Domino Lady: Sex as a Weapon edited by Lori Gentile

Review by Chris Redmond

Devouring this volume of eight stories, edited by Lori Gentile, is something like reading a graphic novel (possibly even The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). It is even more like reading a few of the pulp magazine stories of the 1930s and 1940s, and not surprisingly so, since it was in that medium that the Domino Lady first battled corruption and crime. She was the heroine of half a dozen stories by someone (real identity unknown) doing business as Lars Anderson, a name perhaps borrowed from a Boston bridge. Two generations later, eight writers (several of them, unsurprisingly, known for their work in comics) have borrowed the character for new stories. Among them is Nancy Holder, said to be a veteran of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, whose offering is “The Strange Case of the Domino Lady and Mr. Holmes”.

The heroine can join forces with Sherlock Holmes only by going to London, of course, far away from her usual territory, southern California. There, she leads a double life as socialite Ellen Patrick, whose taste runs to parties and men, and, when wrongs need righting, the Domino Lady. Her sobriquet comes from the domino mask that she wears — somehow it disguises both her face and her dramatic blonde mane — but the other elements of her work clothes are perhaps of more interest, and are repeatedly and lovingly described. The Domino Lady goes about in a low-cut, high-slit, backless white evening dress, fitting tight to her lush body and constructed of material so flimsy that she can wear it under her daytime outfit without difficulty. Several of the eight authors hint broadly that she does not wear lingerie under this attire. Thus the subtitle of the collection: one of the Domino Lady's most effective weapons is the stupefied lust that men frequently experience when they see her. (Just in case, though, she carries a firearm, as well as a hypodermic needle filled with a fast-acting anaesthetic.)

The eight authors of the Domino Lady's present adventures all apparently have successful professional careers as writers. One assumes they can, if they choose, handle words more elegantly than they do in these stories, where clearly they are having fun, parodying the thrills-a-minute style of the 1930s pulp magazines with the excitement of fast cars, gunshots and implied sex. (In practically every adventure, the Domino Lady finds herself naked at least once — if not because of villainy, then because it's time to change her clothes slowly, lovingly, in front of a full-length mirror. Adjectives flow lavishly in such scenes.) This stuff is not, to say the least, written in the clean eloquent style of Arthur Conan Doyle. But it's fun; definitely it's fun.

The case that links the Domino Lady with Holmes involves an exhibition of Egyptian jewels at the Tower of London (it's the Domino Lady herself who breaks in to steal the greatest of the treasures) and a series of assaults being committed by someone who is apparently under the influence of Dr. Jekyll's evil potion (Holmes, back from his Sussex retirement despite his advanced age, is determined to solve the case). The scenes in which the Domino Lady drops in at Baker Street for tea, and ends up spending the night, are not particularly convincing, but they should be good for a snicker or two.