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Language Of Bees, The

by Laurie R. King
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Bantam
  • Publishing date: 27/04/2010
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780553588347
  • ISBN: 0553588346


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 may be protecting for reasons near and dear to his heart.

Amazon Exclusive: Laurie R. King on The Language of Bees

As a writer, I court serendipity.

Another way to say that would be, as a writer, I really don’t know what I’m doing.

In a stand-alone novel it doesn’t much matter that I pursue my plot-line in a dark attic with a failing flashlight, because in the early drafts I simply put everything down, then spend the rewrite peeling away whatever makes no sense or isn’t absolutely necessary. And when I’m finished with the novel, I’m finished--with the book and with the characters.

A series novel is a different animal. What I wrote in 1993, I have to live with in 2008, even if I no longer have the faintest idea what I had in mind back then. Sometimes this creates ridiculously convoluted problems, and I spend hours and hours paging through to find what color someone’s eyes were or if I credited them with a certain skill, and I end up wishing I could just recall all copies of the earlier book and make people forget about that line on page 238. Other times, well, I’d like to take credit for being such a genius planner, but as I said, I really don’t know what I’m doing.

However, some deep, distant, well-hidden part of my brain does, and when that Organizing Principle takes charge, things turn out in interesting ways.

Take my newest book, The Language of Bees. This, the ninth Russell and Holmes novel, is set in the summer of 1924, and its central character (apart from the series regulars) is a young Surrealist artist by the name of Damian Adler. And for those readers who are up on their Conan Doyle, yes, it’s THAT Adler.

Back in 1994, I wrote a book called A Monstrous Regiment of Women, the second in the series. In one scene, Russell is trying to get away from Holmes for a while so she can think about her future without him looking over her shoulder. When a friend conveniently presents her with a drug-addled fiancé in need of assistance, Russell seizes the opportunity to shove the young man’s problems onto Holmes and send them both away. One of the weapons she uses to force Holmes into agreement is a reference to his long lost son:

“And if he were your son? Would you not want someone to try?” It was a dirty blow, low and unscrupulous and quite unforgivably wicked. Because, you see, he did have a son once, and someone had tried.

And this is pretty much the only appearance of this mythic entity, the son, despite queries and entreaties and speculations from readers. I could not even have said for certain why I inflicted the master detective with paternity, other than Russell’s need for a weapon strong enough to bully Holmes into obedience, combined with the feeling that this drug-addled young officer needed to have a deeper meaning for Holmes than just a nursing job.

But the Organizing Principle in the back of my mind knew why he was there.

The “lovely, lost son” was glimpsed in Monstrous Regiment so that fourteen years later, I could sit down to write The Language of Bees and craft a situation as significant for Holmes as the psychic trauma of the previous book had been for Russell. Locked Rooms forced Russell to confront a past she had hidden from herself. The Language of Bees gives Holmes a second chance to know the son he had lost.

(I should, perhaps, mention that this idea of Holmes having a son by Irene Adler--“The woman”--is not mine alone. W. S. Baring Gould, whose definitive biography of the master detective was recently updated by Leslie Klinger in The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, suggested the presence of a son. The boy, under the name Nero Wolfe, himself became a rather well-known detective.)

As soon as my mind dangled the idea of Holmes’ son returning, a world of possibilities blossomed: Where had the young man been? (perhaps... Shanghai?) Why come back now? (A wife disappeared, and a murder, and--what about a child!) And since one of the Conan Doyle stories refers to the art in Holmes’ blood (his grandmother’s brother was the artist Vernet) and since Irene Adler was an opera singer, why not make the son an artist--one of the Surrealists, just to put a twist in his relationship with the ultra-rational Holmes?

I’d like to say I had all this in mind back in 1995 when I had Mary Russell drop mention of Holmes’ son, but I prefer to save fiction for my novels.

And as I said at the beginning, as a writer, I court serendipity. I may not know what I’m doing, but it makes for a more exciting journey, getting there. --Laurie R. King

(Photo © Seth Affoumado)

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  • First time reader of Laurie King - well written, but unfocused
    From Amazon

    I promise not to judge Laurie King's Mary Russell novels by this one alone. In fact, I've actually read the sequel to this one and liked it very much. That said, this particular novel was not a great introduction to her Mary Russell series - unfocused, and at times, very difficult to get through. The only thing that kept me going was that the writing is very good, and the character of Mary Russell is very engaging. I was incredibly disappointed, however, to slog to the very end, when I am greeted by a "to be continued..." Once you get past the first chapters, in which Mary Russell rattles around the house by herself, tends to some bees, and eats a lot of stale bread, focuses on a general plot surrounding Holmes' son and his missing wife and child. A cult leader is thrown into the mix, and we see a lot of Mycroft Holmes at home and perambulating around the park. There is an exciting (but perhaps a little drawn out) plane journey followed by an anticlimactic fight and...nothing. Time to read the next book. The next book is very exciting and had the benefit of better editing. I recommend "The Language of Bees" so that you can understand "The God of the Hive", but on it's own it's not a standout novel.

  • Worthy additions to Laurie King's remarkable Mary Russell series
    From Amazon

    Though not marketed as such, _Language of Bees_ and _God of the Hive_ actually tell one story. In _Language of Bees_, Russell and Holmes investigate a case around the leader of a religious cult; in _God of the Hive_, they circle in on the powerful figure using the religious leader for his own purposes. The overall story concerns members of Sherlock Holmes' family and some characters from his past (i.e., the Conan Doyle stories). As always, it is remarkable how well Laurie King has captured Sherlock Holmes while substituting a wife (Mary Russell) for his old sidekick Dr. John Watson. She has even thought through the background to various parts of the Holmes world that Conan Doyle did not explain - - for example, how does one build a bolt-hole without anyone noticing? She has also fleshed out some characters from the Conan Doyle stories. Most notably, she has turned Mycroft Holmes into a major character and developed a full back story about exactly what he does and how he does it. I heartily recommend the series for Sherlock Holmes fans. Just be sure to buy both of these books together.

  • Russell and Holmes at Their Collective Best!
    From Amazon

    As a fan of Conan Doyle's original Holmes' stories I have never been a big fan of the pastiche novels (although Nicholas Meyer's "West End Horror" is worth a read) that became so popular in the 70's. A favorable review of "Justice Hall" by Laurie King convinced me to give her a work a chance. I began with the "Beekeeper's Apprentice" and was instantly hooked. Make no mistake - these are Russell's stories and Holmes just happens to be in them. "Language of Bees" is among the best to date - ratcheting up the stakes by making the mystery surround none other than Sherlock's son by Irene Adler. Although the author takes an occasional departure from her first person perspective (these stories are supposed to be drawn from the papers of Mary Russell just as Doyle's stories were supposedly from the papers of Dr. John Watson), something I found far too distracting in her prior outing, "Locked Rooms," she is at her best when describing a long, harrowing, dare devil trip by plane (the novel is set in the early 1920's) or the interview of elderly religion professor while punting from Mary's witty and wry perspective. These novels are very clever and intelligent and the period research she has done always shines through. F. Scott Fitzgerald may have believed that there were no second acts in American lives in the 1920's, but Laurie King is doing an excellent job of creating a very vigorous and entertaining second act for Sherlock Holmes.

  • Awful. Awful. Awful
    From Amazon

    It's too late for me. Save yourself. Don't buy this book. I read just a few pages, and it was like an invisible force was pushing my eyes off the page.

  • wonderful as usual
    From Amazon

    Laurie R. King's series about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes is just outstanding. Faithful to the original, yet original in plot and play.

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