So he picked up a rock and hit McCarthy over the head. When he heard James coming to the pool, he ran off, dropping his cloak. He managed to grab the cloak without being seen and got away. Turner agrees to sign a confession so that, if James McCarthy is convicted of murder, Holmes can get the young man off. But Turner is dying, and doesn't want to spend his final days in prison for justifiable homicide what with the blackmail and all. Holmes agrees that Turner's about to meet a higher judge than England can provide. Fortunately, James's case is dismissed due to lack of evidence, James marries Miss Turner, and John Turner takes his secret to the grave seven months later.
It's a dark and stormy night and Watson's wife is out of town, so he's sleeping over with Holmes. Their peaceful evening is suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a young man, John Openshaw, who's worried about a series of weird events that have happened to his family.
We get the whole back-story on John's family:John's father, Joseph Openshaw, is a bicycle factory owner. Joseph's brother Elias, on the other hand, heads to Florida to start a plantation in the mids. Once the Confederacy loses, even though he's made lots of money in the South, Elias Openshaw flounces off back to England to retire with his fortune. Elias is a real tool and has no friends. But he's taken a liking to his nephew John Openshaw, and so he invites John to live with him. Elias uses John as a kind of household manager and go-between with everyone else in the world.
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Elias mostly likes to stay locked up in his room drinking a lot. One day, Elias receives an envelope that says, on the back flap, "K. Inside the envelope are five orange pips. Elias freaks out , runs to his locked room, and burns a bunch of papers he's been keeping locked up. After getting this envelope, Elias's bad behavior really becomes extreme: he seems alternately terrified and furious. Finally, one night, he gets drunk and winds up dead the next day. It seems that he ran out of the house and drowned in a small pool at the foot of the garden during that drunken spell.
The coroner rules his death a suicide, but John doesn't think it is. Next up, Joseph, Elias's brother, inherits his brother's fortune. What's weird, though, is that Joseph then receives the same envelope, also with the same instructions, initials, and orange pips. And he also winds up dead, from a fall in a rock quarry. The coroner decides it's an accident, but, again, John Openshaw's not certain. It's come down to John himself. He, too, has now received the fatal envelope.
He has also found one tiny scrap of paper with some names and dates he doesn't understand, still in the fireplace where his uncle burned the papers before drowning. Now John wants Holmes's help. Holmes tells Openshaw to go home right away, put the scrap of paper and the envelope on the sundial with a note saying everything else has been burned, and above all not to do anything dumb like confront the murderers. They are known, Holmes tells Watson, for arranging unlikely deaths for people who support, among other things, African-American voting rights.
Holmes continues that Elias must have been connected to this group: it can't be a coincidence that he left the States in , the same year the group apparently disbanded. But despite Holmes's solution of the case, he's too late: the next morning's newspaper carries news that John Openshaw fell into a river and drowned near the local train station. Holmes knows it's no accident, though.
He resolves to get justice by tracking down the postmarks of the three fatal envelopes, all of which lead him to one ship, the "Lone Star," which was in the three origin cities at the right time to send these awful orange pips. Holmes cables Savannah, Georgia with the news that there are men on the "Lone Star" wanted for murder in the U.
The ship sinks on its way across the Atlantic, and Holmes never gets his direct revenge on the murderers of his client. One night, one of Mrs. Watson's friends, a lady named Kate Whitney, turns up at the Watsons' home. She's at her wit's end because her husband Isa, an opium addict, has been away from home for some time. She begs Watson to visit her husband's opium den to fish him out. Even though it's late at night, Watson agrees to head straight over. While there, who should he bump into but his good pal Sherlock Holmes, wearing the disguise of an addict. Holmes invites Watson to walk home with him, and explains that he's at the den trying to trace a missing person, one Neville St.
This St. Clair lives in a small town called Lee with his wife and two children. He has regular habits that include going into the city at the same time every morning and coming home on the same train at night. He earns good money doing something vague in investments. The Monday before, St. Clair went into town early after promising to get some toy blocks for the kids. Soon after he leaves, Mrs. Clair decides to go into the city as well, to run an errand. This errand brings her into kind of a bad part of town. As Mrs. Clair is walking down this nasty street, she looks up to see her husband's face looking down at her from a second-story window in fact, from the window of the exact same opium den Holmes has been staking out.
