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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 27 April 2017
Excellent; really enjoyed re-reading this (originally purchased in paperback).
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on 25 May 2017
Really enjoyed.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 November 2016
I love most of the books in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, and this one is not an exception. It has an intriguing story and we get to learn more about Sherlock Holme past.
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on 31 July 2011
Ever since I read A Monstrous Regiment of Women, I've wondered about a throwaway line - (paraphrasing) when Holmes and Russell are discussing helping a young man with a drug problem, and she cuttingly asks him, Wouldn't he want someone to help him, if he were Holmes' son? And that this is cruel, because Holmes did have a son, and someone did try.

I thought at first I had missed something from canon, that this line was included so casually and never brought up again. At last, in "The Language of Bees" we get an answer - and how!

The mystery in this book is personal for Holmes in a way that we haven't seen before, and it offers new scope for the characters. I quite like the portrayal of Mary as "my father's wife". Another thing I enjoyed was the description of the Orkney Islands, and the stone circles there - I thought it all very beautiful, and now want a visit. Of course, I hope to have an easier trip there than Mary...

Mycroft features increasingly prominently in this book, setting up the plot of God of the Hive.

I liked Mary's detective skills in this book - she seems to be acting, rather than reacting, and is in position to view the whole affair more rationally than Holmes, which is a good contrast to Locked Rooms.

A must-read for any fan of the series, and I could even tentatively recommend it for new readers of the series, being set back in England, on "home soil" after some novels of travel, and others referring back to earlier characters. However, this book is very much the first part of a two-part story - I recommend that the reader has the next book, God of the Hive, close to hand and ready to go when they finish this novel!
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VINE VOICEon 9 January 2012
Holmes and Russell return home to Sussex to discover that Laurie King has made a major addition to general Holmes canon - a son. Some might be put off by this, but that element works well. Holmes has always been a mysterious character in his personal life, concealing what emotion he feels, even in the original Conan Doyle stories.

From here the hunt for a daughter-in-law and potential grandchild lead them into the path of mysterious cult. Bodies turn up at prehistoric sites and the sacrifices that the cult alludes to might be more than merely spiritual. The Aleister Crowley style shenanigans fit well with both the Holmes stories more gothic elements and with the spirit of the mid-1920s when odd religious movements flourished (much like current 'new age' beliefs). But the book is actually somewhat lacking in atmosphere. The religious movement never develops into the ominous force it might.

Instead, the threat is contained to just one individual within the cult. The motivation for what he does remains unclear. We are told that the thoughts behind the religious movement are muddled at times and that details are fudged in terms of a greater truth - but that appears to be a good excuse to allow King to do whatever she wishes. Quotes from the religious text at the start of each chapter add some flavour but never really give any sense of what the cults and its leader's aims are. An interest in Norse myth is bad, we are told by an expert, because that means 'Ragnarok, of course' - suggesting a desire to usher in the end of the world - but the Vikings were far from the only people to believe in a final apocalypse (Christianity has its own fine and scary vision of the end of the world); why should anyone leap to that assumption? The Norse elements do not appear otherwise to be significant. It feels just a little half baked.

The problems are broader: Holmes spends much of the book out of the way investigating other aspects of the case. But Holmes is always the star turn in any book he appears in and Russell's investigation meanders somewhat. When he does appear he is often reduced to either smoking his pipe but achieving little or, alternatively, acting as something of a deus ex machina, wrapping up elements just a little too easily.

There is a lengthy sub-plot at the beginning of the book about a mysteriously failed bee-hive. One might hope that the solution of this would have some bearing on the main mystery but by the end of the book it appeared not have done. Perhaps this will be remedied in the next part, 'The God of the Hive'.

The book is entirely readable - and I will certainly go on to the next part - but it fails to completely satisfy. King's books in general do not seem to have the feeling of being a well crafted machine that some mystery stories do - a style that the original Holmes stories helped to create. That is a shame, particularly here where the story seemed to promise a lot and never totally delivered.
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on 14 July 2009
I have read all of Laurie King's books in the Russell/Holmes series and this is, I suppose, a natural progression of the storyline. Some things are good and some are not. It is good to have Russell and Holmes back on Sussex/London territory and it is good to see Mycroft taking part in the story. The leap of a past relationship and offspring is a bit of a stretch. Sadly, though this story is about relationships, to me there was little between Holmes and Russell. For the most part they worked separately. I also missed Mrs. Hudson and Dr. Watson and Russell's own profession as an academic has disappeared. Good, but not the best.
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on 8 April 2011
The 9th Mary Russell book, or alternatively, you could think of it as the first half of the 9th book as this one ends on a big TBC.
This is a very solid addition to the long running series. The last few books have been part of a globe trotting arc as Sherlock Holmes and Russell travel through Asia and America. If you are new to the series and can't get hold of the first book - 1994's The Beekeeper's Apprentice - then you could do worse than dipping your toe in the water with The Language of Bees. It's been nearly a half decade wait since the last book - the superb Locked Rooms from 2005, so there is a subtle element of a reboot here with Russell and her famous other half arriving back in Sussex and those canonical retirement plan bees. The arrival of a long lost son sends Holmes in search of a missing daughter-in-law and granddaughter, leaving Russell alone to contemplate a mystery within one of Sherlock's beehives. The author cleverly weaves bee mythology, psychology, symbolism and science throughout the twisty mysteries that wind through the southern English countryside, creaking under the weight of our Pagan monoliths and ancient sites of druidism. Add a cultural mix of Norse mythology and it's only fitting that the lead up to the deadly climax is preceded by a 'Valkyrie ride' north from London to the Orkney Islands aboard a rickety 1924 Bristol Tourer, piloted by a seemingly unreliable drunken pilot.
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on 28 June 2013
Can you be addicted to a series? This is the first half of a two book story. Only managed 5 mins before I bought The God of the Hive to find out what happened next!
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on 4 May 2011
Laurie R. King's books are a continuing delight. The original Holmes stories, although interesting were distinctly masculine in tone and I suspect I read them as a teenager mainly because my brothers did. The continuation of the Holmes saga with Mary Russell as his wife and partner in crime seems to lift the whole project to a new and more interesting level. It is perhaps presumptious of me to speak on his behalf but I'm sure that Conan Doyle would have approved, and if he didn't then Mrs. Hudson certainly would have. The 1920's atmosphere of this one makes a perfect background and feels completely authentic.

I would normally only want to review a book that I wished to award five stars to, but have made an exception here because this is the first of this series I have bought on Amazon and I wanted to say something about them. The reason I downgraded this particular book to four stars was the fact that it turns out to be simply part 1 of 2. That wouldn't have bothered me so much if it had been made clear in the advance publicity (Yes I know I should have read the Amazon reviews - hey ho)

If anyone is interested I have put in a product link at the bottom to a 5 star review I have just given to another good read.

Rude Awakening
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on 26 October 2012
I love these books with Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. Laurie R King sets the background with so much detail and all through the book is the rather strange relationship between the two main characters who despite their disparity in age shows that they have a bond which goes beyond the mere physical or cerebral and that they are truly compatible. As with her other novels King shows immensely detailed research into theology and the strange and bizarre cults that seem to get started by individuals who, being filled with their own cnceit, aim to exploit and manipulate vulnerable people for their own sake. It is wonderful how many little details strike one, eg in the fact that it took six days to travel from Shanghai and the various means of transport used to attain this. I love a book which gives lots of historical information as well as a measure of romance, this was a great read and I can't wait to read some of the others.
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