Nancy and I are going to a geology/environmental seminar in the Black Hills and the South Dakota badlands in July and one of the leaders is a writer named O'Brien. I went looking for his books, thinking I knew who he was. So I was looking for his books. Well, it's not Tim O'Brien, whose The Things They Carried was about American soldiers in Vietnam. (I wondered what he was going to be doing at a Black Hills seminar.) The O'Brien I was looking for is Dan O'Brien, "a writer and buffalo rancher" according to his publisher's web site. His main book is Buffalo for the Broken Heart. The Broken Heart is his ranch and buffalo are what he raises there. The book's subtitle is "Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch," and I guess that's why he's one of the seminar leaders. I will read his book before we go, but it's checked out and I found other things to read.
What I found and brought home was Laurie R. King's The Language of Bees. This is the latest in her series of books about the genius ingenue who captured the heart and hand of Sherlock Holmes.
It's set in the early 20th century, just post-World War I and it's the 9th book about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. It's full of period language and technology. Mycroft Holmes is the equivalent of James Bond's Q. Sherlock Holmes and his nearly child-bride discover that Holmes has a son from a turn-of-the-20th-century dalliance in Paris, and that the son has a wife and daughter. This happens about the same time as the young man discovers who his father is.
Holmes' daughter-in-law has some unsavory bits in her past and they catch up with her about the time that the young family moves to London. And who does the young man turn to for help? Why the daddy who abandoned him before he was born, of course.
The plot is full of typical Holmesian deductions, surveillance, and research. Mary Russell hires a plane (in 1924) to fly from London to the Orkney Islands in bad weather. Holmes practically buys a fishing boat to take him to the same place. There is a serial murderer out there threatening Holmes' son and granddaughter. The evil villian always seems a step or two ahead of the pursuers.
Well, it's a lot of the same old, same old well-told story. Can you tell that even though I rather enjoyed reading this book, that I'm tired of the premise? Sara Paretsky and her private investigator V. I. Warshawski was a treat and a wonderful adventure for about six books. Then I tired of them too. I want Laurie R. King to go back and write a couple more books about San Francisco detective Kater Martinelli. I'm not tired of reading about her yet.
The trouble is that King has ended this book with the sort of cliff hanger that Conan Doyle used. She's created her own version of Professor Moriarty. At the end of this book it's clear that there will be a Language of Bees II in the near future. I won't be waiting for it.
And I've yet to figure out any meaning for the title or for the sections of the books about Mary Russell's investigations of the abandonment of one of Holmes' bee hives.
Have you read The Language of Bees? What did you think of it? Write, and tell this little bit of the world what you think.
- Laurie R. King's web site - it includes some amateur video of some of the key scenes from the book
- a review from the California Literary Review
- A review by ScotKris at It's a Crime! (Or a Mystery...)