Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Taste for Honey by H. F. Heard

I had no idea as to the fascinating life and many other books by author H.F. Heard when I first read this Lancer paperback in 1969. My copy, purchased for 60 cents off the rack at Wieboldt’s Department Store, struck a chord. Already an aficionado of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales, I immediately recognized similar elements in A Taste for Honey. Featuring a retired beekeeper with aquiline features named Mycroft, the name Doyle gave to Sherlock Holmes’s brother (intimating that Mycroft is Holmes in disguise), and who possesses an amazing ability at deductive reasoning, I was taken by this slender and leisurely tale, and as the suspense heightened I flipped the pages with increasing rapidity. Narrated by Sydney Silchester, who weaves a frightful tale wherein he learns that his neighbor, Mrs. Heregrove, has been killed after being stung to death by bees. Seeking another source for his prized honey supply, Silchester locates a villager named Mycroft who is not only selling honey but studying local bees which he feels may have been altered through introduction of a biochemical experiment. Soon thereafter, both Silchester and Mycroft continue an investigation, strictly off-the-books, as to Mr. Heregrove’s potential complicity in his wife’s death. The suspense builds slowly but effectively; the writing is clean and proper and very much conversational, but yet retaining that growing sense of horror. This is a masterful mystery. What surprises here are motivations and resolutions, which, quite naturally you’ll need to discover for yourself by reading the book. Incidentally, the back cover features a splendid quote from none other than Boris Karloff who quips: “I thought I knew all the tricks of the trade but I never expected to have my hair stand on end when a bee flew in through an open window.” As for author H. F. Heard (Gerald Heard) he was a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, a philosopher and early experimenter of LSD and friends with such intellectuals as Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary. A Taste for Honey was the first of three “Mycroft” mysteries now regarded as acclaimed pastiches of Sherlock Holmes, although Heard never publicly admitted this. I don’t think he had to.

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