The Colonel and the Bee: Patrick Canning
Imagine being enslaved to a sadistic man who abuses you for his own pleasures. Traveling around as an acrobat in a traveling circus, Beatrix lives her life in fear of the whip. The time period is the world of the halcyon 19th century, the time according to the story summary when, “ the last dark corners of the map were being sketched out and travel still possessed a kind of magic.”
But, each night she preformed brought New fears and terrors as no matter how well she did Beatrix and the others in this circus never knew what the final outcome would be and who would be victim to the owner’s wrath.
“I am the Amazing Beatrix,” she would announce but some doubted her while others marveled.
Events change and colonel named James Bacchus shows up at her performances and is taken with her. Hoping that he’s her key to freedom she signs on as part of his group going traveling in a four story hit air ballroom called Ox.
With the ingenuity and quick thinking of the Colonel and of course her agility they manage to escape. Meeting up with the others who are with him she meets Thelma, George and Mister Sharif who’s in law enforcement. The Oxford Starladder is impressive and it’s red balloon shine brightly in the midday sun.
Imagine this balloon with bedrooms, kitchen and every amenity needed. George is a taxidermist and Sharif a cop but can he be trusted?
But, a murder comes front and center as Ebbing was killed a well-practiced dealer in the highest echelons of desperately needed sought goods. His goods are great his methods questionable. Learning that the Colonel is a treasure hunter and Ebbing we learn from him loved misleading people and known to resell old riddles or leave some sort of false treasure where the real one used to be.
The riddles are challenging but the resting spots of the treasures were wildly inaccessible. Ebbing was in possession of rare items. However, the Colonel had other more debase interests like the seduction of fine women, which, he considered an art. Doing to many places to search for clues and answers they enter Spain and meet San Miguel and realize he knew Olof Ebbing and the quest is to find the Blue Star Sapphire Sphinx.
The novel focuses on the relationship between the Colonel and Beatrix and the life they share going from place to place hunting down a criminal, searching for the artifact and dealing with his lust for women. Beatrix is smart and astute for a young teen and her intelligence and perceptiveness keeps them afloat at times when all others fail. Escaping the ringleader of the circus and dealing with The Ox, her travels lead her to Spain, Britain and many other places that she might never have seen and to adventures most teens even today would relish. Treasure hunters, criminals, Spaniards that somehow come aboard their balloon and one man who the Colonel offers to pay for all of his wares you wonder just how long they will be able to stay afloat. But, the Blue Sapphire Sphinx has it own history and mystery and those that have owned it are no longer able to tell any tales.
The Colonel at times seems reckless and Beatrix at times has to center him and place him in the right direction. She loves the adventure but more than that she feels accepted, wanted, needed and when danger ensues and it does she is right there helping to save the day.
As the events get more dangerous and the situations bring to light more about the artifact, the murder and what each character hopes to gain, you wonder what the final reveal or outcome will be.
Beatrix and the Colonel seek out Christopher a killer whose cellmate might shed some light on his whereabouts. But, meeting the Hacketts and learning their deceptions put Beatrix in danger and leaves her group minus a piece of important information. As the regroup they need to find another way to get the hunters that are left, deal with anyone after them and finding the artifact.
Things take a different course when the Nodds arrive and Ziro surfaces and Beatrix was taken who and why? When you hear her captors voice and reasoning you will understand why you and Beatrix might have been leery around this person. Truths and betrayals plus a startling revelation about someone that shocks Beatrix as the final confrontations arise and three objects are in her grasp. Told in Beatrix’s words and in many respects from her viewpoint, the ending will surprise readers and the final drama leaves room for more to come. Did the get the Sphinx? What about those that betrayed the Colonel? What happens when the whip is about to fall? Friendships loyalties betrayals deceit and deception but when all is said and done you the reader will learn the past of a young teen whose mother didn’t want her and who never had a father but whose life changed when fate brought together The Colonel and The Bee. The author created characters that are unique, strikingly different and fitting the time period and times. Sometimes it takes people that you don’t know to show you that you are worthy of love, understanding and compassion. As you get to know the Colonel he might seem brash, disrespectful at times to others, hardnosed and definitely set on his own private course of action when it comes to taking down anyone that crosses his path. But, you the reader will have to decide his true intensions and learn that Beatrix might have been the best thing to happen to him as you get to know this headstrong, smart, astute, pretentious, impulsive, impetus and endearing young teen.
As you read the final chapter you will learn more about each of the characters, their final reveals and learn that sometimes things might not always be what they seem or what you expect but in the long run does it matter who you call family? A story of friendship, understanding, hope, survival and a hot air balloon named OX that provided the adventure and the journey.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine/MJ network