The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King
The Language of Bees by Laurie R King
The Language of Bees is the 9th installment in the Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell mysteries by Laurie R King. The series began in 1994 with the publication of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. We are introduced to Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective, in the year 1915. He has retired to the countryside in the south of England to pursue his hobby of Beekeeping. He values his reclusiveness above all, but when he meets the 15-year-old Mary Russell on a walk in the moors he discovers that here is an intellect that matches his own. Over the following novels the two fall into cases together – and eventually into bed and marriage when Mary is of age.
Laurie R King has done a wonderful job of bringing the original Holmes to life – his mannerisms, his way of speaking and behaving is perfectly in the mould of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the living, breathing Holmes. His relationship with Mary Russell brings an added dimension to the character. When we first met his couple in 1994, Holmes was 42 and Mary 15 – now 9 years later we have a 51-year-old Holmes and a 24 year old Mary and they have settled into domestic life together, while at the same time pursuing their own interests. Mary is studying theology at Oxford and Holmes is studying his bees. Sherlock Holmes’ brother, Mycroft, is still in the picture, with a home and office in London.
So now, we meet this exceptional couple again. They have just returned to their home in the Sussex Downs, exhausted after their most recent adventures. There is puzzling disarray in the beehives, and an even more puzzling situation involving a young man who shows up on their doorstep before they have even unpacked.
The young man is Damian, the recently discovered, and then lost again, son of Sherlock Holmes. When he appears, asking for help we discover the Damian has a wife, Yolanda, and a daughter, Estelle. Sherlock and Mary are suddenly grandparents! Hard to fathom, but true. Yolanda and Estelle have disappeared and Damian has turned to his father for help.
Yolanda, it turns out, has been following a rather shady religious cult leader, and it is feared that he may have harmed her and the child. Sherlock and Mary are on the case – into the world of Bohemia in London, where life is lived without regard of the conservative morals of the rest of society. Into the world of the Surrealist painters of the time – of whom Damian is one. And into the dark world of Alistair Crowley and the like – black magic, murders in stone circles on nights of the full moon. Sacrifices to a man who might believe he is God.
As Mary relaxes on the terrace with a drink, watching the Perseids meteor showers she is unaware of an event happening not too far from home. A sacrifice has been made on the hillside below the Cerne Abbas Giant, a huge drawing of a man carved into the chalk hillside in Dorset.
This is not the only case of a sacrificial murder at a spiritual site in England and it is difficult for Holmes and Mary Russell to find the connection between them, and the disappearance of Yolanda and Estelle.
Laurie R King has woven so much into this story – art and religion, life in 1920’s England, the early days of aircraft flight, travel to the Orkney Islands – all of it with the suspense and puzzlement we look for in a good mystery.