Teen-aged Beatrix is a traveling circus acrobat in the employ of the Machiavellian Ziro. He is abusive toward his star performer but then he is abusive to all his employees. Beatrix (Bee) longs for the day when she can leave the circus and be free of the beatings and abusive language. Of course her smart mouth is what gets her into trouble on most occasions. During what is to be their final performance in Switzerland, Bee spots a peculiar gentleman in the audience. He is wearing a John Bull (top hat) sporting a daisy in the headband and piques her curiosity. Later, when Ziro throws her into an animal cage and drives her to a nearby castle where she is forced to perform, she is more than surprised to see the man from the audience at the dinner table. Realizing that this is her only chance at escape from her prison like existence, she seizes the opportunity and vaults over the heads of the guests and out the door. She manages to hide in some shrubbery when she sees a man fleeing the scene as well
The flamboyant hatted gentleman who was seated in the audience earlier that day is running in her direction. He doesn’t slow down; Bee joins him and he directs her to follow him. With only moments to spare, and no time for Bee to make sense of what she sees, they jump aboard a hot air balloon unlike any other – it is four stories tall, resembles a large house with windows, has a red envelope, and an outside staircase. With shouted directions to his traveling companions, the Oxford Starladder (or simply The Ox) takes flight. Once they are at a safe distance, the hatted man introduces himself as Colonel James Bacchus, the renowned treasure hunter with a passion for female conquests. He is on a search for a precious figurine known as The Blue Star Sphinx and for the criminal who may know of its location.
Bee joins the Colonel and his companions in the quest for the artifact. Along the way they deal with murder, riddles, warring families, and of course jealous husbands. What starts out as a murder investigation soon turns into a trail of mystery that will lead the band of adventurers to Earth’s most isolated island. Fraught with danger, mystery, and humor, the tale is one you soon won’t forget.
I loved this story! I don’t often read mysteries that follow the template for stories of that ilk. But reading The Colonel and The Bee took me out of the narrow cast of characters associated with a mystery and showed me that truly all the world is a stage. There will be times when the reader will question the seemingly silly antics of The Colonel but let me assure you that he makes no uncalculated moves. As the association between Bee and The Colonel grows, so does each of the characters. I loved the secondary characters of George and Thelma – they are perfect foils for The Colonel. An entire cast of animal characters also live on The Ox but my favorite is Jasper the pack rat who collects anything that isn’t stored away or fastened down.
Written in the style of prose rather than in the style of murder mysteries, THE COLONEL AND THE BEE is a bit on the steampunk side. An instant classic, it is an engaging read that will keep you turning the pages. You won’t be disappointed. With nothing untoward except a mention of the Colonel’s proclivities, this is a great book to share with the whole family.
NOTE: The author provided a copy of this book for review purposes.