A series of posts, containing full spoilers, as I make my way once more through the complete canon, picking out points of interest and reflecting on my personal experience of the stories.
A Scandal in Bohemia
- If it wasn’t clear enough from the end of “The Sign of the Four” that Holmes would never marry, this story puts the final nail in that particular coffin and shows us that there will be no place for romance in these stories going forward.
- Reading Holmes stories in anthologies such as those in the British Library Crime Classics range, the lack of the illustration is always jarring. Here we see Holmes and Watson for the first time.
- Watson refers to “the late Irene Adler” – does that mean she is dead at the time of writing? Or simply that she now has a married name?
- The unchronicled “Trepoff murder” in Odessa, “the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee”, and “a mission accomplished…for the reigning family of Holland” are mentioned.
- Watson keeps his stethoscope in his top hat!
- Holmes tells Watson “You see, but you do not observe” and goes on to say that there are seventeen steps from the hall up to Holmes’ rooms. This explains the name of David Marcum’s excellent blog A Seventeen Step Program.
- Although Holmes rails against Watson’s accounts of his cases, secretly he seems pleased with them as he says “I am lost without my Boswell”.
- Holmes has already heard of Irene Adler and she is filed between “a Hebrew rabbi” and “a staff-commander who had written a monograph upon deep-sea fishes”.
- Watson has no hesitation in breaking the law: “You don’t mind breaking the law?” “Not in the least.”
The Red-Headed League
- After Holmes has explained his deductions about Jabez Wilson to that gentleman he receives the response: “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it after all.”
- This case has Holmes stumped initially and he says: “it is quite a three-pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.”
- John Clay may be “the fourth smartest man in London, and for daring…the third” but he is definitely the stingiest! He is playing for high stakes and in saving £4 by winding up the Red-Headed League his scheme comes to nothing. I was reminded of this when reading a recent Freeman Wills Crofts novel. A criminal, again plotting to earn a vast sum of money, pawns an item that has been used in the commission of his crime, and this is traced back to him, leading ultimately to his ruin.
- In listing the businesses found on a particular street, Holmes mentions the Vegetarian Restaurant – not something I would have expected to exist at that time.
A Case of Identity
- This teaches us the basic lesson that it two characters are never seen at the same time then they may well be the same person.
- If Colin Dexter had written this story then the suitor would have been called Morgan Sheel or the stepfather Jake Midbinswan. Dexter wrote the pastiche “A Case of Mis-Identity” which lifts quite liberally from this tale but adds Mycroft Holmes into the mix. It can be found in “Morse’s Greatest Mystery and Other Stories”.
Previous posts in this series: