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Old 03-08-2023, 03:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Baker Street Confidential: Trollheart's Most Singular Sherlock Holmes Journal

There can’t be anyone over the age of let’s say ten years in the world who does not know the name Sherlock Holmes. The world’s first consulting detective, created in the nineteenth century by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has become the archetypal figure of the analytical investigator, who has influenced not only future fictional detectives but also those in the real world. At a time when the likes of fingerprint evidence, crime scene investigation and body language were all but unknown to the police, Doyle’s canny detective used these methods to form his own way of gathering clues and solving mysteries, usually crimes. There’s no question that many of the techniques employed by Sherlock Holmes are now used by police forces and private investigators all over the world. He has, almost literally, changed the face of detective work.

Over the course of nearly 150 years, Doyle’s stories have been reprinted, republished and collected in various volumes, with some writers even trying to compose their own stories featuring the famous detective. Holmes and his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson have made the transition from the printed page to the stage, then on to the silver screen and finally to the small screen. Doyle’s stories are timeless, though of course dated by the period in which they were written and set; some writers have tried to update Holmes for the twentieth or even twenty-first century, with varying degrees of success, and his character has entered the normal parlance of human culture, which such phrases as “Elementary” and “No shit, Sherlock” commonplace, as well as one of the highest accolades for any inquiring person being to compare them to Holmes. Proof of his enduring popularity can be seen in the fact that not one, but two TV series run in the twenty-first century almost concurrently, and new movies about him are coming out all the time. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may have at one time wished to - tried to - kill off his greatest creation, but in that strange quirk that often afflicts writers, he found that his character was stronger and more powerful than he, and that public opinion would not allow him to die. And so, in the greatest traditions of the greatest fictional characters, and like many of those of his contemporary Dickens, Doyle’s literary nemesis, Sherlock Holmes, has become immortal.

For a long time, I had never read a single Holmes story. Oh, I knew the basic idea behind “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and I’d seen (but not watched) movies based on other of his adventures such as “The Sign of the Four” and “A Study in Scarlet”, but I had never picked up any of Doyle’s books until about fifteen years ago. Having run out of things to read for Karen, I happened to see a large hardback copy of The Collected Sherlock Holmes and suggested that. We began to read it and both found it fascinating, going through the whole thing in a relatively short time. At this stage I would say we have read all the Holmes stories and novels about three times, and at the time of writing this are embarking on a fourth read, which is why this seems like the time to begin this journal.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for some while now, but there’s not a lot of point in my just writing about the stories and leaving it at that. Hell, you know me better by now: I don’t do things by halves. So here’s what I intend to do. I’ll be looking at each of the stories - including, indeed, beginning with the novels - giving a short synopsis (no I promise! It will be short) and laying out the specifics of each case, who the main players are, how the crime/mystery unfolded and how it was solved. I’ll then be writing my comments, observations and insights on each.

For those who have never read any of the stories, but have often wished to, while I would not be so arrogant as to present this as a definitive guide to Sherlock Holmes (I’m sure there are far greater ones, by writers whose inkwell I am not fit to refill, or something) it should, when complete, give anyone who has not read the stories enough information about them to be able to confidently discuss them, and hopefully pique their interest enough to perhaps seek the actual stories out. For those who have read them, I welcome your comments and am happy to have a discussion with anyone on any subject pertaining to Holmes. I’m also, as ever, ready to learn new things about him.

So come on: there’s a hansom drawing up out in the street, and the weather is foul, so wrap up warm. Slip your service revolver into your pocket, as I fear there may be dirty work before the night is done. But London needs us, and Sherlock Holmes was never a man to shirk his responsibility when it came to bringing the guilty to justice and saving the innocent from the rope.

Quickly now. The game’s afoot!
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Old 03-08-2023, 03:18 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: A quick profile

Before we get going, a few facts about the man who created the world’s most famous detective. I’m not going into all the details of his life - there are plenty of biographies around you can pick up, and they’re well worth reading. But there are a few small points I didn’t realise about Doyle which I just want to note here.

First, I was always under the impression that he was knighted for his literary work. Not so. It appears the “Sir” in his name is for military service. I suppose when even so legendary a writer as Charles Dickens was not knighted for his literature - and if anyone deserved the honour surely it was he - perhaps it’s naive to think that Doyle would be afforded the distinction.

