A man leaves his fiancée in the night fog and is never seen alive again. A woman escapes mob life for Norfolk, England, only to find notes in the garden in the secret code of her mobster suitor. The final message is “[p]repare to meet thy God.” A maid, torn from her bed by the butler who spurned her, is brought on a midnight hunt for a long-hidden treasure. As the man drops into the treasure chamber, the seal is lowered, and she leaves him to suffocate.
Sherlock Holmes has become known as one of the most complex, accessible characters in historical and modern literature. You’ll see every subject under the sun—forensics, philosophy, cooking, analytical thinking, and, of course, London—reconsidered through the lens of Sherlock Holmes. The female characters in his world are faced with unique situations. The answers they often find involve this aloof person who is repeatedly deemed sexist by modern writers. Holmes’ fictional biographer, John Watson, reports in one adventure that Holmes has an aversion to women.
Is this consistently true? As for the women, coming into his world can be lifesaving or hazardous.So it’s long since time to apply a different lens to the women who engage and motivate Sherlock Holmes. The center of each essay is agency—the opportunities for independence and self-determination, which were few and far between in Victorian England—and the particular character’s role in the story. What we find all too often are silences around the women. And yet, women in the stories—clients, villains, victims, and Violets—are pivotal in the world of Sherlock Holmes.