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

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9780553588347: The Language of Bees: A novel of suspense featuring 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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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)

About the Author:

Laurie R. King is the  New York Times bestselling author of thirteen Mary Russell mysteries, five contemporary novels featuring Kate Martinelli, the Stuyvesant & Grey novels  Touchstone and  The Bones of Paris, and the acclaimed  A Darker Place, Folly, and  Keeping Watch. She lives in Northern California.

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Book Description Bantam. 1 Paperback(s), 2010. soft. Book Condition: New. For Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes, it proves especially sweet to see the Sussex coast again after seven months abroad, in this ninth book in their sleuthing series (after Locked Rooms). They even find a very domestic mystery to solve: the unexplained disappearance of a colony of bees from one of Holmes's prized hives. But their homecoming is soon upended by the reappearance of painter and war veteran Damian Adler, whom they had once helped exonerate of murder, and is now desperate to find 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. Edgar, Nero, Macavity, and CWA Dagger Award winner Laurie King here continues her superb detective series, pairing Holmes in his 60s with the brilliant young Mary Russell, a gifted linguist, scholar of theology, and ardent feminist who begins as his protégé and later becomes his wife."Intricate clockworks, wheels within wheels, a kaleidoscope of patterns that periodically locks into place to reveal a clear but ominous vision—such are the absorbing stories King has written about the young theology scholar and American feminist Mary Russell, who is married to the great detective Sherlock Holmes. It is almost impossible to talk about plot in this latest without too much revelation. Holmes and Russell return to England in August 1924, after traveling around the world, to find that Holmes's bees are inexplicably dying and that Holmes had a son by Irene Adler. Damian, the son, suffered as a soldier in the Great War, is a famed surrealist artist, and has a wife and child, both of whom disappear, prompting Holmes to take a case with the most personal of connections. Along the way, we are treated to a great deal about ancient sites in England; a major supporting role from Holmes's brother, Mycroft; information on an occult set of beliefs possibly related to Aleister Crowley; a terrifying set piece on the horrors of early air travel; and discourse on the queasy pleasures of surrealist art—all in Mary Russell's wry, brilliant, and occasionally utterly deluded voice. We also see both Sherlock and Mycroft reveal human depths to themselves and to us. Although the novel does have an end, nothing is resolved: 'To be continued,' King tells us, in the most frustrating of finales. Readers will want the rest right now, but even without a satisfying ending, they will realize that this is one of the best of a uniformly superlative series."—Booklist (starred review) 449. Bookseller Inventory # 70272

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 213 x 130 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780553588347

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