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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie KingJanuary 27, 2018
It all starts when fifteen-year-old, gawky, recently-orphaned Mary Russell literally runs into fifty-four-year-old, retired Sherlock Holmes on Sussex Downs. Surprised and impressed by her intellect, Holmes reluctantly takes Russell on as his apprentice. Soon they are called to Wales to help Scotland Yard find the kidnapped daughter of an American senator. Once they return, Holmes and Russell find themselves on the run from a mysterious killer, and they uncover clues that lead deep into their pasts—and change them in ways they never imagined.
In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie R. King develops Russell as a smart and humorous protagonist, who made me think about each choice that she made, and what influenced those choices. I found that she complements Holmes, with his gruff sarcastic demeanor, which made them an interesting pair to follow. This improved my overall reading experience, because even when there was a lull in the plot, the engaging protagonists ensured that there was never a boring moment.
I enjoyed how King crafted a fast-paced, suspenseful plot that was full of excitement, while keeping it from becoming scary. For me, this was critical because I am sensitive to frightening books, and I often have trouble finding a good mystery, so this novel was perfect for me.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was a well-written book, where there were never any loose ends. Each choice the characters made fit in with where the plot was at that time.
King is knowledgeable about London, Oxford, and Sherlock Holmes; she often goes into depth about Holmes’ “Baker Street Days,” then compares one of his past cases directly with the current mystery. There are also many references to real world objects and places, which I found that this made the book more plausible: I could prove everything in the setting, which left the protagonists as the only truly fictional element.
These characters were easy to relate to, despite their unusual lives, which made this book one of the best I’ve ever read. I hope you will choose to read this amazing novel. Follow Russell and Holmes in a breathtaking mystery through London and beyond, in King’s first book of the Mary Russell series.
St. Martin’s press, 356 pages
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha ChristieJanuary 26, 2018
In the brutal winter of 1934, famous detective Hercule Poirot catches the Orient Express only to find that a murder occurs the first night he’s on board. When the train is halted by a snow drift, everyone wakes up to find Samuel Ratchett dead in his compartment. Poriot takes the matter in his own hands and determines to find the murderer by interviewing all the passengers who were in that car. When matters get complicated, Poroit has to rely on his friendships to solve this mysterious crime.
I loved how Christie used third-person narrative, so she was able to obscure the characters’ thoughts. When I noticed she used that perspective I didn’t understand why she would choose it. But as I neared the end, I realized that, otherwise, the conclusion would be revealed about half way through the book.
Christie uses older language, not on purpose, but just because that is how people spoke when she wrote the book. Even though the diction was a bit complicated, I had no problem being able to understand it. It is set in Europe, and French is the main language on the train, so there are a few French references.
The character Hercule Poirot is a clever man with a lot of interesting ideas that he keeps to himself. He is a classic detective, who loves a good mystery. Christie doesn’t make you close to the supporting characters so that if one of them is the murderer, you won’t be heartbroken. It also makes the plot a lot harder to predict. The end was confusing; I read it through once and didn’t immediately understand. So I read the end again and understood it a lot better. The conclusion was creative, which made it impossible to guess what happened. The setting beyond the train, is not revealed outside, except that you know there is a snow drift preventing the train from going anywhere. I thought this was effective because you focused more on the mystery than on what had happened outside of the train.
I rated this book a ten because it is extremely rare to find a captivating mystery that is not scary. I also enjoyed how about eighty percent of the book is told through interviews with the passengers. If you enjoyed this breathtaking book, the movie came out, and it is just as thrilling. Murder on the Orient Express never lacked an exciting moment and made me think on my feet throughout the book. What would you do if you had to risk your life to solve a murder?
Harper Collins, 315 pages
The Name of the Star, by Maureen JohnsonFebruary 13, 2012
In this unforgettable book, Maureen Johnson creates a plot like no other. First, Rory Deveaux moves to a London boarding school. Then she realizes that a series of horrifying murders that have been occurring in the city are all in a radius of a couple of miles. There is something even more unusual about this string of bloody deaths. The serial killer is mimicking the style of Jack the Ripper, who terrorized London in 1888 in a similar fashion. The modern-day murderer is going to lots of trouble to get the details down to the same place on the same month and date. “Rippermania” becomes the “thing” to chat in fear about. Rory and Jerome, the boy that she likes, are acting a little too brave, visiting the murder crime scenes, trying to get ahead of the police, figuring out who the “new” Jack the Ripper is and Johnson definitely gets you wondering, “Is this really possible?” You, too, become part of the adventure.
Knowing previous books that Johnson has written, I was a little unsure at first about this one. Unbelievably girly covers and shockingly candy-coated plot summaries were her style before The Name of the Star. But I took a leap, trusted Johnson, and hoped that this book was different from the others. I love high-action, edge-of-your-seat books, and this one filled those expectations, as well as giving me a fun, brief history of what people do know about the real Jack the Ripper. No page was boring.
A week prior to starting The Name of the Star, my brother rented a Sherlock Holmes themed movie after watching, and loving, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which I also thought was a spectacular movie. This second film had a plot based on the actual Jack the Ripper of 1888. This is when I started to become more anxious to find out who this horrifying man really was. The Name of the Star finished my Jack the Ripper phase because it was so satisfying. I didn’t want any other story to change how I saw him. Even if you have no interest in the subject of Jack the Ripper, I advise you to give it a try.
So many wonderful aspects of this book made it a favorite. First, the setting and plot build up. I liked how the prologue is short and Johnson stuffs the problem into two well-written pages, which gives the book a fast-paced effect and sets the tone for the rest of the novel. I think this is hard and takes a lot of work. Good job, Johnson.
I also enjoyed the map of London at the beginning of the book. Sometimes a map is included in a cheesy fantasy novel, but this one gave me a sense of place and also set me up for the geography of the buildings, places, and crime scenes. Having visited London myself, it was interesting to see how close I’d been to all the murders scenes of 1888. It gave me a thrill to connect the plot to a personal experience.
I recommend this book to anybody who is looking for suspense, mystery, and a fabulous ending.
Publisher: Penguin, 372 pages
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