Sherlock’s Female Adversary

Irene Adler Takes the Stage

By Jeff Salter

Good Night, Mr. Holmes
By Carole Nelson Douglas

I love it when an author focuses on a fairly minor character in one famous book or series… and gives readers a brand new story from the POV of that minor player. And that is what Douglas has done by bringing Irene Adler back to life — she died at the end of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tale. At the beginning of this new iteration, we are quickly reminded that Sherlock Holmes had little use for women in general, but had a special place in his heart for Adler, whom he had tracked and studied while hired by the King of Bohemia to search for an incriminating photograph.

Irene Adler “has a soul of steel…the face of the most beautiful of women and the mind of the most resolute of men.”

As y’all will logically guess, I’m a big fan of Holmes. While I have not read all of Doyle’s S.H. adventures, I’ve read quite a few. More significantly, I’ve devoured most of the BBC-broadcast adaptations of Doyle’s work, with Sherlock masterfully portrayed by the late actor, Jeremy Brett.

I also liked the 14 Basil Rathbone versions of the 1940s, though I thought they took too many liberties with the plots and timeframes [and also made Dr. Watson something of a comic bumbler].

While I did watch two seasons of the Benedict Cumberbatch versions more recently on TV, I found them interesting only as detective stories and did NOT enjoy seeing my beloved characters thrust into the cyber-whiz 21st century.

The recent film adaptations featuring Robert Downey Jr. were fast-paced and adventurous—with authentic-looking costuming and settings – but I did not appreciate the liberties they took with Doyle’s characters and plots.


Good Night, Mr. Holmes is the first Irene Adler novel, now in eBook with Readers Guide.
The New York Times Notable Book Of The Year
Also winner of the American Mystery Award for Best Novel of Romantic Suspense
RT Book Reviews Award for Best Historical Mystery

The author’s Amazon blurb:

When American aspiring opera singer Irene Adler rescues orphaned parson’s daughter Penelope Huxleigh from a London cutpurse, it starts a crime-solving alliance as strong as that of Holmes and Watson. Irene moonlights as a private inquiry agent while awaiting her career break, which brings her into the orbits of such luminaries as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker and puts her on the trail on Marie Antoinette’s fabulous lost diamond belt. A prestigious assignment as prima donna at the Prague opera house almost makes Irene the Queen of Bohemia, but a royal murder and caddish Prince force her to flee back to London…where she will become the only woman to outwit Sherlock Holmes.

My reactions:

Douglas is painstakingly faithful to the words and actions of Holmes in Doyle’s original story… but she (of course) gives Holmes additional lines and stage business in order to advance the liberties she takes in expanding Adler’s comings and goings.

As Doyle did with the original tales – telling the story mostly from the perspective of the “sidekick” Dr. Watson – Douglas reveals most of this story through the POV of Penelope Huxleigh [aka “Nell”] who is basically rescued from the street by Adler.

I enjoyed Adler’s mixing with writers, artists, and composers of that period, including Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and others. Douglas obviously did a lot of research to get those characters “right.”

I liked the sub-plot with the lost jewels of Queen Marie Antoinette… and the sub-plot of the bitter senior Nelson who died before revealing what he knew about the location of those jewels.


My beefs?

That Adler is supposedly “recommended” by someone at Scotland Yard to do some detective work for Mr. Tiffany — the American jewelry magnate. But it’s never explained upon what basis that recommendation was tendered.

That the Tiffany case seems to be urgent… yet it is many months later when Adler finally delivers the goods. And in the meantime, there are many months in which Adler seems to have completely lost interest in the case even though she (physically) possesses some of the important clues.

That Adler urgently sends for Nell (who rushes from London to Bohemia) but – once Nell arrives – Adler makes her wait several hours before even revealing why her help is so urgently needed.
That Adler would bribe one of the King’s minions (coachman, I think he was) to send or deliver her trunks to Paris (as a ruse)… but somehow believes that same minion will NOT reveal the truth to his actual employer / ruler if asked.

That Adler is supposedly in hiding and in fear for her very life – upon her frantic return to London – yet hardly much time elapses before she’s printing and distributing flyers announcing her availability for concert bookings. Really? Is that Adler’s definition of “laying low”?