Second, again I always assumed that Doyle came from a police background, or some sort of scientific analytical one, and again, wrong. He pursued a career in medicine (hence, presumably, the character of Watson, who might be assumed to be a self-portrait) and did travel widely, being engaged as a ship’s surgeon. But his model for Holmes seems to have been one of his university teachers, a Joseph Bell, whose keen mind and logical methods Doyle imbued his most famous character with.

Third, I did not know that he played amateur sleuth himself in two cold cases, in 1907 and 1908, proving the innocence of and overturning the convictions of both parties, and indirectly helping to have the Court of Criminal Appeal set up.

What I did know, and you probably do also, but it’s worth mentioning, is that in 1891, five years after Sherlock Holmes had become a literary celebrity and assured him of a lucrative career, Doyle considered knocking him off, wishing to concentrate on his historical novels. His mother, incensed at the idea, begged him not to. But he did anyway, writing what was to be the detective’s last case in 1893, appropriately titled “The Final Problem.” He literally killed the sleuth, and intended him to stay dead. But his public - or perhaps it might be more accurate, if crazy, to say, Holmes’s public - would not stand for it, and a campaign to have the world’s favourite detective resurrected was acquiesced to when he wrote, in 1901, what was to become his most famous and enduring Holmes story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” This novel though, did not explain how Holmes had escaped death in “The Final Problem”, and so it was necessary to write “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”, which came out in 1905 and in fact ended up being literally the detective’s triumphant return as it led to another twelve stories featuring him and Watson.

I did find out, through reading his biography, that Doyle was into spiritualism, or what was at the time called mesmerism, which is odd really when you consider how coldly logical and grounded Sherlock Holmes is, never trusting to any sort of supernatural intervention in his cases, even when it seems some devilish agency must be at work in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” I suppose that might have been Doyle’s “I am not Spock!” declaration, an attempt to separate the writer from the character, to show he was different to Holmes. The famous resident of 221B Baker Street may have placed no faith in the spirit world, but his creator did.

Let’s, before we get going though, explode a few popular myths.

The phrase so often used as Holmes’ catchphrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson” is never used in any of Doyle’s writings. Rather like “Play it again Sam” and “Beam me up Scotty” it has attained a life of its own, and was somewhat surprising to me to discover that it does not appear, but it does not. The word elementary is used, though not that often, but never in that sentence with the same words.

In the books and stories, Holmes is never mentioned as wearing the headgear which has become synonymous with him, the deerstalker, and his cape. This was an affectation practised by the first man to play him on stage, William Gilette, as was the pipe which is now associated with him. Though Doyle has Holmes smoke a pipe, he never refers to it as the type known as calabash, but through Gilette’s portrayal of him, this is now the image we have of the detective’s pipe.

Although Professor Moriarty is known to be Holmes’ diabolical nemesis, he only appears in one story, the one supposed to have been the last, and so titled “The Final Question.” His appearance in, and control of London’s underground is back-referenced by Holmes in order to really you’d have to say shoe-horn him in as a valiant adversary for Holmes, one Doyle obviously believed worthy of defeating the great detective.
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Old 03-08-2023, 03:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Title: “A Study in Scarlet”
Year first published: 1887
Type: Novel
Chronology: First Sherlock Holmes story; one of four full-length novels and 56 short stories
Location(s): (Very briefly) Maiwand, Afghanistan; Peshiwar; University of London; Portsmouth; The Strand Hotel; The Criterion Bar; The Holborn; Baker Street; Audley Court; Duncan Street, Houndsditch; Charpentiers Boarding House, Torquay Terrace; The Sierra Blanco (USA); Salt Lake City, Utah; St. Petersburg; Paris; Copenhagen; Camberwell; Waterloo Bridge; York University
Date: March 4 1881 (?)
The crime or the mystery: Murder
Particulars of the crime or mystery: Method of murder unknown until the arrival of Sherlock Holmes, then found to be poison administered. No forced entry, no evidence of robbery, no marks on body, no blood. (Drebber) Found stabbed to death in his hotel room (Stangerson)
Scene(s) of the crime or mystery: 3 Lauriston Gardens, off the Brixton Road, a deserted empty house (Drebber); Halliday’s Private Hotel (Stangerson)
Date(s) of the crime(s) or mystery: March 4, March 5
The time (if given): 2 AM (discovery); 6 AM

