Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes (2009)

“A Scandal in Bohemia” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

When we watched Sherlock Homes a while back, I mentioned that it made me want to reread the Sherlock Holmes adventures. I started with “A Scandal in Bohemia” simply because Irene Adler was featured so prominently in the movie.

“A Scandal in Bohemia,” the first of 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories, was published in The Strand Magazine in July 1891. In the story, the King of Bohemia hires Holmes to recover a photo for him. He is engaged and afraid that the photo of him and his former lover, the adventuress Irene Adler, will ruin his future if it is sent to his fianceé’s family. I won’t tell you the ending, in case you don’t know, but Irene Adler is one of the few people, male or female, who manages to outwit Holmes.

Irene herself is as sexy as she was portrayed in the movie. She’s a singer, prima donna of the Imperial Opera of Warsaw, retired from the stage, a world traveler. Taking into consideration that this was published in the 1890s, she was obviously a woman of mystery, just on the basis of the brief description. Her past was vague, she was  beautiful, her morals were on the ambiguous side. She’s also able to disguise herself and is an intelligent, capable woman.

Although readers met Holmes in A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, as the first of the short stories this serves as a wonderful introduction to Holmes, idiosyncrasies and all, and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson. The story is short, but shows Holme’s famous deductive reasoning capabilities and Watson’s awe of them, his drug habit and his ability to thoroughly disguise himself.

The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in crime.

“A Scandal in Bohemia” also sets the standard formula that most of Doyle’s stories will follow to at least some degree. The action begins at Baker Street with Holmes showing off. There are references to other cases, but without any real explanation of what happened. The problem is introduced, but of course there is very little evidence to go on until the client arrives. Then comes the adventure and finally the explanation. It’s all there.

Okay, I admit I love Sherlock and have since I was a teenager.  I read this story in a book I’ve had for years, The Baker Street Dozen edited by Pj Doyle and E. W. McDiarmid, published in 1989.

John hosts a Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set. Head over there to see what he and others have been reading.


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