The bees travel along the high-tension wires, just as surely as one true sentence follows the next. I am not sure why the bees took to this peculiar mode of travel, but I suspect they have their reasons, and their reasons have everything to do with the Bee Ladies' murder.
There is a family living not far from my home that mistakenly holds the electricity that hums and buzzes over their heads responsible for all the people in our neighborhood who have chanced to die in recent years. It is a complicated theory based on the deleterious effects of electromagnetic fields. I hardly know this family beyond what I have been able to discern from the slogans on the handmade signs they display in their front yard. I know they believe the overhead wires that run above our homes cause all manner of human ailments, and for this reason they have planted a growing field of carefully tended crosses in their lawn, one for each neighbor who has died since they began keeping track of such things shortly after moving into one of the newer housing tracts not far from my home nearly eight years ago.
I only spoke to them once, not long after they'd begun planting crosses in their lawn. It was one of those impossibly warm Southern California days that almost always occurs in early February, the sort of day that sings to those who wish to leave behind the bone-chilling heartbreak of winter and make a new life for themselves in the promise of eternal sunshine.
Albert Honig's most constant companions have always been his bees. A never-married octogenarian, still residing in the house in which he was born, Albert makes a modest living as a beekeeper, just as his father and his father's father had done before him. Deeply acquainted with the ways and workings of the hives, he knows that bees dislike wool clothing and foul language; that the sweetest honey is made from the blooms of eucalyptus; and that bees are at their gentlest in a swarm. But Albert is less versed in the ways of people, especially his beautiful, courageous, and secretive friend Claire.
A friend and neighbor since childhood, Claire was a hovering presence—and then a glaring absence—in Albert's life, a change that has never been reconciled. When she is murdered in a seemingly senseless accident during a burglary gone wrong, Albert is haunted by the loss. In the aftermath of this tragedy, he is left to piece together the events of their lives, to attempt to make sense of their shared past and the silence that persisted between them for a decade before her death. What Albert comes to learn is that Claire's secrets were far darker than anything he could have imagined . . . and the mystery behind her murder lay not so much in who did it, but why.
Spanning the arc of the twentieth century, set in the transforming landscape of Southern California, Telling the Bees is a beautifully imagined novel about the far-reaching consequences of words left unspoken, the persistence of regret, and the power of truth both to wound and to heal.