Friday, August 13, 2010

Holmes in brief

254. The Adventure of the Speckled Band Holmes once again comes to the rescue of a pretty young damsel in distress. This one is concerned that her step-father and the gypsies in residence on his property are somehow complicit in the death of her sister, who was due to be wed. The action takes place in the town of Stokes Moran, and for some reason I expected a connection to Col. Sebastian Moran, aide-de-camp to the notorious Prof. Moriarity, Holmes' nemesis. But there is no connection (at least not in the story itself. I'd have to read back through various Wold-Newton sites to see if any later authors came up with a connection). The story moves quickly, and Holmes of course spots the key details everyone else has missed. Several early details are essentially red herrings.

255. The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb Doctor Watson is brought an intriguing patient: a young civil engineer who has somehow lost his thumb. Once he's patched up as best as Watson can manage, Watson brings Holmes on board to hear the man's story. How he lost his thumb is not the mystery Holmes needs to solve, but rather where the man lost his thumb and who the perpetrators really were. Another of those cases in which Holmes solves the crime but doesn't catch the criminals.

256. The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor Doyle seems to like these stories in which one member of a wedding party disappears before, during, or just after the nuptial ceremony. (Jim Butcher somewhat pays tribute to this trope in his Harry Dresden story Heorot.) This time, it is the newlywed husband who is left without a spouse when his new bride disappears during a post-wedding luncheon. The facts of the mystery itself are a good read, although I do wish more of them had been hinted at in the story itself.

257. The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet The implication at the start of the story is that the Important Person who hocks the royal beryl coronet to a banker for a loan is Prince Albert. In our modern day and age, it's almost impossible to imagine someone so well known being able to visit a major banker in full daylight business hours to hock a piece of jewelry that normally resides in a locked guarded case. The late 1800s were a simpler time, for sure. The main mystery is not why "Prince Albert" put the coronet up as collateral for a loan (that's never revealed by Doyle in the story), but rather how the coronet is almost stolen and definitely damaged by someone in the banker's household. Holmes believes the man arrested for the crime didn't do it and sets about to prove himself right. I felt like this was one of the fairer-play mysteries in this set. I could not only understand how Holmes got to his conclusion, I could actually go back and see the hints where they were dropped.

258. The Adventure of the Copper Beeches Much is made of the fact that Irene Adler, or "The Woman," is the only woman for whom Holmes ever showed actual respect as an equal. In this story, Holmes and Watson meet a young governess named Violet Hunter, and I humbly submit that Miss Hunter shows as much mental fortitude and attention to detail as Holmes himself. Adler may be the woman who outwitted Holmes, but Hunter is the one who essentially matches him stride for stride. She starts out a little demure and unsure of herself, but by the end she has gained Watson's respect and I suspect Holmes' as well.

And that wraps up the first Holmes short story collection. I'm going to hold off on starting Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes for a little bit so as to cleanse the palate a bit, so to speak.

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