Friday, August 30, 2013

The Only Woman to Outwit Sherlock Holmes



 I love mysteries set in the Victorian Era, and I am a fan of “all things Sherlock.” So I was doubly delighted to discover Carole Nelson Douglas’s witty mystery series featuring Irene Adler, the opera singer in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia.” In Doyle’s adventure, the King of Bohemia hires Sherlock Holmes to retrieve a photograph from the singer that would compromise his coming marriage. Adler turns the tables on them both and gets away with the photograph. 

Goodnight, Mr. Holmes, the first book in the Irene Adler series, traces the years leading up to that adventure through the diaries of one Miss Penelope Huxleigh. Miss Huxleigh, a Shropshire parson’s daughter and former governess, loses her employment as a clerk at Whiteley’s Emporium in London  after a jealous employee falsely accuses her of stealing. Penelope is soon penniless on the  streets. A street urchin is trying steal her carpetbag when the book opens.

Irene Adler, a struggling actress/singer from America, quickly rescues her. She whisks Penelope to her bohemian flat in Saffron Hill, a rundown district in Central London, and the novel is “afoot”. Penelope—“Nell” to Irene—becomes the faithful chronicler of their adventures. Her quiet, prim, unassuming personality is a perfect foil for Irene’s ebullient, theatrical flair. 

While trying to forge an opera career in London, Irene makes a partial living as a Pinkerton agent. The famous American jeweler, Charles Lewis Tiffany, hires Irene to track down the Zone of Diamonds, a jeweled girdle last worn by Marie Antoinette. The “Zone” disappeared from France after the Revolution and is thought to be in England. (Tiffany approaches Sherlock Holmes with the same request, and Irene’s competition with Sherlock is one of many humorous touches in this book.)  

Irene’s singing career takes off. Nell is enjoying her own steady employment as a typist for a barrister at the Temple. (Her employer is a significant figure in the story, but no spoilers here: you’ll have to read the book to find out why and how.) The Zone of Diamonds case is still unsolved when Irene is lured to Europe to sing at La Scala, and from there to the National Opera Theatre in Bohemia. Then one morning Nell, left in charge of  the Saffron Hill flat, receives a strange message from Irene: “Nell—come at once to Prague! I need you.” 

There are so many things to like about this book, as the plot gets thicker and thicker with gypsy fortunes, daredevil disguises, breath-taking escapes. A vein of sly humor runs through it all. Tension is high right up to the last scene. Famous real life characters and famous fictional ones make cameo appearances: Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Tiffany, Lillie Langtry. Jefferson Hope, the ill-fated victim-turned-criminal in Doyle’s Sherlock adventure, “A Study in Scarlet” appears in an early scene. 

For those who like their mysteries spiced with history, glamor, and lots of humor, this is a must read. And -- good news -- there are seven more in the series.

You can visit the author at her website: Carole Nelson Douglas Official Author Site
Follow her on Facebook: Carole Nelson Douglas

Her books (there are three series) are available at:


22 comments:

  1. Elizabeth this sounds very intriguing. I will certainly have to give it a read. Have a wonderful weekend :)

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  2. Hi, Optimistic, if you read book one, you'll want to move on to book two for sure. You have a good week-end too.

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  3. Thank you for visiting my blog and especially for yor kind words.
    I am fascinated with the Victorian era!

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    1. Hi, Jon, and thank you for stopping by here. I've always been intriqued by the Victorian era. Cobblestones and fog and hansom cabs. Carole's book brings it all alive.

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  4. Interesting read.
    History, humor and a unique spark for a writer's imagination.
    Lovely Elizabeth.
    Thanks for this review.

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    1. Hi, Julia, I'm glad you liked the review. This is a fun book to escape into history with.

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  5. This sounds like a fun read~ clever and intriguing! Thanks for the review :)

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  6. Jess, it is. I've read it three times, and there is always a new level of enjoyment.

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  7. I hadn't heard of these. Thanks for the review. It looks like a really fun series.

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    1. Hi, Rosi, glad I alerted you to a new author. If you read one in this series, you'll want to read more.

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  8. Hello Elizabeth. This series sounds addictive. I'm up for Sherlock any time.

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    1. Hi, Denise, yes, I like anything to do with Sherlock. And I love to discover a new mystery series.

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  9. I love the Victorian era, especially this year since I'm setting my next book in 1838 when the new queen comes to the throne.

    I'll have to get this one so I can see how she depicts the setting and tells her story. Thanks.

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    1. C. Lee, thanks for stopping by. I think the Victorian era is my favorite in literature. I'll be interested in your book when it comes out. Carole Douglas has wonderful details in her books, and they are so artfully worked in that they don't intrude on the story. You'll enjoy them.

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  10. Why haven't I heard about these books? I love anything Victorian (except, you know, I'm glad I don't actually LIVE in that era...). And yay for a strong female protagonist!

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  11. Hi, Joanne, yes, like you, I love the era and am sooooo glad I don't live in it. But it seems the perfect era for interesting stories to unfold, and this series is a delight.

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  12. Sounds like a really fun read. Historical with humour? Fantastic!

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  13. Hi, Lynda, The humor is what makes me keep re-reading it, even though I know how it turns out. I love the sly writing.

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  14. I detect the homor too in your writing. I chuckled when I read this: "A street urchin is trying steal her carpetbag when the book opens.

    An opening such that one will grab any reader.

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  15. This sounds like a really great read.

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  16. Wow, this sounds like a great book.

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  17. Peaches, Kimberly, and Connie, thanks for stopping by. It's really a fun book.

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