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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Femme Fatale

***** Femme Fatale by Carole Nelson Douglas. Mystery.

This is the 7th book in the Irene Adler series (there are also 4 short stories, but I've only read one, IIRC) about the only woman to outwit Sherlock Holmes.

Following their adventures chasing Jack the Ripper, Irene Adler and her companion Nell Huxley need a break. So when Pink, also known as Nellie Bly (yes, that Nellie Bly), cables that someone is trying to kill Irene's mother, they seize upon the chance for a vacation in America and incidentally to set Pink straight about meddling in Irene's personal life. Unknown to Irene and Nell, Pink also lures Sherlock Holmes to the case.

It's not quite as alarming for Irene as one might think: as far as Irene knows, she's an orphan. But she remembers very little of her childhood, so she is intrigued. And there has been a murder, a very dramatic one: a medium killed during a seance, strangled by the gauze she used as a special effect.

As it turns out, Irene grew up in vaudeville, a child performer mostly looked after by the other performers, and a mysterious woman in black who came around periodically to check on the children. Irene revisits her past and searches for clues to the killer at the same time, interviewing various performers she vaguely remembers from her childhood.

The mystery is intriguing, with plenty of twists, and it's especially interesting to watch Irene, Pink, and Sherlock Holmes all investigate the same case from different angles.

It was fascinating to read about the vaudeville performers' lives and their varied acts, as well as the broader picture of New York during that time. The secondary characters are all very realistic and as varied as they would be in real life--despite their smallish roles in the story, they each have good and bad points.

This was a more intimate and emotional case--certainly for Irene, whose past figured strongly in the story, but also for Nell, whose strict moral code is tested by all the shades of gray.


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Sounds great. Thanks for the link to Nellie Bly - that was fascinating.
It was fascinating, wasn't it? I always love it when a book introduces me to something I didn't know much about, and it prompts me to find out more.
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