The Players
The Client: None
The victim(s): Enoch J. Drebber, an American and later Joseph Stangerson, also American
The accused or suspected: Arthur Charpentier
The arrested: Arthur Charpentier
The investigating officer(s): Inspector Tobias Gregson, Inspector Lestrade (Peripherally) PC John Rance, who unfortunately had the culprit that night but had let him go, believing him to be a mere drunkard.
The advocate(s):None
The real culprit(s): Jefferson Hope, Lucy Ferrier’s sweetheart
Others: Mrs. Sawyer, an old woman (really a man in disguise) who answers Holmes’ advertisement about the lost ring and collects it from Watson; Wiggins, leader of the “Baker Street Irregulars”; Madame Charpentier, owner of the boarding house where Drebber stayed; Alice Charpentier, her daughter, Arthur’s sister; John Ferrier, an American survivor of a pioneer wagon; Lucy Ferrier, the only other survivor, his adopted daughter, forced into marriage with Drebber after John’s death; Brigham Young, leader of the Mormons

The clues: Hansom cab wheel tracks outside the house, a woman’s wedding ring, a box of pills, a telegram saying “J.H. is in Europe” (unsigned)
The red herring(s)*: The word RACHE scrawled in blood on the wall. Lestrade thinks it’s part of a name - Rachel - at which Holmes grins and tells him it is the German word for revenge. But it’s all a blind anyway and has nothing to do with the murder.

The argument between Drebber and Arthur Charpentier, and the pursuit of the former by the latter, cudgel in hand.

The breakthrough: Holmes lays his hand on the murderer when he realises he is a cabman and sends for him
The result: The murderer confesses but dies of a heart condition before he can be brought to trial. See the synopsis below for the full story behind his crimes.

* Unlike in other journals, the term “red herrings” does not refer to the text/story, as in, elements that seem to have no bearing on the plot. Rather, they are things upon which the police fasten as being important, as being clues, when they either have nothing to do with the crime/mystery or are missteps which set them on the wrong path and line of thinking. This may lead to false arrests, accusations or just leads that go nowhere.

How the case is solved

Having determined that two men were in the empty house, that one is now absent and that Drebber was poisoned, and that both arrived in a cab, and further, having telegraphed to Cleveland and found that Drebber had taken out a protective order against Jefferson Hope, Holmes has all the pieces, and has only to fit them together. When he comes into possession of the tablets left in Stangerson’s room, he has the final link in his chain. He realises Hope must have driven Drebber to the murder scene, and therefore must be working as a cab driver.

Deductions made by Holmes which have nothing to do with the case:
That Watson has recently been in Afghanistan; That the caller who brings the news from Gregson about the crime is a retired marine sergeant.

Before the case

A short note as to what Holmes and Watson were doing before the case was brought to them, or before Holmes brought the case to Watson. What were they talking about? Where were they (almost always Baker Street of course)? What were they doing? Did what they were doing or talking about have any bearing on the case?

This being the first meeting of the two, there is no “before the case” as such, but before the telegram from Lestrade arrives Watson has been reading Holmes’ article on the science of deduction through observation (unaware that he is the author) and arguing with him over it. This leads of course to the first examples of Holmes’ incisive deductions, which take his friend by surprise and have him grudgingly admit that he may have been wrong in his assessment of the man.


Having spent time in Afghanistan as an army doctor during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, John Watson returns to England, carrying an injured left arm. With most of his comrades dead or still in Afghanistan, he has nobody to come back to and having been away for some years has no house, so he goes looking for lodgings. A friend of his puts him in touch with a Sherlock Holmes, who is in the same situation as him and is looking for someone to share apartments he has found but cannot afford on his own. And so a legendary partnership is born. Intrigued by Holmes’ (he will never, despite what will become as deep a friendship as any between two people, call him by his first name, nor will anyone except one person) assertion that he can divine details of people from pure observation of their dress, their walk, their face, he puts this claim to the test and is astounded as Holmes proceeds to show how it is done. It all seems very simple, but then so is anything once you’ve been shown* how.