That Adler’s sidekick – Nell – is the one who’s spent the most time with Mr. Norton. Yet she hardly bats an eye when Adler and Norton (Nell’s boss) go to the continent together and come back essentially engaged.

There were lengthy chapters in which Irene is abroad singing and slowly coming into the clutches of the Prince (later King) of Bohemia. While all that occurs, Nell is a clerk-typist for Mr. Nelson and other attorneys. We don’t learn much at all about Holmes during this period. During this stretch, the plot is not really advanced at all, except in the sense that it positions Adler to be something of a gilded cage “prisoner” in the new king’s palace.


My beefs aside, I think anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes stories will appreciate this new adventure featuring Irene Adler. There are other novels in this series and I’m sure Douglas has exciting new ways that Adler can be woven into the real and fictional world of Victorian England.

Douglas thoughtfully appended the complete Doyle story, “A Scandal in Bohemia” which introduced Sherlock Holmes to Irene Adler. It was refreshing to read that again and to see how modest were the mentions (of Adler) from which Douglas gleaned sufficient meat for us to dine upon.

The Author’s Bio Blurb from Amazon:

Carole’s 63 novels include two Las Vegas-set series: the alphabetically titled 28 Midnight Louie feline PI mysteries partially narrated by a “Sam Spade with hairballs”, and the Delilah Street Paranormal Investigator noir urban fantasies (werewolf mobsters and Silver Screen zombies) in a paranormal Sin City. Carole’s also written historical and contemporary mystery and romance, science fiction thrillers, epic and urban fantasy, all to come out in e-Book for the first time ASAP. She’s the first woman author of a Sherlockian series and the first to use a female protagonist (Holmes’ out-witter Irene Adler), in the New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Good Night, Mr. Holmes. A four-time Romance Writers Rita Award finalist with RT Book Reviews Career Achievement awards in Suspense, Mystery, Versatility and as a Pioneer of Publishing and holder of many Catwriters’ Association Muse Medallions, Carole rescues cats and works at home among mannequins in vintage dress. She does a wicked mean Marilyn Monroe impersonation, but her literary muse is definitely feline: mysterious, playful, and packing sharp shivs in velvet gloves.

* * * *

Interesting article by Douglas in which she partly explains what compelled her to write Adler’s own story:

[JLS # 497]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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9 Responses to Sherlock’s Female Adversary

  1. I think there is always chances that writers take when they try to finish or use other writers’ stories or characters; it isn’t even easy for long-running characters to remain ‘in-character’ in series. Carole is a very good writer, a very bright , warm person,(perhaps you recall that I had her in as a guest a few years back).I have not read GN,MH, but she isn’t the only one to try to breathe extra life into “The Woman”. I guess the Cumberbatch Holmes series renewed interest .I agree about some aspects pf the series going against my grain, by his performance, and the likability of Martin Freeman, are worth the watch for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, ha! We have even more in common, Jeff. The old versions of the SH movies are a joy to me, and I love Doyle’s writing. Downey’s portrayal of SH, I enjoyed (to a point), but took it as I do any adaptation of a book/story/sequel, as “based on” and don’t try to look at it as the original.

    With my first four books, I took minor characters and pulled them into the next story, even making the minor character who showed up in two of my stories into the main character of another. But it’s something I’ve vowed never to do again. It’s just too difficult to get every single detail correct.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    It’s one thing to take a minor character you created yourself and create a new story, but it’s quite another challenge to do that with someone else’s character. I know people who spend months creating what they call “series bibles” where they note every single detail about each character and event so that when they write their sequels they’re supposedly ready. But knowing another author’s characters well enough to create a story around them is something I don’t think I’d want to take on. Thanks for the detailed review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly what my friend/author, Alan J. O’Reilly did with one of the characters (or two) from There Abideth Hope. Of course he helped me develop my character, and now they are somewhat changed in my 2nd edition, but he’s written an entire story about them. Sent me the book. I still have to read it, but I’m looking forward to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I’m a Holmes fan too. Enjoyed the blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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