We have a guest post today from my friend Kathleen Kaska, the author the Classic Triviography mystery series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. All three books have just been reissued by LL-Publications. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first mystery, Murder at the Arlington, won the 2008 Salvo Press Manuscript Contest. This book, along with her second mystery, Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. She also has excellent taste in literature, having lavishly praised all three of my mystery novels! Here are her thoughts on every Sherlockian's favorite femme fatale:
She appeared only once—spoke only a few lines—yet Irene Adler is the most talked about woman in the Canon. The woman did a number on the Great Detective, having beaten him at his own game of disguise, deception, and deduction. And when Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein (King of Bohemia), told Holmes he could choose his payment for a job well done, Holmes selected Irene’s photo.
There are few facts about her. From Holmes’ index files, between information on “a Hebrew rabbi” and a staff-commander who had written a “monograph upon the deep-sea fishes,” we find that she was born in 1858 in New Jersey, was a contralto, and was considered a prima donna in the Imperial Opera of Warsaw. She retired from the stage at a young age and moved to Briony Lodge on Serpentine Avenue in St. John’s Wood, London. She wed Godfrey Norton in 1888—this we know from Holmes himself, who stood as witness to the marriage.
Most of the rest about Irene Adler, however, is conjecture. The King of Bohemia claims to have had a sordid affair with Miss Adler. After having been thrown over, he feared the scorned woman was planning to expose the affair and also ruin his upcoming nuptials. And Dr. Watson refers to her as “the late Irene Adler,” leaving us to assume that she died soon after fleeing to America with her new husband.
So, we’re left with only a brief dossier on the one woman who outsmarted Holmes. And what of the photograph? What ever became of it? There’s no mention of it in Holmes’s will.
Did Holmes wonder at times what would have happened had Miss Adler not married Norton and stayed in London? Did he ever pass a young woman on the street dressed in slacks, and look back one or twice? Did he did take the photograph out of his desk drawer each night and murmur, “Good night, Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams?”
Holmes? Ummmmmmmm. Probably not.