After some time in their new apartments in 221B Baker Street, it becomes apparent that Holmes is using the place as an office of sorts; seeing people who appear to need his help, including a police inspector known as Lestrade. For these consultations, iniitally, Holmes requests the room so that he and his clients can have privacy, but when a letter arrives for him and he reads it in Watson’s presence, he takes the doctor into his confidence, as he will do from now on. The letter is from another police inspector, by the name of Gregson, who requests his assistance in an unexplained murder.

Asking Watson to accompany him, Holmes sets off for the place, which turns out to be a deserted, empty house. A man lies dead inside, no mark on him, no blood except the word RACHE written on the wall. Although Lestrade - who uncovers the word - gleefully pins all his hopes on this, believing it to be the uncompleted name Rachel, Holmes dismisses it, remarking that it is in fact the German word for revenge, but is unimportant, an attempt by the murderer to throw them off the scent. Murderer? Yes, Holmes confirms grimly, this man was indeed murdered. When the two* police officers ask how, he says it was poison.

The man has been identified as Enoch J. Drebber, an American from Cleveland, Ohio, and a wedding ring is discovered at the scene. Both inspectors believe this points to the involvement of a woman (Lestrade probably privately still thinks this may be this Rachel) but Holmes is silent on the matter. He does what Watson will come to recognise as his usual thorough job of examining everything, inside the house and out, but says little. Holmes asks to speak to the constable (uniformed police officer) who discovered the body, and when they go to see PC John Rance Holmes is frustrated to hear that the constable had the murderer, or someone highly connected with it, in his hands, but let him go as he thought he was just a drunk. The canny detective though realises the man was just feigning being the worse for drink, and is angry that he is now in the wind.

He puts an advertisement in the local papers, advising of the finding of the wedding ring and asking if someone lost it to please call to Baker Street, then returns home with Watson. The next day they have a visit from an old woman, who agrees the ring is hers, and it is duly handed over. Holmes follows her, but she vanishes, having taken a cab, and he realises in annoyance that the old woman was in fact a young man in disguise, no doubt a confederate of the killer.* He send his small army of “street arabs”, as they called them in the nineteenth century - basically urchins, small lads similar perhaps to ***in’s army of children in Oliver Twist, you know the kind of thing - on some errand. Annoyed when he is given the slip, Holmes is somewhat more amused when Inspector Gregson turns up, claiming to have solved the crime. He has someone in custody, and is convinced he is their man. Having obtained the address of the dead man’s hatter from his hat, which was beside his body, he went there and got from the man Drebber’s address. He then visited the boarding house where Drebber was staying, found out that the landlady there had a dispute with him over his unwanted attentions towards her daughter, and that her brother had gone after him. He has jumped to the conclusion that Arthur Charpentier therefore is the murderer. Holmes privately tuts and shakes his head: he knows that often the simplest and most obvious solution is rarely the right one, but it gives him some satisfaction to see the police blunder about on the wrong trail.

The wrong trail indeed. A short while later Lestrade rushes in, to bring them the news that Drebber’s secretary, Joseph Stangerson, has also been murdered. So it could not have been Charpentier after all, at least, the second murder could not have been carried out by him. Gregson is crestfallen as his neatly-tied-up case bursts apart, but Holmes brightens when he hears what Lestrade considers unimportant information about the other murder, that there was in the dead man’s room a box of pills. When he hears of an unsigned telegram found in Stangerson’s pocket which reads “J. H. is in Europe”, he snaps his fingers, says he has solved the case. Both men look at him as if he is mad. Watson, at this point, is not prepared to disagree; how can such a complicated murder - two now - with so few clues and no suspect, given that Charpentier must now be discounted - be solved so easily?

Holmes takes the tablets from Lestrade and feeds them to the landlady’s dog, which is near death and which she had wished put down. The first tablet has no effect on the animal, and Holmes is annoyed, baffled, and a little embarrassed as the two detectives look at each other, possibly making circular motions at their temples with their fingers. Then he has it. He feeds the dog another tablet from the box and it quietly expires. He has been vindicated: the box has two types of tablet, one poison, one not. A short moment later WIggins, the head of his street Arabs comes up to say they have him. Holmes asks the boy to show him up, and when a man appears and Holmes directs him to pick up his luggage, it’s only the work of seconds for him to clap handcuffs on the man. A furious struggle ensues, but between Lestrade, Holmes and Gregson they overpower the man, and when he sees fighting is useless he subsides.

