After having such a positive reaction to The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first book in King’s series about precocious Mary Russell and her adventures with an aging Sherlock Holmes, I picked up the second book with a lot of excitement. Add to that the best frigging title I’ve encountered in a very long time and the focus of the book, a quasi-Christian mystic cult led by the feminist spiritualist Margery Childe, and I was super into it. I love feminist takes on Christianity, mystical takes on Christianity and all that good stuff, so I was very excited. Unfortunately, this book, while well-written, just is nowhere near the quality of the first book. The solution to the mystery at the core of the book, a series of murders with connections to Childe’s temple, is the most obvious solution possible – I literally figured it out about a third of the way into the book. Also, I didn’t like at all the direction this book took the Russell-Holmes relationship; just saying that is probably a spoiler, so I’ll just go ahead and say that they do indeed “fall in love” and begin a sexual relationship, which I found ridiculous. It seemed very out of character for both of them and the nearly forty year age difference between the two is just beyond creepy, especially since Holmes says that he’s secretly been in love with her since they first met, which was when Russell was FIFTEEN. The book does have strengths. King’s prose remains top notch, particularly for the mystery genre and there’s a late section of the book where Russell is captured by the villains and subjected to a lot of cruelty that’s genuinely harrowing and deeply disturbing. But the flaws of the book are just too deep for this to be one I recommend. And, sadly, I now have no interest in pursuing the rest of this series. Above average. Whatever. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – second book in series butchers both of its lead characters and features a mystery that’s insultingly simple; still, wonderful prose and a few genuinely harrowing sequences elevate the book a bit. 2 ½ stars.