cover image Irene's Last Waltz

Irene's Last Waltz

Carole Nelson Douglas. Forge, $22.95 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85224-5

Victorian sometime-sleuth Irene Norton begins her fifth adventure, following Irene at Large , in a Paris fashion salon. On their first visit to Maison Worth, Irene and her companion, narrator Nell Huxleigh, are implored by the Queen of Bohemia to determine why Wilhelm, King of Bohemia (who once sought Irene as his mistress), is ignoring her. On their second visit they are asked to investigate the murder of one of the 1200 ``bead-girls'' who are employed by the designer. Shortly thereafter, Irene, her husband Godfrey and Nell are summoned to the estate of the Rothschilds and engaged to act as ``eyes and ears'' for the prominent banking family--in Bohemia. They begin their journey to Prague with Sherlock Holmes, who is investigating the bead-girl's death, only a half-step behind. They arrive in a city that is being haunted by the Golem, the mythical clay monster, and find the King in the clutches of a mysterious and beautiful woman named Tatyana. Gothic atmosphere and political intrigue abound as scenes shift from castle to graveyard. Like a master seamstress herself, Douglas threads these elements--and the flashing exchanges between Holmes and Norton, whose mutual antipathy is somewhat reduced here--into a credible and finely crafted whole. (Feb.)