The Early Beekeeper

This month, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I wrote about the early editorial letters in my newsletter (There’s also a giveaway of the audio–here) and will be celebrating it in various ways at Bouchercon, the end of the month.

But this early cover proposal from St Martins Press has always cracked me up.  I mean, “always” in the sense of “once I got over the shock of it.” Because that little girly figure with the Big Manly Holmes against the flocked wallpaper…?

It’s never really been how I envisioned Mary Russell…

So I have to ask: If Beekeeper had worn that face when you first saw it, would you have bought it? Would you have even picked it up??


  1. janet on October 20, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    The cover definitely wouldn’t have appealed to me. I don’t remember where or how I came across the book but I’m thankful I did. I love the series and it’s one of my re-read-many-times series. 🙂


  2. Kasandra Dasken on October 20, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    I am drawn to books with unique or quirky titles. I fell in love with your Mary Russell books on the first page of Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I might not have got to the first page, if this art work had been on the book!

    KD, Vancouver, BC

  3. Kay on October 20, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    No. Nobody could improve on Holmes as created by Doyle. You gave us Mary instead, and through her eyes a fascinating look at Holmes’ later life. He was appropriately a subordinate character to Mary, but you respected who he was and never belittled him. (Mary certainly never did.) I was pleased that he found a whole new dimension to life just as he was considering leaving it, and Mary wouldn’t have been who she became without him. But the series moved on to develop Mary into a very strong character, which was, and is, masterful.

  4. Benjamin L. Clark on October 20, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Holmes as lech?? Ew. And the bee coming out of the pipe is interesting. Seems like a horror concept.

  5. Merrily Taylor on October 20, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    I probably would have, because my other “test” for whether I want to buy a book is to open it and read the first page, and if that grabs me I’m in. And you KNOW it grabbed me!

  6. Roger Pavelle on October 20, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    I’m wondering how well that cover would have worked if the figures were reversed; Mary in full view with the shadow of Holmes against the wallpaper.

    • Laurie King on October 20, 2019 at 8:39 pm

      Now THAT would have been funny!

    • Joanne on October 20, 2019 at 11:49 pm

      Now that is an interesting thought… I’d prefer it that way to this.

  7. Storyteller Mary on October 20, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    I first heard of the series from a storytelling friend who was also an FBI agent. Grateful for his influence and for getting the time to read once I retired from teaching, six classes a day, and all the paper-grading for 180 students. I’ve earned this time to savor.

    • Laurie King on October 20, 2019 at 8:38 pm

      Enjoy your reading time!

  8. Marjory Lange on October 20, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    I met you–and Mary Russell–through Maeterlinck (whom I met, in turn, when a young girl, through another Mary–Mary Ware, a character in several of Annie Fellowes Johnston’s books for girls, set late 19th-20th century). My great aunt parcelled her much-worn volumes to me one at a time. I still have them. Mary Russell would have enjoyed meeting Mary Ware.
    Since AFJ, Maeterlinck’s book on the life of the bee and Doyle were essential parts of my literary life, I was delighted to meet you and knit those threads oddly together. I don’t think any cover design would have repelled me. Happy quarter-centennary.

    • Laurie King on October 20, 2019 at 8:38 pm

      Beekeeping ties together the most unlikely and disparate of characters…

    • Rosalyn Neel on October 22, 2019 at 11:34 pm

      I have to confess that I do not remember how I found Mary Russell though I was living in Soquel, near Santa Cruz, CA at the time so it may have had to do with Laurie King being a local author. But I wanted to say that I also “met” Mary Ware and the Little Colonel growing up because my mother had worked for years in a second hand book store and brought home all sorts of books from her own child hood for my sister and I —- we still have all of them too… Rosalyn Neel

      • Laurie King on October 23, 2019 at 12:06 am

        Glad to meet a former neighbor!

  9. Lenore on October 20, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I first encountered it as a library audiobook, and had no
    Idea what the original cover looked like. On the other hand, would the library have purchased it if they had seen that cover? Who knows?

  10. Joanne on October 21, 2019 at 12:01 am

    I first encountered Beekeeper’s Apprentice on the “new” shelf in the local library. It had a very subdued cover. All I saw at first was the spine. The word “beekeeper” rang a bell. Could it be? Yes, yes, yes! Thank you, Laurie. I loved it then and I love it now.

  11. Karen B on October 21, 2019 at 8:50 am

    Like Joanne, I first encountered BEEK on the “new” shelf in the library and the title intrigued me. The back blurb intrigued me more. I probably looked at the cover but I have no recollection of it or my reaction to it. So yes, I still would have picked it up and taken it home with me, but I have to admit, that cover is just Wrong – amusing in a way – but Wrong.

    • Laurie King on October 22, 2019 at 8:30 pm

      The mind does boggle…


  12. Karen K on October 21, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    I agree….I wouldn’t have looked twice with that cover. So glad it never saw the light of day. But I did like the comment about having full view of Mary and small shadow of Holmes….that may have intrigued me. Especially the now available views of Russell in the past few years….at first, we had to solely rely on our own imaginations. Early versions had motifs of content and no image of Russell. My favorite cover? Locked Rooms!

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