It is no secret that I am a huge admirer of Laurie King's fiction, whether it be the latest (and now infrequent) Kate Martinelli San Francisco-based police procedurals, the thought-provoking and inventive stand-alone novels, and the now ten-strong series of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novels, of which The God of the Hive is the latest, and was published in the UK by Allison & Busby on July 5th. There are some of Laurie King's novels that I feel maybe have the edge over others but all, without exception, leave me with a feeling of immense satisfaction at the quality of the story and the writing.
That said my advice on this new Mary Russell novel is to go back and read The Language of Bees before reading The God of the Hive, as this is the closest Laurie King has come to writing what is, in effect, a direct sequel within this series. If you don't, you will certainly feel as if you have 'missed' something of some importance and, this time, you will have done, as the story picks up only an hour or so after The Language of Bees concludes. Unlike some readers, I did find The Language of Bees to be complete in itself, but with the publication of The God of the Hive, the two novels together make for a remarkable and enthralling story.
On the run and wanted by the police, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are forced to go their separate ways after the Orkney adventure that formed the climax of The Language of Bees, and embark on journeys filled with 1920s air adventures and sea journeys; offering hair-raising and novel escapades; and introducing the rich variety of characters that King is so expert at creating. How will they overcome the various obstacles thrown in their paths, and who really is the God of the Hive? With much focus on Holmes's brother Mycroft, and some shady characters lurking in the wings, the tension builds nicely; and there are some touches of occasional humour, too, which are nice and quirky.
In true, old-fashioned mystery tradition, The God of the Hive has clues, puzzles and surprises in abundance, and the numerous threads of the story are expertly woven together. This is a fast-paced adventure whilst at the same time being a book to savour; existing fans will be delighted and newcomers will have the anticipation of The God of the Hive, but do read The Language of Bees in its timely new paperback edition first!
By happy coincidence Laurie R. King's first Mary Russell novel, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, is at last benefiting from a new paperback edition in the coming weeks, also from Allison & Busby, thus giving us no fewer than five instalments in this delightful series in print in the UK. The new cover illustrations are colourful, eye-catching and appropriate to the era, and form a great basis for new collectors to embark upon.
At a recent book event I attended in California to launch The God of the Hive - the lengths we go to to bring you up-to-date news! – Laurie told us that her next novel is another Mary Russell, and is provisionally titled Pirate King. One to look forward to in 2011!