What does the title The Abominable Bride tell us about the Sherlock special?

It's a reference to a case mentioned in passing in one of the original Sherlock Holmes adventures - but who is the bride, and what's so abominable about her?

Sherlock creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have a history of taking the titles of original Arthur Conan Doyle stories and putting a spin on them. A Study in Scarlet became A Study in Pink, The Sign of Four became The Sign of Three and the Empty House became The Empty Hearse. Meanwhile, they’ve also given cheeky nods to cases that are mentioned in passing by the original Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson but were never actually written, such as the giant rat of Sumatra and the Aluminium Crutch (see below).


What they haven’t done is put the two together – until now…

As Mark Gatiss told us when he revealed the title of the Victorian-themed Sherlock special, The Abominable Bride, at London ComicCon on Saturday, it’s inspired by Holmes’s throwaway reference to the case of “Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife”.

The mention comes during the Sherlock Holmes short story The Musgrave Ritual, which begins with Holmes sorting through some old case files with Watson.

“Here’s the record of the Tarleton murders and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife,” says the detective.

And that’s pretty much that, meaning that we know almost nothing about Ricoletti and his wife – beyond the fact that he had a club foot and she was, apparently, abominable.

So where might we find out more about Sherlock’s Abominable Bride? Well we may already have seen her…

“Every cause has martyrs, ever war has suicide missions,” says Benedict Cumberbatch’s detective in the trailer for the special – just as this image flashes up…

That looks a lot like a wedding dress to us – and a lot like a suicide, given that the bride is lying on the floor and appears to still be clutching a gun in her, quite possibly bloody, hand.

Is she abominable because she is part of the war in question? Or perhaps she’s an innocent, on the side of the angels (as Moriarty might put it), and the “abominable” is used as a bitter irony.

Either that or they’re talking about Mary – maybe now that she and John are married she’s put her foot down and stopped him running around town with Sherlock…

But what do you think? Share your theories below…


Sherlock: The Abominable Bride comes to BBC1 on New Year’s Day 2016