Peggy Hesketh’s debut novel, “Telling the Bees,” unfolds through the eyes of a stoic, elderly beekeeper, who clings to the old ways even as the world is changing around him. Here’s how it begins:


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 on 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.