A review of Laurie R. King’s ‘The Beekeeper’s Apprentice’ chapter five


Book Two

Internship

The Senator’s Daughter

The Vagrant Gypsy Life

Seize her, imprison her, take her away.

Please no offensive gypsy stereotypes, please no offensive gypsy stereotypes…

The Monk’s Tun case was, as I said, but a lark, the sort of noncase that even a dyed-in-the-wool romantic like Watson would have been hard to put to whip into a thrilling narrative.

Stop insulting Watson. Stop trying to make me dislike Watson. It’s never going to happen. Luckily for Mary’s ego, the case of the America senator’s daughter is superbly exciting and will serve to bind her and Holmes together in a way that they will never be able to split. It starts a few weeks after the last chapter, when Mary discovers Holmes in his living room dressed like the worst Victorian melodrama approximation of a gypsy.  This, to King’s credit, is very much in keeping with the mood of the original Holmes canon. She questions what he is doing, saying that he must tell her what he’s up to, as she’s ‘not Watson, not Mrs Hudson. I’m not in the least bit intimidated by you’. Bitch please. Mrs Hudson is a goddess. Holmes goes off on the deep end, saying Mary can’t be involved because the case is far too dangerous.

The six year old daughter of an American senator, Jonathan Simpson, has been kidnapped while the family was on holiday in Wales. They received a ransom note for £20,000 else the child will surely die. The police are stumped and have sent for Holmes. Holmes doesn’t want the case because he thinks he will fail; Watson’s ‘drivel’ has convinced people that he is some sort of miracle worker. He’s taking it anyway, and him and Mary shall disguise themselves as a pair of gypsies to travel to Wales and find the child. He is convinced the child is no more than twenty miles from where she was snatched.

Why not disguise yourselves as just… ordinary people?  Won’t making a big fuss while being music hall style gypsies make you noticeable and tip off the kidnappers? Won’t the educated mind that Holmes believes is behind the kidnap be very wary of any strangers coming into the area?

Anyway, Mary and Holmes set off for Wales and act in a very culturally insensitive way, insinuating that gypsies are thieving, their women sleep around, and that they are rude and violent. Pleasant. But sort of in-keeping with Conan Doyle’s style. They cause such a fuss at Cardiff train station that they’re arrested, whereupon they reveal their identities. The fuss at the police station was all a ruse so the kidnappers wouldn’t notice the arrival of Holmes. The pair are taken to the senator and his wife.

Mrs Simpson blames herself for the disappearance of her child, as it was her idea to go on holiday to a country fighting a brutal war on two European fronts. Holmes reassures her that the child obviously would have been taken from wherever she was, as it was an orchestrated crime. He asks how far in advance they planned the holiday and Mr Simpson’s reply makes me furious.

‘I know I’m not being diplomatic, but London’s a god-awful place: the air stinks; you can’t ever see stars, even with the blackout; it’s always noisy; and you never know when the bombs won’t start up again. Wales seemed about as far from that as a person could get. I arranged for about a week off, oh, it must have been the end of May we started planning it, just after that last big bombing raid.’

  • Sorry that London is so bad, you know that there’s a war on.
  • There is no blackout in London in 1918.
  • Zepplin bombing stopped in 1916.
  • it was also never very serious. About 500 people died of zepplin bombing, compared to 41,000 during the Blitz bombing campaigns in WW2.

There is no excuse for this shoddy research. If you’re going to write a book set in World War One, do some actual research. King’s view of WW1 seems to be that it was exactly the same as WW2, just without Nazis. The lack of effort put into historical research is really glaring and rather painful.

Anyway, it turns out the parents were drugged or something, and that Jessica Simpson would have reacted without fuss to being kidnapped because she’s ‘highly intelligent and does not panic easily’. At being dragged out of her tent at the age of six in the middle of the night. Okay, whatever, that child is a miracle. The interview with the Simpsons is concluded, so Mary and Holmes, still in disguise, begin to travel to the isolated Welsh village where the Simpsons were staying.

I cooled my heels by juggling for half an hour, desperate for something to read (though strictly speaking I should be barely literate).

You dirty racist. Screw you and your offensive gypsy stereotypes.

Well, they’re on the trail of Jessica Simpson now. Will it be exciting? Will it be racist? Will Mary die and make me supremely happy? Find out… tomorrow when I look at the next chapter.

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