Irene Adler, American opera singer and the one woman who outsmarted Sherlock Holmes, finds herself a widow at thirty-two, wealthy but emotionally ...Show synopsisIrene Adler, American opera singer and the one woman who outsmarted Sherlock Holmes, finds herself a widow at thirty-two, wealthy but emotionally broken. At the same time, Sherlock Holmes finds himself unable to return to England after faking his death at Reichenbach Falls and is drawn into an investigation of two men with designs on a woman they call Miss A, who is none other than Irene Adler herself. The Detective and The Woman throw their lot in together to uncover a dangerous plot with implications that stretch across the Atlantic. In the process, they meet legendary inventor Thomas Edison and experience life in Florida at the turn of the 20th century.Hide synopsis
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This novel begins with Irene Adler Norton looking at the corpse of her husband, Geoffrey Norton, who died of a heart attack. The new widow turns to the only other life she knows and embarks on a concert tour in her native America. Next, Sherlock receives directions from his brother, Mycroft to leave his refuge in Venice, after the affair of the Reichenbach, to sail for the new world with sealed orders. Sherlock and Irene meet at her concert in Orlando, Florida under Mycroft?s direction.
This is the beginning of their second meeting and their first collaboration. Succeeding events involve both with Thomas Edison and his family, with prominent citizens of Fort Myers and with the minions of Colonel Sebastian Moran. The mystery is complex and is not easily dealt with by the duo. Issues of trust cloud their partnership with each of them hiding important data from the other. Their Florida acquaintances must be deceived about their identities and they must forge a working relationship in the midst of lies and deceit on all sides.
This is not a typical Sherlockian pastiche. Mycroft is the client and he is sparing with information. Irene is forced to cooperate by the machinations of Mycroft and Sherlock is obliged to remain dead to society to allow the capture of the remains of Moriarty?s mob. The environment is alien to the detectives, both of whom yearn for quiet and seclusion. The ?case? is obscure and clues are sparse while mysteries abound. Irene is emotionally bruised by her marriage and her widowhood while Holmes is recovering from his supreme effort to remove ?The Napoleon of Crime.? Both know that they are being fed a poor diet of information and neither can trust their partner for support, more or less for truth.
The mystery remains impenetrable for most of the narrative. Chapters are written alternately from the viewpoint of Holmes or of Irene. Only the reader understands the doubts and reservations each feels about their collaboration and no one seems to know all the facts. I spent the entire ?read? dreading a romance ending with Sherlock and Irene waltzing off into the sunset to a Sigmund Romberg tune, but it simply doesn?t happen. The principals are both too guarded and too afraid of exposure to become lovers. Instead, they work their way into a friendship that is based on their own interests and abilities. The mystery is well-handled and its outcome is logical without being easily discerned. The characters are all well presented and interesting without being distracting or artificial. Since many are taken directly from life, they live their lives in front of the reader without fuss or fury, but only with their own natures and inclinations.
The editing is often a problem in first time pastiches, but this author seems to have side-stepped many of the traditional problems. The spelling and grammar are better than I could have done with only one or two minor problems. There are two continuity errors, both of which require special knowledge. All discussions of buildings use the American layout of first, second, third, etc? floors, which is reasonable as most of the events occur in America. The problem is that both Holmes and Irene have lived on the Continent for years and both are accustomed to the European usage of ground, first, second, etc? floors. It is conceivable that whoever notionally amassed the source material merely used a common choice to avoid mixed usage. The other problem occurs when the activities of Irene?s solicitor are described and he is accused of having a radio. The device itself is simply not available in 1893 and that name for it is the product of a later date and culture.
Beyond this, the book is entertaining, puzzling and a lot of fun. I believe the author has hit on the only type of long-term relationship possible for Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. The details of the narrative only add force to the romantic defects we expect in both of them and their growth and development are truly marvelous to watch. This is not a love story. Instead, it is a coming-of-age tale starring two of our favorite characters.
Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones, April, 2012
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