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Spider Dance: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes    by Carole Nelson Douglas order for
Spider Dance
by Carole Nelson Douglas
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In this 8th in the engaging Irene Adler series (that began with Goodnight, Mr. Holmes, the investigations of Irene and Sherlock Holmes converge again, this time in New York. The diva is accompanied, as usual, by her friend Penelope 'Nell' Huxleigh, renowned as 'one of the world's first type-writer girls'. Quentin Stanhope, an intelligence agent in the service of Sherlock's brother Mycroft, is also in New York, keeping tabs on indomitable newspaper reporter Nelly Bly. He has been tasked with ensuring her discretion about the identity of 'Jack the Ripper'.

Irene is searching for her roots, in particular the identity of the 'Woman in Black' (assumed to be her mother) who arranged for her to be brought up by 'a gypsy assortment of various performers and freaks' and often visited her as a child. Holmes puts forward the name of Lola Montez, 'a great beauty' who 'exploded with vitality' across Europe (where she earned ruthless enemies by captivating King Ludwig of Bavaria), the Americas and even Australia. (Lola's own reminiscences are interspersed throughout the story). All players on this stage are shocked by the discovery of a crucified body on the Vanderbilt billiard table (and even more shocked by the victim's identity). Holmes and Irene both delve into what led to this - as the former says, 'The past is prologue.'

Despite her somewhat unsavory history, Lola was involved in many ways with church members (reminding me of the old joke about the actress and the bishop). Spider Dance is told from various points of view, including those of Nell, Holmes, Bly and the irrepressible Lola herself. Involved are 'Old World jewels. New World gold. Events as fresh as last week, and as stale as forty years ago. Matters of church and state, united by violence and, presumably, greed.' On the sidelines, Nelly Bly is determined to find her next big story, and Quentin steers her to one involving the sale of babies. Sherlock still has a soft spot for Irene, and walks into a trap in an attempt to save her. Nell has more than a soft spot for Quentin, and we see her feelings about him evolve through the novel.

Irene's barrister husband Godfrey, an agent of the Rothschilds who is in Bavaria for most of the adventure, shows up just as his wife goes missing. Lola's enemies are still active, and a child is imperilled. But, with Irene and Sherlock in action, along with Nell, Quentin and Godfrey as sidekicks, we know that all will be well that ends well. Though this is not my favorite of the series, I enjoyed Spider Dance, and am always ready to read more about the exotic Irene Adler.

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