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The Language of Bees: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes [Paperback]

Laurie R. King
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 27 2010 Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
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 the past. Mary had met Damian Adler only once before, when the surrealist painter had been charged with—and exonerated from—murder. Now the troubled young man is enlisting the Holmeses’ help again, this time in a desperate search for his missing wife and child.

Mary 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 the dark secrets of a young woman’s past on the streets of Shanghai, Mary will find herself on the trail of a killer more dangerous than any she’s ever faced—a killer Sherlock Holmes himself may be protecting for reasons near and dear to his heart.

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The Language of Bees: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes + Locked Rooms: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes + The Game: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
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"A one-woman case for the defense of unauthorized literary sequels...intelligent, witty, complex and atmospheric...By making a woman possible who matches Holmes in brainpower, as well as in depressive tendencies of mind and spare elegance of manner, King has made marriage possible for the most famous and, surely, one of the most aloof detectives of all time....A spellbinding mystery...superb." —The Washington Post Book World on Justice Hall

"A wonderful blend of sheer wit and canny ratiocination, this is mystery at its most ingenious."—The Guardian on The Art of Detection

"Mesmerizing...King does a wonderful job of probing the human psyche...All of her novels are superb."—Daily American on Locked Rooms

From the Hardcover edition.

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.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder mystery Aug. 6 2009
I have purchased all of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books and she hasn't failed to engage me yet. I am English by birth and am fascinated with the era that King sets the books in, and of course, Sherlock Holmes. King manages to create a story line that pulls the reader in, she is very precise in her details and the history of the period. This is an excellent piece of literature, entertaining, suspenseful, very real to its period, I loved it. I hope King continues writing her Mary Russell books. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery based in the 1920's featuring a good female detective, working with Sherlock Holmes and that recreates a sense of the good Agatha Christie novels.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  104 reviews
95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" to "The Language of Bees:" End of the Line for This Reader? May 6 2009
By Sharon Isch - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
On the one hand, it was gratifying to find that our heroine Mary Russell has returned to her old smart, formidable self and partnership with Sherlock Holmes, after that maudlin, but probably necessary, detour in San Francisco in "Locked Rooms." And the introduction of Damian Adler, the surrealist painter, suggests new and interesting possibilities ahead for the series.

On the other hand, after slogging through this overly long and drawn out tale, it was a definite downer to come in for a landing at page 442, only to find:

"to be continued..."

Alas, I don't think I'm going to be up for yet another several hundred pages about the case of the religious nutcase. As villains go, he's just not all that interesting or, to my mind, sequel-worthy.

Some years ago, not long after she changed publishers, I heard Laurie King tell a book fair audience that Bantam was pushing her to up her page counts. And she's certainly done that. It seems to me her novels are getting more and more bogged down in beautifully written, but frequently irrelevant, detail and description that disrupts the pace and doesn't advance the plot. Weary of what reads to me as padding, (the plot here doesn't begin to kick in till page 159), I'm thinking that maybe, instead of ordering her next book at the first announcement of a pub date, as I've always done before, I'll just hang back and wait to see what the page count and reviews here tell me. Meantime I think I'll revisit some of the old 300-pagers like "Beekeeper's Apprentice" and "The Moor" that once made me such a huge Mary Russell/Laurie King fan.

ADDENDA MARCH 1, 2010: Great news, King fans!!! I've just had an opportunity to read and review an advance copy of what comes after the "to be continued" that made so many of us here so angry. It's called "God of the Hive" and it's just terrific: edge-of-your-seat suspense from page 1, nearly 100 pages shorter than this one, but three times as much plot, a new and more villainous villain, no padding whatsoever, Russell's at her best, Holmes is more Holmesian. Definitely one of King's best and definitely NOT the end of the line for this reader after all.
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engrossing! April 28 2009
By Paige Morgan - Published on
I got very little done today, because I was far too busy devouring the latest installment of Holmes' and Russell's adventures. Laurie R. King, after developing Mary Russell's past and vulnerabilities (and strength!) in _Locked Rooms_, undertakes a similar sort of character development for Holmes himself.

I'm almost surprised that I enjoyed it so much. I'm not a Holmes purist, but even to me, this seemed like a risky gambit -- it has so much potential to change his character ... but I should not have been worried. What King accomplishes makes the character of Sherlock Holmes more richly complex, and in the course of doing so, provides a chilling mystery, of a different sort than has been featured in the earlier volumes of the series.