“Gentlemen,” says Holmes grandly, “let me introduce you to Mr. Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Enoch J. Drebber, and of Joseph Stangerson!”

Hope admits his guilt, but requests a chance to tell his story, which takes us back to his youth in the USA, where he met the beautiful Lucy Ferrier, who, with her adopted father John, were the only survivors of a wagon train and who were saved from death in the desert by a travelling band of Mormons, heading for Salt Lake City. Under the terms of the Mormon religion, Lucy was to be married to one of the sons of the two leaders, but her father knew them both to be horrible men, and that Lucy was already in love with a young rancher called Jefferson Hope, so he played for time until Hope could be contacted, then they all stole away together.

But the Mormons were not about to be cheated, and rode in pursuit. As Hope went off to hunt for some game so that they would not starve, John was shot and killed and Lucy taken back and forced to marry Enoch Drebber, the worst of the two. It later emerged that the pair played cards for her, and Drebber won her. She did not last long, pining away and dying soon afterwards, to the no great concern of her brutal new husband. Unable to take his revenge, Hope rode into the camp where Lucy’s funeral was taking place and removed the wedding ring from her finger and rode off. He watched for his chance, following the two of them when they left America, across Europe, until finally he tracked them down in London, where he killed Drebber by forcing him to take a poison pill, or at least to choose between the safe one and the deadly one, and then knifed Stangerson to death.

There will however be no trial, as Hope is close to death: he has a heart condition, and will not last long. In fact he dies in his cell a few days later.

After the case

The epilogue here is quite short, and speaks of the by now inevitable death of Jefferson Hope, who passes away before he can stand trial for the double murder. Holmes explains his train of reasoning to a marvelling Watson.


To state the obvious, for a first novel this is nothing short of stunning. And brave. It wasn’t his first writing of course - he had had some short stories published in magazines in the years prior, like any aspiring author of the time - but it was his first full-length novel. To take on a powerful religion like Mormonism was incredibly brave of him, though I read that later he made some apologies and detractions, claiming that he had been misled by various books he had read on the subject. Still, much of what he wrote was the truth: Mormons practised (still do) polygamy and they guard their secrets closely. Whether they are or were the murderous vengeful cult of which he writes here or not is something I don’t know, but even suggesting they were, in a work of fiction, must have earned him some hatred across the water.

I didn’t realise that Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormons in the book, who decrees Lucy’s marriage to one or other of the elders’ sons, was a real figure, the second president in fact of the Mormons. That might have been a step too far: if he had used a fictional name, maybe he would not have insulted the Mormons so deeply. At any rate, the novel is well-spaced, taking place across two continents and over a period of maybe forty or fifty years, given Hope Jefferson’s narrative. It’s the first I’ve seen where the mystery is conclusively solved, but then there’s still about two-thirds of the book to go. When I read it recently I assumed when Holmes laid hands on Jefferson that we were near the end, but it was in fact just beginning.

It also has very few characters, for a novel: really there are only seven (excluding Holmes and Watson), eight if you include Arthur Charpentier. There are others, of course, but they’re very minor and ancillary, and the only ones really involved deeply in the story are Lestrade and Gregson, Jefferson, Drebber, Stangerson, Lucy and John Ferrier. Everyone else is more or less incidental. It of course establishes quickly the character of Sherlock Holmes and some of that of Dr. Watson, though we learn more about him as the stories unfold over the next ten years or so. It’s possibly one of the few - though not the only - in which the murderer is* treated with a good degree of sympathy, and the victims with none. We feel both earned their fate, and deserved to die. Even so, Hope is not allowed to get away with his crime but is not punished by any agency on this Earth.

It’s also a novel peopled largely by ghosts. John Ferrier, Lucy, Drebber and Stangerson are all dead by the time the story begins, but the spirit of the first two hangs heavy over the plot, driving Jefferson Hope on to revenge. In one way, I suppose, it teaches a poor lesson, that revenge is a thing worth pursuing, but then at the same time it could be said that Hope’s lust for revenge does for him, as perhaps he pushes himself too hard in pursuit of his quarry, and puts too much strain on his heart. In the end, perhaps, the old adage rings true: if you seek revenge, dig two graves. One for your victim, and one for yourself. The surname is surely well chosen, as the man’s hope that he would live happily with Lucy is gone, and now his* only remaining hope is to avenge himself on her killers.