She tries to get in to see him, but the owner of the opium den stops her. Clair runs to get some cops, the cops go in, but they don't find anyone on the second floor except this exceptionally ugly beggar, Hugh Boone. No one buys Mrs. Clair's story that she saw her husband until they find the blocks St. Clair had promised to buy on a table in the den. So they arrest Boone on suspicion of murder. He's well known throughout London as one of the cleverest beggars in the city. He's got blood on his sleeve, but he also has a cut on his finger that, according to Boone, explains this.
He swears he's innocent. The police find St. Clair's coat weighed down with coins in the nearby Thames, but not a trace of his body. Holmes and Watson go to visit Mrs. She greets them happily with the news that she's certain her husband is still alive. How does she know? She's received a letter from him, in his handwriting, with his wedding ring as further proof. Holmes is up all night thinking about this new evidence, but he finally gets it, and feels dumb for not seeing it sooner.
Watson is like — what? Holmes asks him to come for a morning drive into the city. Holmes and Watson arrive at the police station and ask to see Boone.
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He's fast asleep. Holmes pulls out a large sponge from his bag and suddenly gives Boone a vigorous face wash. Underneath the grease, face paint, fake scar, and wig, the famous beggar Boone turns out to be none other than Neville St. It all becomes clear: St. Clair was once a journalist.
He posed as a beggar to research an article once and made the accidental discovery that he could make more money as a beggar than he ever did in regular business. So all of those regular hours he's been working in the city, he's really been sneaking off to the room he's rented in that opium den to change into his Hugh Boone disguise.
When his wife happened to walk by that one afternoon, he was just changing back into his Neville St. Clair clothes. He was too ashamed of being discovered to admit to her or, later, to the police what had actually happened. So he weighed down his coat with coins and tossed it out the window into the river, and then rapidly put his Hugh Boone disguise back on.
He handed the owner of the opium den that letter for his wife and then waited for the police to arrive. Since he hasn't actually committed a crime, Inspector Bradstreet agrees to let St. Clair go — with the strict promise that they'll see no more of Hugh Boone around. If St. Clair goes back to his old tricks, his secret will become public and his family will be shamed. Clair promises, and that's that! When Watson comes over two days after Christmas to wish Holmes a happy holiday, he finds Holmes contemplating a battered old hat. This hat has been brought to Holmes by Peterson, a hotel employee they both know.
Here's the story behind the hat:Peterson surprises a group of guys harassing some older fellow on the street. Startled, the old guy runs away, dropping his hat and a goose. The goose is labeled "To Mrs. Henry Baker," but there are so many Henry Bakers in London that the note's not much help. Peterson brings both objects to Holmes to trace their ownership.
Holmes gives Peterson the goose but keeps the hat to see what he can reason from it to narrow down which Henry Baker. Holmes figures out that the hat's owner is a smart, well-educated guy who's fallen on hard times and perhaps into drink? Holmes and Watson are chatting over his deductions when Peterson comes running back into to Holmes's place. As his wife was preparing the goose for cooking, she found a blue diamond in the bird's throat. Holmes identifies it at once as a jewel belonging to the Countess of Morcar, called the Blue Carbuncle, which was recently stolen from the Hotel Cosmopolitan.
On the evidence of hotel employee James Ryder, a plumber named John Horner has been arrested, but the jewel still hasn't been found. Holmes puts an ad in the newspaper — Found: goose and black felt hat. Holmes figures that Henry Baker the name attached to the goose's leg will definitely answer because he's poor and probably really misses his hat. Holmes also asks Peterson to buy Holmes a second goose. Indeed, Baker answers the ad, and he is exactly as Holmes described in the first scene: out of condition, bearing signs of alcohol addiction, but educated.
