Coming from a long line of apiarists, one might think that honey rather than blood flows through Albert Honig’s veins. Few outside his family can understand his fascination with bees and the delicate dynamics of the hives that he gently cultivates, and Albert’s obsession with the insects gradually estranges him from most of the world. That is, until he meets Claire, the Honigs’ spirited and enigmatic neighbor, who comes down with a case of bee fever to rival Albert’s own. United by their common passion, the two forge a friendship that weathers the passage of decades and the various storms life blows their way, until one of their own making rips the two asunder. Albert has never truly accepted their estrangement, but it is the finality of Claire’s death—murdered in a robbery gone awry—that finally forces him to face the past and its terrible truths, the worst of which just might be the realization that he may not have really known Claire at all.

Like Albert himself, Peggy Hesketh’s debut novel, Telling the Bees, feels like something from another time. Though Hesketh does tackle some difficult material, she does so with a graceful sensibility, never veering into the sordid or macabre. Elegiac in its tone, Telling the Bees is a quiet, meditative novel, dressed up as a murder mystery, but more geared towards examining the intricacies of the human condition and the power of secrets when voiced than in identifying who killed Claire. As Albert slowly sifts through his fragile memories of the past, patient readers will be rewarded with a rich story that softly stings and is utterly unforgettable.

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