Women appear in nearly every Sherlock Holmes novel and short story. The vast majority are victims. Against the recurring oppression of women and women’s sexuality in the Holmes canon, a few exceptional female characters escape their Victorian gender roles. One rises above all others. She is “the woman,” Irene Adler, whose strength, intelligence, and independence have made her a recurring star in extra-canonical books, television shows, film adaptations, and Sherlockian fan fiction. This essay focuses on women and women’s sexuality within and beyond the Holmes canon to explore our enduring fascination with “the only woman to ever best Sherlock Holmes.”



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