The guy is relieved to get his hat back, but he shows no signs of distress that this second goose is not the original — in other words, he knows nothing about the blue diamond. Baker does put Holmes on the trail of the original goose, though, by telling the detective that he got the goose from the owner of the Alpha Inn.
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Holmes uses this information to get to a Covent Garden poultry seller, where he's surprised to find someone else trying to figure out where a certain goose has gotten to. This someone else is James Ryder, the hotel employee who ratted out John Horner, the plumber. But Holmes knows better: he tells Ryder that he's found the jewel in the original goose and he knows Ryder himself is the culprit. Ryder basically disintegrates. He starts crying and carrying on. Holmes is disgusted, and demands that the guy pull himself together and tell Holmes how the diamond got into a goose's throat in the first place.
Ryder explains: he decided to steal the carbuncle with the help of the Countess's lady's maid, Catherine Cusack. The two set up poor John Horner, and then Ryder made off with the stone. He planed to bring it to a friend of his who's been in prison and who knows how to sell stolen jewelry for gold. But how should Ryder get the precious gem to his friend without getting caught? Well, Ryder had been staying over with his sister that night. She raises geese, and she had already offered him one.
Ryder took a chance by stuffing the gem into the throat of one of the geese and then claiming it for his own. But when he opened the goose up later on, he saw that he's killed the wrong goose in the shuffle. Hence his efforts to try and figure out where his particular goose got to once his sister brought her flock to market.
Ryder weeps and begs Holmes not to ruin him, and Holmes tells him to get out. After all, Holmes tells Watson, 1 Ryder's so scared he'll never do anything wrong again, and 2 it's not Holmes's job to make up for the fact that the police suck. Watson jumps pretty far back in time in this story, to the period before his marriage when he and Holmes were still roomies at B Baker Street.
One morning, Holmes wakes Watson early because he has a client he wants Watson to see. She's a lady of about thirty with prematurely white hair who's shaking with terror. The situation is this: The lady's name is Helen Stoner. She has a stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Roylott, who is the last representative of a great family that has utterly used up all of its resources. Helen's mother died eight years ago in a train accident. Her will left Roylott a steady income, but it also included provisions for Helen and for her twin sister, Julia, if they ever get married.
A marriage of either or both of his stepdaughters would leave Roylott really struggling financially. Personally speaking, Roylott is also a pretty terrible guy: he's extremely violent and temperamental, and he's actually done time in India for beating his Indian butler to death. Apparently, he was lucky to escape a death sentence there. And yet, the Stoner sisters' mother married him. So, anyway, flash to two years ago when Julia, Helen's sister, gets engaged.
She complains to Helen that her sleep is being disturbed by a strange whistling sound in the middle of the night. Helen dismisses this as nothing, but one night two weeks before Julia's wedding, Helen hears a horrible scream. It's Julia in the bedroom next door. Helen runs over to find Julia looking terrified and ill. Julia slips into convulsions, but before she falls unconscious never to awaken , she makes reference to "a speckled band.
Now Helen herself has become engaged to a nice young fellow, Percy Armitage. Her stepfather has started some random construction on the wall outside her bedroom that has made Helen move into her sister's old bedroom next to her stepfather's. And she's pretty freaked out because she, like her sister before her, has begun to hear a low whistle in the middle of the night.
Holmes reassures her that he'll do what he can, and offers to come out to their estate that night. As soon as Stoner leaves Holmes's office, Dr. Grimesby Roylott announces himself. He makes a threaten and says that if Holmes gets involved, he'll be sorry. Holmes doesn't take this warning very seriously. So he and Watson head out to Roylott's estate that afternoon to set up a plan.
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Holmes tells Stoner to go to bed early but not to stay in her sister's former bedroom. He and Watson plan to sneak in and spend the night there to find out what's up. Holmes and Watson do in fact manage to sneak into Julia Stoner's old room. It has some weird features: a bell-pull that's not actually attached to a bell, a ventilator that connects Julia's room with Roylott's, and a bed that's nailed to the floor. All of these changes to the house date to about two years ago.
