Beekeeping for Beginners, and other points of view












A few years ago, I started playing with ways to work bits of third-person viewpoints into what are otherwise memoirs.  Those don’t actually fit, of course, since “I” have no way of knowing exactly what “he” is thinking, even if I’m standing next to him at the time.  However, the book I was working on (Locked Rooms) required being able to see certain events from others’ eyes, and short of having Holmes write down what he was seeing—or worse, sit and describe every nuance—jumping out of Russell’s point of view was the only way to do it.

But really, if Mary Russell were writing her memoirs, would she permit herself to 1) describe only what she knew at the time, and not what she learned later, or 2) sit and listen passively as one character after another told her where they’d been and what they’d been doing?  I don’t think so.  And although I’ve had a couple of letters gently remonstrating me for this occasionally awkward combination of first and third voices, I think most readers find it a smoother read than having Holmes forever pulling out his pipe and beginning, “Well, after Damian and I got onto the fishing boat, I had to decide…”

Some months ago, my editor asked me if I’d write a story the publishers could do especially for e-book readers, tying it into Pirate King. It could be anything, she said: maybe there was a minor character somewhere who’d caught my imagination, or a new tale fitting into the gaps between two of the books?  And as I thought about it, my mind kept coming back to those alternate points of view.

We all know how Russell’s story begins (If you don’t remember, it’s here.): She was fifteen when she first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with her nose in a book as she walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him.  But what about the man sitting on the ground?  What on earth did he make of this young girl, wearing her father’s clothes, acting the smart-aleck?

I turned to watch the owner of the slow footsteps approach. The lad was wearing an old and too-large suit, a jersey in place of shirt and waistcoat (it had been cold that morning when I—and, it appeared, he—had set out) and a badly knit scarf, with a cloth cap pulled down to his ears and shoes that, despite being new, pinched his toes. His nose was buried in a book, as if to demonstrate his noble oblivion to any world-famous detectives who might be hunkered on the ground.

And because Russell is, after all, only fifteen years old, much that is going on around her is beyond her experience—not only outside of her point of view, but her vision.

But not Holmes’.

Beekeeping for Beginners is on sale today, here.  (In UK markets, July 25th.) Let me know what you think of it.


  1. Anne Melendez on July 6, 2011 at 5:38 am

    I’m really excited about Beekeeping for Beginners, the little hints we’ve gotten here and on the trailer have me dying to read the whole thing, but I’m going to have to give up on buying it today and come back to it later when I have more time to click around. The list of vendors doesn’t also list what format they offer the book in so I’ve hit 7 of them looking to see if any of them have it in .pdf or .doc or something I can read on my netbook without also having to download special software. Google’s ebook site will often offer books in that format but they don’t have it listed yet so I kept looking. You’re doing a really great job at promoting your books otherwise so maybe you could have a word with your publisher about making it easier to find them?

    Anyway, I’ll get it eventually. I’m hoping Google has it up soon.

    • Laurie King on July 6, 2011 at 7:31 am

      Unfortunately my editor’s assistant, who is my source of all knowledge electronic, has diabolically chosen today for his first day of vacation. I will persist in asking people for assistance, and let you know. Please let me know, in return, if you have any luck.

  2. Merrily on July 6, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Got up, fed cats (must come first), made coffee (must be able to function), then fired up the Kindle, downloaded B4B, and read! What a great story – it was good to see Mrs. Hudson and Watson back again, and of course, to learn more about Holmes’ state of mind on that day – and to see Russell as he sees her, for the first time.
    I think that my favorite part of the whole story was when Russell meets the bees – that and the 3d rule of beekeeping.
    A perfect addition to the Mary Russell universe, not that I expected less!

  3. Outspoken1 on July 6, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Bitten by technology. I do not (nor currently have the financial ability) to buy an e-book reader. Is there any way to but this and just read it on my laptop computer (Windows 7)?

