Ralph Edwards - Fri, 16 Sep 1994
Like The Illustrious Client,
this tale deals essentially not with the aftermath of a crime or other
incident, but with attempts to prevent something -- in this case the "scandal"
to which the title refers. If such cases were a significant part of Holmes's
work, is "detective" really the right word to describe him?
As we start in on the short
stories, I'm proposing a continuing thread: Change the variable. If we could
change just one variable in a story, would that story still work? Or would
the outcome change? How? And does changing one variable inevitably lead to
changes in other variables? Just a few of the variables in a detective story:
So I offer a variable from SCAN for the group to discuss this week. It's the hiding place. The story tells us where Irene hid the photo -- but would the story change if she'd chosen another hiding place for it? How important is the hiding place she selected? What alternative hiding places might she consider, and do they change the story's outcome? How?
During the next week we will
raise our stirrup-cups in homage to a story which features the only woman
ever to "beat" Sherlock Holmes at his own game. But the cast of characters
contains another interesting individual: Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von
Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein and hereditary King of Bohemia.
This is a classic matchup of the Beauty and the Beast, and we all know
whom Holmes favored, for all his vaunted misogyny.
A Scandal in Bohemia features money, power, royal intrigue and a cast of...well, if not thousands, dozens. In a few minutes the Questions and Comments will be posted. Let the Hunt begin!
"To The Woman!"
So she is toasted at Sherlockian gatherings everywhere, and with good cause.
Irene Norton, née Adler: beautiful; talented; clever; determined;
courageous, "with a figure a man might die for;" who first fooled and then
foiled the great Sherlock Holmes, who even then was gaining an international
reputation as the person to see about delicate interpersonal and international
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 21 Sep 2000
This time it is no common criminal being pursued by Holmes. This is a person to whom Watson alluded as being "of dubious and questionable memory." That remark alone has stirred up more hornets' nests and window-breaking Furies in Sherlockian circles than the good Doctor could have envisioned. "Dubious?" "Questionable?" "Memory?" Egad! But then, perhaps it is only that Sherlockians themselves are rogues and scoundrels themselves, who relish association with someone like Irene Adler Norton.
Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, hereditary King of Bohemia, assured Holmes that the photograph he desired to obtain was "as safe is if it were in the fire." But should the King have felt safe? Was Irene's assurance -- the word of an "adventuress" -- "inviolate?" Might it not have better for Irene to have left the incriminating photograph for Holmes to recover, thereby removing all reason for the King to continue his pursuit?
In her note, Irene told Holmes, "But, you know, I have been trained as an actress myself." Given that training, which was certainly adequate to permit Irene to dress herself in male attire and walk the streets incognito, why did she not see through Holmes' disguise when he first presented to her attention, or at least when she had the opportunity to look more closely at him once he had been brought inside Briony Lodge? As anyone knows who has worn a costume, the darned thing is certain to come "unglued" at the most inopportune times. The melée outside her house certainly had the potential to disarrange Holmes's disguise, to the undoing of his scheme.
The Masonic order is mentioned in NORW, REDH, RETI, STUD, and VALL. Is this the same order that Holmes mentions in his allusion to "freemasonry among horsey men?" Would ostlers and their ilk be similarly secretive about their shared trade or other matters?
SCAN is mentioned in one fashion or another in four other Adventures: BLUE, COPP, IDEN, and LAST. Only two other Adventures are mentioned more frequently in other stories: SIGN (6) and STUD (9). Thus, SCAN is one of the three Adventures most often referred to by either Holmes or Watson. What element(s) of SCAN so captured the pair's attention? Surely, it was something more than The Woman, who is mentioned only in three of the four named above. Was it the manner of solving the case, or the monetary reward for that solution, or perhaps something else?
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 22 Jul 1999
Return to Introducing the 60 Stories
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 21 Sep 2000