The Language of Bees (2009)

Video courtesy of Two Rock Media



ISBN (US) 9780553804546
ISBN (UK) 9780749007911, published by Allison and Busby press

In a case that will push their relationship to the breaking point, Mary Russell must help reverse the greatest failure of her legendary husband’s storied past—a painful and personal defeat that still has the power to sting…this time fatally.

For Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, returning to the Sussex coast after seven months abroad was especially sweet. There was even a mystery to solve—the unexplained disappearance of an entire colony of bees from one of Holmes’s beloved hives. But the anticipated sweetness of their homecoming is quickly tempered by a galling memory from her husband’s past.

Mary had met Damian Adler only once before, when the promising surrealist painter had been charged with—and exonerated from—murder. Now the talented and troubled young man was enlisting their help again, this time in a desperate search for his missing wife and child. When it comes to communal behavior, Russell has often observed that there are many kinds of madness. And before this case yields its shattering solution, she’ll come into dangerous contact with a fair number of them.

From suicides at Stonehenge to a bizarre religious cult, from the demimonde of the Café Royal at the heart of Bohemian London to the dark secrets of a young woman’s past on the streets of Shanghai, Russell will find herself on the trail of a killer more dangerous than any she’s ever faced—a killer Sherlock Holmes himself may be protecting for reasons near and dear to his heart.

The Language of Bees from Laurie R. King on Vimeo.

Download the first two chapters here.

Mary Russell first encounters the Reverend Thomas Brothers through his book, Testimony. Excerpts are here.


You can order The Language of Bees at the following locations:

Crossroads Books
Capitola Book Cafe

Powell’s Books

LRK Amazon store proceeds benefit Heifer International!
Barnes & Noble Online

What They Say


Intricate clockworks, wheels within wheels, a kaleidoscope of patterns that periodically locks into place to reveal a clear but ominous vision—so are the absorbing series of stories King has written about the young theology scholar and American feminist Mary Russell, who is married to the great detective Sherlock Holmes.

It is almost impossible to talk about plot in this latest without revelation. Holmes and Russell return to England in August 1924, after traveling around the world, to find that Holmes’ bees are inexplicably dying and that Holmes had a son by Irene Adler. Damian, the son, suffered as a soldier in the Great War, is a famed surrealist artist, and has a wife and child, both of whom disappear, prompting Holmes to take a case with the most personal of connections.

Along the way, we are treated to a great deal about ancient sites in England; a major supporting role from Holmes’ brother, Mycroft; information on an occult set of beliefs possibly related to Aleister Crowley; a terrifying set piece on the horrors of early air travel; and discourse on the queasy pleasures of surrealist art—all in Mary Russell’s wry, brilliant, and occasionally utterly deluded voice. We also see both Sherlock and Mycroft reveal human depths to themselves and to us.

Although the novel does have an end, nothing is resolved: “To be continued,” King tells us, in the most frustrating of finales. Readers will want the rest right now, and even without a satisfying ending, they will realize that this is one of the best of a uniformly superlative series.

Library Journal:

Back in Sussex after nearly a year of globe-trotting adventures (The Game), Mary Russell and husband Sherlock Holmes are immediately catapulted into two different mysteries: the disappearance of Yolanda Adler and her young daughter, and the sudden extinction of one of Holmes’s beehives. Sherlock takes on the Adler case, while Mary, never one to mope at home, delves into the intricacies of the apiary. She then heads to London to consult with Mycroft Holmes and insinuates herself into Sherlock’s case. And thank goodness, because he clearly needs her help. King’s latest is not as much of a travelog as previous series novels, although Russell does charter an airplane. Seeing more of Mycroft is a definite treat, but Russell and her husband spend most of the novel apart, which is never a good thing. King wastes no time dropping bombshells that shake up the canon she’s so carefully created. She’s a consistently good writer who continues to delight her many fans. A required purchase for all public libraries and fiction collections.


See where Mary and Holmes’s newest adventures take them by clicking on the blue arrows below.

View The Language of Bees in a larger map


For a refresher on Mary Russell’s adventures so far, visit Mary Russell’s World.

A Wikipedia article on Bees, and another on Sudden Hive Collapse.

More information on surrealist art, and also here.

The artist Andre Breton, and his Surrealist Manifesto.

The history of Shanghai.

The Sussex Downs, plus photos of the Downs.

The Beachy Head lighthouse

The South Downs Way

Cafe Royal

Aleister Crowley

The Norse Gods.

Information on the Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex, and also here.

The Cerne Abbas Giant in Cerne Abbas, Dorset

Long Meg and her Daughters in Penrith, Cumbria. Also here and here.

High Bridestones in the Yorkshire moors, with more here.



Map of ceremonial Orkney

Stones of Stenness:

As they are now.

And as they would have been in 1924, with more here and here.

Ring of Brodgar:

More on the Ring of Brodgar here and here.

A 2008 archaeological dig of the Ring of Brodgar.


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Burling Gap, where Russell swims in The Language of Bees. The ocean at Burling Gap.
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The Wilmingdon Giant, or Long Man. The Long Man at Wilmingdon.
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The Stones of Stenness, Orkney. The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney.
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Collapsed altar stone at Stenness, Orkney. Long Meg and her daughters, near Penrith.
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