Edinburgh-based Cassimally (The Case Book of Irene Adler, 2013) brings back the unconventional female who famously impressed Sherlock Holmes for the second installment of a series.
Actress Irene Adler has returned to London following her getaway trip to Australia after the showdown between Holmes and his archenemy, Professor Moriarty, at Reichenbach Falls. Sadly, at least from her point of view, while the sleuth joined her for a spell, he never acted on their sexual attraction. Still, now that they’re both back in London, Holmes offers sage advice about her investigation agency: Use her cross-dressing skills and operate it as a man. Adler decides to try to take his advice, and Cassimally launches into a series of separate-chapter stories of cases and capers. She gets involved in the treason trial of a friend of Lord Clarihoe, her marriage-in-name-only gay husband known as Algie. With the help of her crew of justice-seeking friends, dubbed the Club des As, Irene pulls off a Robin Hood move to help a struggling merchant, a drug-addled Holmes concerned that he committed the crime. When a baby is abducted, all fear the worst, leading Irene to engage in harsh interrogation methods. Other incidents involve foiling an attempt to assassinate the future prime minister Lloyd George, conducting a heist on a bank that Holmes deemed “unassailable,” uncovering cannibalism, and aiding a woman even more libertine than the narrator of these tales. Cassimally’s Irene is a coolly sardonic observer of Victorian hypocrisy and corruption, vibrantly depicted in her stories. She also embraces then-emerging Freudian psychology and is open-minded about sexuality, with her bond with Oscar Wilde–like Algie both believable and touching. Irene’s interactions with Holmes, however, get a bit muddled. Having the two survive Reichenbach Falls together was an inspired idea, but these tales tend to jump around and include some rather underdeveloped and digressive check-ins about Holmes, making it challenging for readers to track the chronological trajectory of this intriguing relationship.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s world gets progressively twisted in a slightly tangled story.