At around 3am, Holmes and Watson hear an eerie low whistle. Holmes strikes a match and starts beating the bell pull with his cane. Suddenly, they hear a yell from the next room. It's Roylott, and he's stone dead. He's been killed by his own trained poisonous snake, which he has been sending into the next room through the ventilator to try to murder his second stepdaughter.
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It's all about money: Roylott doesn't want Stoner to marry Percy Armitage and take away her part of the inheritance. But he's gotten his just desserts: killed by the snake he's been trying to turn on other people. Holmes seems totally OK with that. One morning at around 7am, two men come to Watson's house from nearby Paddington train station.
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One of the two is a guard who knows Watson. He's come to drop off a patient. The other guy is, well, the patient: a young man named Victor Hatherley who appears at some point to have misplaced his thumb. After treating Hatherley, Watson brings him to Holmes so they can get to the bottom of Hatherley's weird adventure. Here's the story: Hatherley's an orphan with no family. He's a hydraulics engineer who set up his own private practice two years ago, but he hasn't been getting any business.
He's desperate for money, so he's really excited when a client comes to him offering a huge sum of money for one night's work. The client is a vaguely creepy fellow named Colonel Lysander Stark, who's happy to pay top dollar for Hatherley's services if he's willing to keep a secret. The secret Hatherley has to keep is that Stark is working on processing a bunch of fuller's earth a kind of clay used in filtering for oils on his land. He has a big press to shape this earth into blocks for transport.
If his neighbors find out, they'll realize they have valuable fuller's earth deposits on their land, too, and they won't sell that land to Stark for cheap. Something's gone wrong with the press, though, so he needs Hatherley to tell him how to fix it. Hatherley's not totally satisfied with this explanation, but he comes out with Stark anyway. They arrive on the last train to a small country station, and Stark confuses Hatherley further by insisting they drive in a carriage with the blinds drawn so Hatherley can't see where they're going.
They reach Colonel Stark's house. Stark leaves Hatherley in a drawing room for a bit. Suddenly, a mysterious German-accented woman bursts in and warns Hatherley to run away. But he really needs that money, and he has his pride, so he won't. The lady darts away and then Stark and his manager, a silent fat man named Mr.
Ferguson, both come in to take Hatherley to the press. The instant Hatherley sees the press, he knows that Stark is lying about what he's using it for. Hatherley gives some advice about what Stark can do to fix it, but when Stark notices Hatherley's interest in some metal deposits all around the room, he quickly jumps out of the press apparatus, locks Hatherley in, and starts the machine. Hatherley is about to get squashed. Luckily, just as things are starting to look really bad for our young engineer, he notices that the walls of the press are actually made of wood.
He manages to kick out a loose panel and escape into a new passage in the house. There, he meets the woman who tried to warn him. She leads him to an open window, but they're not fast enough, and Stark appears carrying a cleaver. Stark warns the woman "Elise" away. Hatherley manages to get out the window, where he's hanging on the sill by his fingertips.
Stark hacks at Hatherley's hands with the cleaver, cutting off Hatherley's thumb and sending him dropping to the garden. Hatherley tries to run away, but he faints from the blood loss. He has the vague memory of someone carrying him. When he wakes up the next morning, he's lying next to the train station. He takes the train to London, meets up with a helpful guard, and that's how he wound up at Watson's.
Holmes is very interested in all of this. He, Watson, and Hatherley pick up police reinforcements and head over to the train station near Stark's home. Inspector Bradstreet is very excited: he believes that this is a silver counterfeiting gang that Scotland Yard's been trying to find for ages. That's what Stark and his gang have really been using the press for, hence all of the nickel and tin that Hatherley noticed. But by the time the group gets to Stark's house, the inspector's dream of a bunch of arrests is ruined. Stark's house has burned to the ground, possibly thanks to the lamp shut in with Hatherley when Stark started the press.
It looks like the gang was able to flee, but neither Stark nor Ferguson nor Elise are ever seen again. Holmes suspects that it was Ferguson and Elise who carried Hatherley to the train station out of pity.
