Friday, 2 September 2011

The God of the Hive

The God of the Hive follows on directly from events in The Language of Bees and is the 10th book to feature Mary Russell. Mary and Sherlock are separated again and on the run. At first assessment you think of Reichenbach, and there are certainly deliberate similarities but the suspense gets left behind too often. Laurie R. King chooses instead to tell a more character driven story, examining Russell's new relationship with the recently discovered granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes. It's easy to forget that the whole business began as a search for the girl's missing mother. King has covered similar ground to this in her Kate Martinelli detective series.
The die hard Sherlockian in me can't read the start of a chapter beginning with the words 'Chief Inspector Lestrade' without at least a slight twitch of my arm muscles (perhaps to punch the air) even if this Lestrade is a younger chip off the original block. A lengthy interlude in the wild woods of northern England takes up a large section of the book, including the introduction of a new character called Goodman. A man with a tortured history of war damaged psychosis, King fancies as an embodiment of the English folklore legend of The Green Man and a similar revisit to another of King's character experiments - see the Martinelli book To Play the Fool. It's this particular Holy Fool who is partly responsible for a funeral so bizarre it might not have looked out of place on an episode of The Prisoner.
The writing is as good as ever but with the plot, thin though it is, sidelined so often the experience isn't quite as compelling as usual. When the plot does finally emerge from the London fog with so few pages remaining I was beginning to think we were going to end as the last book ended with another 'TO BE CONTINUED'. Thankfully that doesn't happen and we are treated belatedly to a proper Reichenbach style finale in the shadow of Big Ben.

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