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.
The Blue Carbuncle
- This was my first Holmes story – in comic strip form in the Early Learning Centre Book of Spies and Detectives (or something like that). It included a make your own model of 221B Baker Street and figures of Holmes, Watson, and Peterson, the commissionaire. As the latter had a figure I assumed he also was a recurring character, but as far as I remember he never appears again.
- Holmes has this to say about jewels in general and the Blue Carbuncle in particular: “It’s a bonny thing. Just see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil’s pet baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a bloody deed. This stone is not yet twenty years old…in spite of its youth, it has already a sinister history. There have been two murders, a vitriol-throwing, a suicide and several robberies brought about for the sake of this forty-grain weight of crystallised charcoal. Who would think that so pretty a toy would be a purveyor to the gallows and the prison?”
- Reading the comic strip I could never understand the scene where Holmes bets Breckinridge that the goose is country bred when he believes it to be town bred.
- In the story itself, whilst a copy of the “pink ‘un” may give an indication that Breckinridge likes a wager I don’t believe that the cut of whiskers is also the sign of a gambling man.
- Holmes recognises when he lets Ryder go free, as is still often the case “Send him to gaol now, and you make him a gaolbird for life.”
The Speckled Band
- I think all the cases preceding this have been in chronological order, but here Watson specifically tells us this takes place whilst they were still bachelors.
- Dr Grimesby Roylott bends Holmes’ steel poker to demonstrate his strength, but Holmes shows he is the stronger by straightening it out again.
The Engineer’s Thumb
- Includes one of the most memorable and terrifying illustrations in the canon.
- Holmes does not actually impact the outcome of this story in any way but his deduction from the initial freshness of the horse that the engineer was driven around and back to his starting point is neat. I recently read a short story that put this device to a satisfyingly deadly effect.
Previous posts in this series: