroft, "...as you no doubt heard even in foreign parts, there was consternation and loud doom-saying on all sides: The Socialists were expected to bring the end of the monarchy, the establishment of rubles as the coin of the realm, a destruction of marriage and family, and dangerously intimate political and economic ties with the Bolsheviks. Eight months later, the worst of the country's fears have yet to be realized, and MacDonald has surprised everyone by being less of a firebrand than the village greengrocer."
Again, the story is the thing in "The God of the Hives" - and it is a wonderful one. I enjoyed this book immensely and my only regret is that I finished it too quickly and now must wait again for another wonderful story of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.
For much of THE GOD OF THE HIVE, Holmes and Russell are separated and communicate very sparingly. All the while, Mycroft Holmes is also being threatened. He's kidnapped by a shadowy person who apparently is the superior of the maniac from whom Damian and Estelle had been rescued. This new villain is, like Mycroft, part of British intelligence. Unlike Mycroft, he considers his version of national security as rationale for blackmail and murder. And that leads to what Mary mournfully decides is a world that's "a less secure, less blessedly interesting place" and "an age of the death of gods."
Ultimately, after much chasing around and playing hide and seek, most of the leading characters converge for a dramatic, tense showdown.
King writes assured, fast-paced chapters that contain some easily-guessed plot points but as many or more twists. Some brief observations:
-- Although Holmes and Russell togetherness -- with their unsentimental couples communication featuring tartness, perceptiveness, and delightful, quick wit -- is more enjoyable reading, I was not bored following their individual adventures.
-- Having so much of Mycroft made me miss Dr. Watson less.
-- The thinly-drawn antagonist could have received more attention.
-- And as for Goodman, he reminded me somewhat of Erasmus, an earlier title character of King's from the Kate Martinelli police mystery, To Play the Fool.
And who precisely is the title character of THE GOD OF THE HIVE? Ah. Burn through this latest visit with Mary Russell and her more famous husband, Sherlock Holmes, and find out! 4.5 stars.
Don't get me wrong. I love the earlier books. The first three in particular are my absolute favorites. I was sorry when the books moved away from Russell's personal journey (while still having a great story to tell, of course), and rejoiced when they returned to that territory with Locked Rooms. I do regret that it really isn't consistent with Russell's character for all the following books to concentrate on this.
However, if this book is representative of where the books are going, I'm not going to notice that I'm missing anything.
The God of the Hive is much grander in scale then the earlier books, in spite of covering much less geography then some of its predecessors. I loved the exploration of Mycroft, both as an individual and as a part of the government. I hesitate to say that the focus of this book is political in nature, but I think that it is. It's the kind of politics involved in how the world works, how power flows, and how small actions can snowball into bigger consequences.
The book is still character driven, and I found Robert Goodman (the Green Man of the working title of the book) to be one of the most interesting I have read in the series (after Russell and Holmes, of course). The effect of the events that occurred in The Language of Bees as well as The God of the Hive on Russell and Holmes isn't neglected either.
I was concerned about the role the child Estelle would play, but she was handled well.
The book effectively wraps up the threads dangling at the end of The Language of Bees (and has a much more satisfying ending). I think much of my discomfort at The Language of Bees had to do with the nature of the transition of the series.
I strongly recommend this book to those that have been following the series. If you haven't, I'd suggest reading at least the previous book, The Language of Bees. Better yet, star with the first book of the series, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and then decide if you want to continue to make your way through each book, or if you want to skip forward to these two most recent books.
Second point: I agree with other commentators that the villain in this story was weak and undeveloped. Actually, they both were (there really were two villains, one just killed the other). Reading other King books leads to the conclusion that she has a fascination with religious cults, which explained the direction of the first book in this two part series. However, this second book introduced an entirely new villain, and this book, though a completion of the last, went off in a completely different direction. I felt that this villain was just created and sketched in to provide some explanation for events King wanted to put Russell and Holmes through. The villains were not the only characters I felt were undeveloped. I agree with the critics who felt that Damian Adler was also woefully underdeveloped. I hope that will be remedied in later books.
Third point: The ending was very disappointing. I felt like she got to a point where she said, how can I wrap this up?, and she rushed to do so. I kept waiting for the moment when Holmes meets his granddaughter for the first time, but it never came. Holmes, suddenly thrust into the role of grandfather to this precocious 3 year old girl, would be a scene well worth writing and reading. Russell even hinted at it throughout the story. But then, nothing. Just some open packages and that's it. I even felt the scene on the bridge was awkward and undeveloped. So much seemed to be promised, and then it fell flat. I had the distinct impression her publisher called and said we need this tomorrow.
Finally, I have read criticism about Russell from readers who are not fans of the series. I find it ironic, though, that they keep reading the books. Although, perhaps I understand it. I, too, have found Russell grating. Part of Holmes' appeal was that, while he had some amazing qualities, he was also deeply flawed. We could appreciate Holmes' genius, but also feel that, in many ways, we functioned better than he did. He was human, in other words - a flawed, interesting man. Russell, grates, however, because she is always right, always smarter than everyone else, etc. King has tried to "humanize" her by making her poor at cooking, but that's a skill Russell clearly doesn't care about anyway. Being bad at cooking actually accentuates her superhuman feminist self. In this book, we do see her notice that she has missed some things Holmes has noticed, which helps to bring her down a notch, but not much. Since Russell is the primary narrator, she just comes across as a braggart. That's not a nice quality. Actually, I think, though, that it is consistent with her age and immaturiy. She thinks she's so mature, and mature enough for someone like Holmes. However, she reveals herself to be no more mature than other women her age. One can only think Holmes keeps her around to do his dirty work for him, since she is relatively intelligent and willing to do whatever he tells her to do. (Which also suggests she's not quite the independent spirit she thinks she is.)
All said, if you haven't read the books before, don't start here. Read the others, and if you like them, and they hold your attention, keep reading. All in all, King can weave a good tale. She has moments of genius, but then, I think, she just gets bored and tired, and rushes through.