Book Reviews – Sherlock and Irene
Sherlock Holmes Society of London
Did Irene Adler actually beat Sherlock Holmes? Chris Chan has identified several inconsistencies and improbabilities in Dr Watson’s account and has devised a scenario that could account for them. Can we really believe that Holmes failed to recognise the cross-dressed Miss Adler, even when she bade him goodnight — immediately after he had publicly told Watson that he knew where the incriminating photograph was, and that he and the King would call at Briony Lodge the next day? “His seeming blundering was a clever feint,” says Mr Chan, “to get Adler to run away with the photograph. This means that Holmes did not want to help the King after all. Holmes had his own agenda in this case.” There was, it seems, another, darker significance to the photograph, and the King was in the power of a master criminal, who undoubtedly provided the burglars and the footpads who had failed to retrieve it. Ultimately, the theory raises as many questions as it attempts to answer, but it is ingenious and intriguing.
Wendy Heyman-Marsaw (Mrs Hudson’s Kitchen)
“Irene and Sherlock: The Secret Truth behind A Scandal in Bohemia” has sufficient power and ingenuity to stimulate any Sherlockian aficionado to rethink the story.
Chan describes the book as a monograph intended “to apply the principles of The Great Game and Sherlockian pseudoscholarship that may call into question the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and one of the most famous one-shot characters in the entire Canon: Irene Adler.”
The popularity of the original story is documented. In a contest for The Strand magazine, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was asked to name his top 12 favourite stories (not including stories from the Casebook) and the reader who submitted the correct list would receive £100. A Scandal in Bohemia was 5th on the list.
Mr. Chan has a clear, engaging writing style touched with a bit of dry humour. When referring to the photograph that is the subject of the story he writes, that the use of common burglars could not be entrusted with details and therefore “might triumphantly return bearing a snapshot of Adler’s maiden aunt and her cats”.
Chan’s logic is highly persuasive and compelling when he posits new rationales for interpreting the facts of the case. I had to re-read the story I’ve read countless times prior to writing this review. I am firmly convinced that the postulations in the book seem entirely plausible. The author also provides alternative narrations and dialogue with a voice worthy of Dr. Watson himself.
Each chapter begins with insightful and provocative questions or theories about actual and potential characters; their motives as well as their methods. For example, the question “Was Holmes Ever Really A Cocaine User?” as well as the involvement of Professor Moriarty are discussed at length.
Chris Chan elevates A Scandal in Bohemia and what was once viewed as one of Holmes’ rare failures turns out to be one of his greatest triumphs. Chris Chan plays a Great Game indeed.
Sherlock and Irene is available from all good bookstores including;