Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Good Night, Mr. Holmes

The current forecast for my corner of the world tonight is "Freezing Fog Warning."

Freezing fog? What is that even?

Instead of mulling on the fact that I'm apparently about to become an extra in a Stephen King penned SyFy Monster Movie of the Week, I choose to ponder instead one of my favourite detectives from the foggy city of London: Irene Adler.

Oh yes, you read correctly. Not the pipe-puffing, Watson-berating Holmes but "the woman."

The Irene Adler series by the indomitable Carole Nelson Douglas features "the woman" from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia. Irene Adler is one of the most celebrated, pick-apart and discussed female characters in the Holmes canon (almost by default as there are so few to choose from). She is infamous for besting Holmes and getting unceremoniously killed off at the end of the story.

Brushing aside Doyle's inability to let that much awesome exist in his literary universe, Nelson transforms Adler into a complex, nuanced woman and fine detective in her own right.

Tonight's swirling fog reminds me of the opening scene in Good Night, Mr. Holmes where our suddenly jobless Lady-Watson, Miss Penelope "Nell" Huxleigh, walks the frozen, foggy streets of Victorian London.

Not this Lady Watson but equally as awesome
Daughter of a Shropshire parson, Nell is quite unprepared for the dangers of London or falling in with a dashing American adventuress. She is quickly swept up into Adler's world of Oscar Wilde, theater, Bram Stoker, buried inheritances, midnight escapes, daring disguises, the ruthless King of Bohemia (who really should have put a ring on it) and the cold, calculating deduction machine, Sherlock Holmes.

Genre: Historical
POV: First person
Detective: Irene "The Woman" Adler and her Lady-Watson, Penelope "Nell" Huxleigh
Setting: Victorian England
Fusspot Inner Great Aunt Sexy Times Alarm: Miss Huxleigh keeps a lid on that sort of unseemly nonsense

I would recommend the Irene Adler series to: Sherlock Holmes fan looking for something a little more lady-friendly. These stories are a fresh, surprisingly funny Victorian mystery with atmosphere to spare. At the heart of the series, is the friendship between Irene and Nell. For those looking for an Irene Adler whose more than a sex object or love interest (TM) who exists solely to make Holmes FEEEEEEEL, this is a welcome addition to the Holmes fan canon.

I don't specify what Adler is making Holmes FEEEEEEL
I would not recommend this book to: People who hate lady detectives writing in a chatty first person, readers who loath Victorian England after being forced to read too much Dickens or who are sick of reading/watching/listening Sherlock Holmes or seeing gifs of Benedict Cumberbatch's face.

If you like the amazing Irene Adler series, you should put these on hold: Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody series.

Miss Huxleigh Tea Tray Contains: One of the joys of the series is the continual clash between the upright Old World Miss Huxleigh and the New World of Americans who don't like to wear corsets. But between the petty insults, there is a real friendship between them that starts on the mean streets of London, that foggy night when someone almost absconds away with Miss Huxleigh's carpet bag, only to be stopped by Irene's foul language.

The perfect tea for a night like that (or any other night with a frozen fog warning) is something that will warm you from the inside out. Such a magical potion can be found at the Banff Tea Co.'s in their delicious Chocolate Chili Chai.

The chai represents the Victoria obsession with all things Indian (except for their rights and political systems and economy, etc, etc). The chocolate represents the sweet Miss Huxleigh and the spicy chili is just as kicky as the "the woman" herself. It is a tea that warms you right down to your toes - just like Good Night, Mr. Holmes. 

Final Grade: 9/10

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