A Venomous Companion
We are celebrating two decades of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice with a brand new Companion volume, which answers many questions and, I fear, raises others regarding Miss Russell and her world.
Much of the material is either newly written or published for the first time. For example, several short stories that were written for other purposes…
A Venomous Death
(“A Venomous Death” is a short-short story that followed an invitation from printmaker Mark Lavender, asking if there might be a Russell & Holmes story he could print on one page, as a broadsheet. There was.)
I gingerly pushed my head through the doorway of the stone cottage to ask my husband, “The constable wants to know if it’s safe yet.”
“Oh, quite.” Sherlock Holmes was squatting beside the small wooden crate into which he had knocked the swarm of bees five minutes earlier, holding its lid open a crack for the last stragglers.
I stepped in, keeping a wary eye on the crate. PC Harris, who had summoned Holmes an hour before—as a convenient beekeeper, not a consulting detective—ventured a look in, then retreated briskly into the pale October sunshine. Holmes, however, wasn’t even wearing a beekeeper’s net: swarming bees were generally not aggressive. Which made this death a puzzle.
“I’ve heard of swarms following a queen into odd places, but never through the open window of a man’s bedroom.” “They did not. This was murder.”
“Holmes,” I protested, “I’d have thought bee-sting a somewhat roundabout method of homicide.”
“Russell, Russell, bees swarm in summer. And the entire village knew the professor was deathly allergic to bee venom.” He absently scraped a stinger from the back of his hand.
“So a retired professor of philosophy had a mortal enemy who decided to chuck a hive of bees through his window?”
“You of all people should know how vituperative academics can be.”
“For heaven’s sake, Holmes, this was an expert on Aristotelian hermeneutics!”
. . . .
If you’d like to read the rest of “A Venomous Death”, The Mary Russell Companion
is available here.