If I'm vague, it's only that I'm trying to avoid spoilers. In this volume, readers are treated to more Mycroft (a treat!), Russell solving a different sort of mystery than usual, and a case involving an Aleister Crowleyesque cult. I felt as though there was a more meditative cast to parts of the book, which is to say that readers see Russell musing over human error, and forgiveness, and the ability to move past human error, and loneliness, a little more than in earlier entries of the series. But the book isn't dominated by these musings -- they are skillfully woven into the action.

I was satisfied by the ending, despite the fact that the last words are "to be continued...". Sometimes novels that end with cliffhangers feel like half-books that were only published accidentally. _The Language of Bees_ is unquestionably a whole book, and one that I will no doubt read again, while waiting for the sequel. I only wish I knew when the sequel was due to be published!
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars metaphysically witch-slapped - five stars for the first 400 pgs; no stars for the last 48 May 16 2009
By Julia Walker - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Even though The Language of Bees came out at the over-full end of the semester, I fell into it instantly, neglecting piles of blue books and papers. At first, I was in ecstasy -- posting non-spoiler updates on Facebook and burbling to friends at morning coffee -- but I got quieter as pages turned and the narrative gave me more and more about less and less. I've always admired King's ability to bring together disparate topics and, rather like the metaphysical poets, to yoke them into a new reality. Here, she certainly laid out the material for another great work, but that unifying alchemy was missing.

Bee-keeping, standing stones, Aleister Crowley, French painters, an eclipse, and Holmes' son ~ how could this add up to anything other than the Philosopher's Stone?

Dunno, folks, but it didn't achieve critical mass.

I found very interesting the remarks of another reviewer who said that King's publisher was pushing for a higher page count. Well, if that's true, I don't see why it should obviate the possibility of an even better book. Look at the first in this series, The Bee-Keeper's Apprentice. It had the action and resolutions of several novels packed into one cover: fabulous. In many ways, the book is its mirror image: few plots, none resolved. "To be continued" is a total cheat. Unlike the 19th-century novels that came out in serial form, this wait will be not weeks, but years. And I don't think anyone is going to go down to the docks, al la The Old Curiosity Shop, for the next installment of this story.

For me, introducing the references to Crowley without following through was close to criminal. Crowley doesn't have the public profile of Holmes, but he was a fascinating/horrifying figure of the time - surely the most shaming-making alum that Trinity/Cambridge has. His various witchy works are the subtext for the group Russell and Holmes investigate, but King doesn't give us her version of the man. Other than Sylvia or Cristobel Pankhrust, I can't think of anyone I'd rather see King turn into a character.

As in the Monsterous Regiment, we get some London life and sub-cultures, although not nearly enough for me. The best thing about the novel - other than the idyllic time Russell spends alone in Sussex - is the presence of Mycroft, who comes close to being a fully developed character. Russell's time in the airplane is wonderfully rendered, but the tension it builds for the climax is cruelly betrayed.

To call the end of the book an anticlimax would be kind. I'm not feeling very kind at the moment, so I'll call it a cheap marketing ploy, the sort of thing to which I didn't think Laurie R King would sink.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 2 and a half stars July 23 2009
By egreetham - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a disappointment to be dragged all over Great Britain in pursuit of a surreal and only intermittently engaging plot, just to be faced with the words, "to be continued"! I wondered, when the pages of "The Language of Bees" dwindled to a few dozen, how the intricate strands of the story could possibly be woven together by the end--and they weren't. This literally and figuratively meandering story bears scant resemblance to its predecessors in terms of intensity, drive, and suspense. I doubt I will be reading its sequel.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing June 5 2009
By Log Cabin Pat - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I still consider the last book, Locked Rooms, to be the low point of the series, but this one is not far behind it. I read for 100 or more pages before the plot got going. At the end, none of the plot lines (even why one of Holmes' hives is acting up) are satisfactorily concluded. Russell and Holmes are apart for too much of the story, although at least they're back in character. The 'to be continued' at the end is such a cheat, and as someone else pointed out, we'll be waiting a year or two at least for the resolution. I've ready many of King's stand-alone books, and while they are generally well-written and very interesting, they do seem to just stop as opposed to coming to a rational conclusion, and that seems to be what she's done here.

At the beginning of Locked Rooms, Russell drops a tantalizing clue about a case involving the Emperor of Japan, and I hoped it would be next in the series. Now it looks like I'll have to suffer through part 2 of The Language of Bees before there's a chance of a Japanese adventure.

If you're already into the series, I know you'll read this book, just as I will continue to read anything King writes in the Russell/Holmes saga. If you have not read any of the books, the best advice I can give you is do not start with this book. Instead read The Beekeeper's Apprentice, The Moor, Oh Jerusalem!, or The Game. Those books are simply amazing. This book, not so much.

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