    Thanks so much,

  4. Heather on July 6, 2011 at 8:14 am

    For those who don’t have eReaders, if you’re able to download Adobe Digital Editions (a free program) you should be able to buy and read the eBook through that software on your computer. I’ve used it in place of the software for my Kobo (which is simply awful) and have found it quite user-friendly.

    You can find it here:

  5. Lisa on July 6, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Today began with an unexpected trip to the hospital. Fortunately I had preordered Beekeeping for Beginners on the iPad and so there was a bright light in the time of waiting – such a delightful piece of the Russell puzzle! And now I’m glad too that I didn’t stay to read it when it first came out at midnight (though it was a close thing). Thank you Laurie!

    • Laurie King on July 6, 2011 at 9:39 am

      Very sorry to hear of the hospital visit, but I’m so happy I could provide some distraction!

  6. Sabrina on July 6, 2011 at 11:50 am

    B4B was a very endearing read and the best .99 cents I’ve ever spent. I didn’t think it was possible, but after reading this short story I think I love Holmes and Russell even more. I always enjoy seeing Holmes in his super sleuth action mode and loved the appearance of a feisty Mrs. Hudson and adventure addicted Watson. I also found the intended murder weapon highly amusing. Thank you Ms King and please keep writing!

    On the subject of POV’s: Do you find Holmes’ first person POV more difficult or daunting to write than the third person POV with Holmes?

  7. Mom of 6 on July 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Since I’ve no portable digital readers, I followed Heather’s link to download Adobe’s Digital Editions, then went to Laurie’s link to eBooks, slapped down my $1.06 (with tax), and less than 5 minutes later B4B is adorning my hard drive. I can’t wait to read it!

  8. Caryn on July 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I stayed up way too late once I downloaded B4B, because sleep bedamned, I wanted to find out more. Excellent and definitely a different “voice” than Mary, of course. I think I’ll reread it tonight. Thank you.

  9. Deborah Schroder on July 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I had pre-ordered this and made sure I came home for lunch to download to my Nook. Put dinner in the crockpot so I wouldn’t have to cook tonight. Came home, ate dinner and read B4B. Loved it!!! I really like seeing Holmes’ take on their meeting.
    For the people that don’t have ereaders–you can still download Kindle or Nook for PC and read from there in addition to the Adobe reader.

    Thanks Laurie for another wonderful read.

  10. Mary on July 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Loved “Beekeeping for Beginners”! I enjoyed the strong point of view from Holmes side of the story as it unfolded around Russell at their first meeting. One question- is it possible we may see other Holmes viewpoints from “the early years”? thanks for being such a fantastic writer- I know have two ereaders with all the MR stories, and I have now started accumulating them all on CD so I can hear them when I walk.

    • Laurie King on July 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm

      One never knows, what the Russell stories will come up with..!

  11. Mom of 6 on July 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I will not spoil anything here, but I wanted to offer the most general of comments on the book itself:

    1. This is my first ever e-book purchase. So worth it. Falling slave to an e-reader, that is. And the dollar-six.

    2. I appreciated the insight on both Holmes’ and Russell’s states of mind prior to their meeting, and how that meeting changed them. I also liked the workings in of current events.

    3. How could I ever look at BEEK the same way again? This little snippet of adventure, mystery, and suspense fills in a gap and answers questions the same way that OJER does. I’m looking forward to a virtual reading group.

  12. faith Johnson on July 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Hi .. I’m in Australia and have tried to purchase “beekeeping for Beginners” but no luck … they all say not available here? any ideas?

    • Laurie King on July 12, 2011 at 4:55 am

      Australia is part of the UK market, not the US, so will be available on the 15th.

  13. Ranuel on August 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks for your support to those of us who had problems initially getting the story and to tell you how much I enjoyed it. It was really great to get Holmes’ side of things and I hope he’s encouraged to share more with us in the future. It was also a lot of fun to see events we thought we knew from another POV. That’s the sort of thing you usually have to rely on fanfic for and it’s much more satisfying to have something like this be the way things really happened.

    • Laurie King on August 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm

      Glad you persisted, and that you enjoyed it.

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