Series of books – guilty pleasures

Some books I read for book groups, some books I read because they are a challenge, other books I read because I just enjoy them. Two series, one of which I’ve just started, one which I have been reading since the last century…

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King is the first in a series of books about a certain Mary Russell, who becomes the apprentice of Sherlock Holmes. It is written in her voice, and Holmes (and Watson, Mrs Hudson and Mycroft) appear through her eyes, her interpretation.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell Mystery 01)

This is an interesting idea, and on the whole, well carried out. King is an American, and there are times when she writes as someone who has looked up “Wales”, “Gypsies” and pre motor cabs in Google. Despite this, she does write well, delving into character, plot and enjoyable flights of invention. Several mysteries appear in this book, which poses the idea that Holmes takes on a determined, intelligent teenager as an apprentice and through setting problems and experiments develops the strange set of skills that qualify her as a partner in his continuing  work of detection.

I suppose what makes it an interesting book for me is the female perspective on the Holmes idea which is sadly lacking in the original. Even in the otherwise great series “Sherlock” on BBC1 women are seen as landladies, victims or in one episode, girlfriend. I thought that it was sad that women are still seen as optional plot devices rather than protagonists. While I thought that Martin Freeman did a good job as the confused Watson, why couldn’t we have a confused woman sidekick, rather than  a girlfriend who usefully got kidnapped? Rant over. This is a good book, difficult to put down for all the right reasons, a and promising great things to come. I confess to being baffled by the order of the books in the series, and have started reading The Game because I thought that it was the second book. Still it does prove that these are stand alone books , at least if you read the Apprentice first. Having criticised the series though, let’s have a picture anyway…

The second series of books is “The Village Series” by Rebecca Shaw. This series has been going for many years, alternating with the Country series. Every book is set in the village of Turnham Malpas, a fictional idyll which features the Rector, called Peter. The latest in  the series (I think) called The Village Newcomers has sudden death, exposure of backstories, threat and resolution. In other words, typical of the series. This is the sort of book to read in a sunny afternoon (even in the North!) and find absolutely nothing that is ever likely to have happened, anywhere, among the most unlikely series of characters. But it is fun! And I just love the idea of the clergy being called Peter and proving to be a gorgeous superman character… Read these books if you want a complete departure from reality, tv soaps are too depressing, and you need something daft to read. A quick inspection of a certain online bookseller suggests that there are many books in this series of  very British books. Read it and…giggle?

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