“President Lincoln is assassinated in his private box at Ford’s!”
When those harrowing words ring out during a children’s entertainment in Washington, D.C. the evening of Friday, April 14, 1865, a quick-thinking young English chemist named Holmes grabs Tad Lincoln, the 12 year-old son of the dying President and races the boy out the theater and into a city convulsed by the shooting of the man known as the Great Emancipator—and soon finds himself on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.
This is the extraordinary untold story of how that young chemist and a freed slave boy named Abraham tracked Booth through backwoods Maryland and across the Potomac River to the tobacco barn where Booth died.
It is the very first case of the detective we now know as Sherlock Holmes.
And as we learn in One Must Tell the Bees, it is nothing like his last…
I cannot claim to be any kind of expert on Sherlock Holmes. I’ve never read any of the Arthur Conan Doyle novels; indeed my only real exposure to Holmes has been on television. I remember watching old Basil Rathbone movies as a kid, loved the Disney film, The Great Mouse Detective; saw a few of the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock episodes, and that’s about it. As for the American Civil War, I am not a ‘professional’ historian, but I have been reading and studying American history all of my life – indeed my major in college was History, and it is a pursuit I have kept active for 60+ years. So when I received a request to read and review One Must Tell the Bees, it was the Civil War/Lincoln aspect that convinced me to accept it. However, it was clear early on, in this scintillating tale, that the Holmesian twist, and the subsequent telling of the last days of Sherlock Holmes, had me totally in thrall. This powerful imagining by the author not only entertains with the story, but it is chock full of superbly written characters. The historical figures loom large in this tale, and are portrayed in a realistic manner, but the thing that I find most impressive (and something I look for in every historical-fiction book I read) is that the fictional characters are crafted in such a way as to make them appear to be historical as well…and that, my fellow readers, is the mark of excellent storytelling where the line between history and fiction has vanished into the realm of believability.
Not being an aficionado of the Sherlock Holmes genre, I am at least acquainted enough with his demeanor/mannerisms/his familiar attire, etc., to recognize that One Must Tell the Bees brings Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes to life as surely as the new garden varietals brings Holmes’ bees back to the hives. Like pollen laden bees, and the hives bursting with honeycomb, the pages are redolent with superb storytelling that kept this reader more than entertained, it was nourishment for the soul. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