Most of us can name authors whose work we anticipate so keenly that we know not whether to devour or savour a new volume. For me, Laurie R. King fell into that category over ten years ago and now, with her 19th novel, we see the most welcome return of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes in what turns into the most personal of their cases.
The Language of Bees is the follow-up to 2005's bestselling Locked Rooms. It is 1924 and we see Russell and Holmes return to Sussex after seven months of travel through India, Japan and California. As well as the mystery of the disappearance of an entire colony of bees from one of Holmes's hives, their homecoming is disrupted even before crossing the threshold by the unexpected reappearance of a disturbingly familiar face from the past. Damian Adler, a talented young painter, is seeking their help in locating his missing wife and child.
As Russell and Holmes begin their investigations, their quests have them experiencing a religious cult in London which has roots in Shanghai, solstice suicides and a knuckle-clenching aeroplane ride for Russell from London to Orkney, with some near death-defying jolts down to earth along the way.
In classic adventure-story fashion, the novel climaxes with Russell and Holmes coming together in the surreal setting of The Stones of Stenness on a storm-swept Orkney, and with a tantalising 'to be continued…' on the final page.
The Language of Bees is the ninth instalment in Laurie King's Russell and Holmes series, which receives regular acclaim and plaudits; and rightly so. Rich prose, a wonderfully eclectic collection of people and locations ranging from Bohemian London to the wilds of Scotland combine to make this an immensely enjoyable and beautifully written addition to the series. Followers of Laurie King's blog will appreciate how much time, passion and dedication go into her novels; no mass-produced output with recycled plots, but care, love and individuality go into each writing event which, luckily, is an almost annual occurrence. Should more than a year now pass before we can read the sequel to The Language of Bees, I will suffer, but gladly; if less than a year should elapse, I would be delighted!
The Language of Bees is published in the UK on August 4, 2009 by Allison and Busby. The US edition is published now by Bantam Books.
[We'll alert you to the UK edition when published later in the year.]