RogerBW's Blog

Good Morning Irene, Carole Nelson Douglas 10 January 2016

1991 mystery, second of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. Bored in Paris, Irene takes on the mystery of a series of tattooed suicides. (Retitled The Adventuress in recent reissue.)

This is still fan-fiction, but subtler than Good Night, Mr Holmes. There are still plenty of references to Doyle's work, but they've been toned down to the point where a non-expert reader might well miss many of them them; they're things like a matter mentioned casually at the end of The Hound of the Baskervilles, rather than having this story completely interwoven with a Doyle story.

While there are several apparently unrelated cases, including the suicides and the blackmail of a duchess, this is a conventional mystery in structure, complete with a well-signposted revelatory scene; the bittiness of the first novel is gone here, as is the prominence of Sherlock Holmes in a story that is no longer about him (though he's still present in a few scenes). As before, there are plenty of historical characters mixed in with the invented ones, including Alice Heine the Duchess of Richelieu and Sarah Bernhardt.

Unfortunately there's rather less of the spark that animated the first book. There's a splendid duel on the beach at Monte Carlo, and some other fine moments, but while Irene is as vivacious as ever there's a sad flatness about many of the supporting characters.

Penelope Huxleigh remains an engaging narrator, a well-drawn picture of a thoroughly conventional woman who remains sympathetic even though she has a rather less modern attitude to morality than Irene herself. The only flaw is that she is sometimes sometimes a little too obviously driven by authorial knowledge:

"Oscar," Irene put in impishly, "was most taken with our Nell in London, before his marriage."

"Oscar was always being taken with some woman in those days—Lillie Langtry, for one. Now he seems to have overcome the habit quite dramatically," Alice said.

I was glad to hear of our old acquaintance's reformation. It struck me that there was always hope. If Oscar Wilde could change his womanizing ways, perhaps someday I could find a suitable spouse.

I would definitely not recommend starting the series here; I'm still cruising on the momentum I got from the first book, and will try at least one more. Followed by Irene at Large.

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