Hatherley, for his part, is disappointed: he's lost his money and his thumb, and what has he gained? A good story, replies Holmes. It's , just a few weeks before Watson's marriage. The wet weather has made Watson's old war wound act up a little, so he's mostly been staying inside reading the papers. At one point, Holmes comes in holding an envelope with a nobleman's seal on it. It belongs to Lord St. Simon, son of the Duke of Balmoral and one of the highest aristocrats in England.
Watson gives Holmes the skinny on what the papers have been saying about a scandal surrounding St. Simon: his wife has disappeared. Here's the back-story: Hatty Doran is the daughter of an American millionaire. She manages to get through the ceremony tying her to St. But then, at the wedding breakfast after the ceremony, she excuses herself after ten minutes, goes upstairs, grabs a long coat and, apparently, just walks out the side door. Witnesses mention seeing her in Hyde Park walking with a woman named Flora Miller, a former dancer and love of St. Simon's who tried to interrupt the wedding.
On the strength of this evidence, Miller has been arrested for murder. After Watson recaps all of this through newspaper clippings, St. Simon comes in. He makes a strange little comment about Holmes being unused to working with people of such high stature which we know isn't true, since we started off this collection with the King of Bohemia.
Holmes dismisses this silly comment and gets down to business. Simon tells Holmes that Doran seemed in good spirits before the wedding, but irritable afterwards. The only way that he can account for the change is that Doran dropped her bouquet as they started to walk out of the church after the ceremony, and was irritated because of this. A stranger sitting in the front pew handed it back to her, but this only seemed to upset her more. Ten minutes later, she left the wedding breakfast as described above. Holmes says that he already knows what has happened, but St. Simon seems skeptical.
He leaves. Then in comes Lestrade, who has been dragging the Hyde Park lake, the Serpentine, looking for Doran's body.
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The police have found one thing of interest: her wedding clothes and ring all tossed into the water in a heap. In the pocket of this dress is a note that says, "Come at once. On the other side is a hotel receipt that Holmes seems to find particularly important. After this visit from Lestrade, Holmes spends most of the day out of the house. But he's ready to receive St. Simon at 9pm, with a dinner set for five.
And who are the other two guests? Doran apologizes for running away and hurting St. Simon, but she really couldn't think of anything else to do. She had actually married Moulton years before in the US in secret. He went off to seek his fortune. Eventually, she heard that he had been killed.
So she thought she was free to follow her father's wishes and marry St. Simon — but she was wrong. That scene in the church when she dropped her bouquet and some guy handed it to her? That guy was Moulton, and he used the opportunity to slip her a note asking for a meeting. It's the note that gives Holmes the evidence he needs to find the couple and to persuade them to come clean with St. Holmes is able to narrow down his hotel search to places that charge the amounts on the receipt for lodging and food.
Once he's shortened his list, he visits different hotels asking after recent American guests, finds a forwarding address for Francis Hay Moulton, and goes to visit him directly. Despite Doran's heartfelt apology to St. Simon, he's not exactly ready to forgive and forget. Doyle mentions real places and people often. There is a LOT of this. This seems in stark opposition to; 2.
Making up all kinds of crazy back stories. Moriarty to hide the identity of Jack the Ripper, who was really Mycroft. It seemed like a third of the notes were of this type. Everyone with a similar last name had a back story about how they were secretly related, yet when there were police officers named Jones in two different stories that seemed to have different mannerisms, it seemed to baffle writers how this could be, or how there could be two people named Jones on the London police force. I nearly threw the book a few times.
I suspect it was the way the notes were presented seemingly without context. There would be debates about something that seemed perfectly clear to me. The problem is there are as much notes as original text. I was constantly looking to the notes and then finding a large portion of them to be pointless and annoying. Much of it just worked to suck all the fun and charm out of the stories for me. Holmes' tales work best in short story format, and this collection is an absolute delight.
I'm not a particular fan of detection fiction, nor of mystery novels. Reading these Holmes' stories illustrated to me why that is - Doyle sets the script for detective fiction which everyone else follows, but nobody has topped. It is similar, in some respects, to the influence of Tolkien on the fantasy genre. While Tolkien breathed commercial life into it, his influence was so great that it stifled the creativity of future fantasy authors. The same could be said of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The influence is very clearly seen on recent television. Modern mystery shows ranging from the excellent to the abhorrent like Psych, House, the Mentalist and CSI all draw on the Holmes' formula to varying degrees.
This is all to say, that whether you have an interest in the genre before picking up this volume or not, I think there is a good chance you will be as enthralled as I was. Most of the stories follow a fairly standard formula. Holmes' partner and friend, Dr. Watson, recalls a case in which Holmes displayed his particular acuity at reasoning to solve some crime. A desperate and befuddled victim describe some bizarre scenario, and Watson and Holmes look into it. To everyone's astonishment, Holmes' solves the case, recounting in the end how he managed to pick up clues missed by his compatriots and reason to the actual events.
There are deviations in many of the stories, but the general framework quickly becomes rather comfortable for the reader. Watson is an affable and enjoyable narrator. Holmes can be cold at times, and Watson's humor is a nice counterpoint. He's also an able contributor to the stories themselves, even if he is not quite up to Holmes' superhuman abilities.
It's Holmes, rather obviously, who is the most interesting character. In some of the stories, he seems to act simply as a reasoning machine. When Watson finds him, he is hard at work on some scientific pursuit, and once the case is on, he relentlessly pursues it to its conclusion. Yet, many of the other stories show a more complicated and interesting character. While justice is on his mind, he also pursues these cases because he is so fundamentally bored.
It's not simply boredom with the events of the day, but that he finds life itself a dreary chore when not intellectually stimulated. On one hand, this seems somewhat odd. It has always seemed to me that the deeper one's appreciation for the complexities of the world, the more fascinating and less boring the world becomes. Is it that Holmes' is simply not interested in scientific pursuits, or that he is so intelligent that he has passed even this point?
I think not. The first is clearly false, given his interest in chemistry, and we are often introduced to the limits of Holmes' abilities. So what is the cause of Holmes' ennui? It hardly seems to be a crisis in faith, or an existential crisis about the absurdity of the world as it is. I rather enjoyed wrestling with this characteristic, particularly since it seems so foreign to Watson, the narrator. Watson is consistently impressed, engaged and interested in the events he reports upon. It makes him unable to really bring himself to bear on Holmes' own personality, which creates ample opportunities for the reader to dive in.
As one would expect with any volume of short stories, the quality can be a bit uneven. For example, "The Stock Broker's Clerk" is quite similar to another, earlier story, and the "Five Orange Pips" has a setup that does payoff in terms of details about the secret organization or a plausible explanation of their behavior. Also of interest is the rather progressive ending to "The Yellow Face," which deals with interracial marriage. Nevertheless, the level of quality is generally quite high across the entire volume. Doyle is an able stylist, the mysteries are generally interesting, and the tales are frequently exciting reads.
This edition is also worth saying a few words about. It is designed for "Sherlockian" scholars. These fans of the novels operate under the fiction that the novels are literally true, and that Holmes was a real person whose exploits were recorded by the quite real Watson. The annotations in the volume are in this vein, and typically provide substantive background information which can be used by these fans to examine the plausibility of some of the stories and of Holmes' inferences.
As someone who is not interested in this approach to the texts, I found the notes to be a bit hit or miss. Some gave considerable background information about the era in which the stories take place, which generally contribute to the text. Others, however, concern the truth of obscure details of the story such as train schedules which were of no interest to me. It is quite obvious that Holmes' inferences are often abduction run amok there are other plausible explanations of the data , but I simply leave that aside as part of a suspension of disbelief. For those reading the stories like me, rather than like the Sherlockian Scholars the volume is aimed at, these notes can be safely skipped over.
The volume also contains a large number of excellent illustrations collected from various sources. A few superflous to this audience footnotes aside, this is a wonderful edition of these excellent stories.
I'm three pages into the first story and there have been something like 12 footnotes already! Silver Blaze by Arthur Conan Doyle indirect. The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual indirect. Mountain giant Sunda rat. The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk. The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Tranter revolver.