It can be said too that technically speaking neither Stangerson nor Drebber killed Lucy: she died of natural causes. But it was a death of the heart, a death of the soul, a death of hope that finished her. When she was forced to marry the brutish Drebber, she knew there was nothing left for her in life. One of them surely did kill her father though - it must have been Stangerson, as Drebber blubbed it was not him, though then again he would say that, wouldn’t he? So at least one is guilty of murder. Nevertheless, the murder being avenged by hope is really that of Lucy, for Drebber driving her to the despair he did. There’s not an ounce of sympathy afforded by Doyle to either of the men, nor I believe should there be: even when Lucy dies Drebber just shrugs; he has many other wives. There was no love there, just lust.

A Study in Scarlet was not the instant success it should have been, with hindsight. Doyle received many rejections before being paid the paltry sum of £25 (about £3,000 today) for the story and all rights to it, and it was published first in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 to universal disinterest before being published as an actual novel the next year. The novel also begins the practice of the recounting of Holmes’ adventures by Watson, who becomes his chronicler or his biographer, so that all the stories are told in the first person, narrated by the doctor with Holmes spoken of in the third person, I think a relatively unique situation in fiction, not only crime fiction.
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Old 03-08-2023, 03:22 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Better Than You

Holmes from the first has a healthy disdain for police practices and the competence of the force. Given that the Metropolitan Police had only been formed in 1829, a mere fifty years before the publication of A Study in Scarlet, that’s perhaps unfair but also understandable. Standard practices of which we’re aware today - identity parades, fingerprinting, crime scene analysis - were largely unknown and not in use at the time, so Holmes’ methods would have seemed unorthodox to Scotland Yard. Nevertheless, almost always, his way of investigating the crimes, the paths he takes and the clues he follows, turn out to be the right ones. Here I’ll be recording where he shows up Scotland Yard, though be to totally fair to him, he never publicly humiliates or badmouths them, and always gives the investigating officer the credit, wanting none himself.

He has the measure of both inspectors here. Lestrade thinks he has uncovered an important clue when he discovers the word RACHE on the wall at Lauriston Gardens whereas Holmes knows it’s an attempt by the murderer to try to wrong-foot the police.

He determines the method of Enoch Drebber’s murder, when the police have no clue, given that there are no marks on the body and no blood to be found.

When Gregson announces proudly that he has broken the case by arresting Arthur Charpentier, he knows that the man is not guilty. This is confirmed shortly afterwards when, with their main suspect in custody, another murder takes place.

He sees the value and significance of the pills and the telegram, both of which mean nothing to either Gregson or Lestrade, and is able to use them to bring the case to a close.

Character Study

Here I'll be looking into each of the main (only) characters, with the exception of Holmes and Watson, and give my assessment of them.

Inspector Tobias Gregson: A man who intends to go places; ready to impress his superiors but perhaps too quick to come to conclusions without all the facts, and take the first and most obvious solution he sees. Sort of a precursor to today’s idea of “get the case closed, I don’t care how.” Gregson here enjoys a rivalry with his opposite number, Inspector Lestrade, however it is the latter who triumphs and returns in future Holmes stories, whereas Gregson is never heard from again.

Inspector Lestrade: Fated to be Holmes’ sounding board, and whose career will benefit highly from the assistance - unofficial of course, and never reported - that Holmes gives him, Lestrade learns quickly that the consulting detective is the man to turn to when he is baffled by a case. Even so, there are times when his arrogance will lead him to discount Holmes’ theories, which are almost always correct. Oddly, Lestrade does not rate a first name, though we have an initial - G - but that could stand for anything: George? Graham? Gregory? Gavin?

John Ferrier: One of only two survivors from a pioneer wagon train, and the only adult, Ferrier believes death is the only reward waiting for he and the child, but fate steps in and has the Mormons rescue them just as their food and water has run out. In retrospect, he might have thought it better had they perished on the high cliff face on which they were found. Ferrier agrees to abide by the Mormons’ rules - though he refuses to marry, taking not even one wife when most of the Mormons have several, a resistance that rankles with the leader, Brigham Young - but when it comes time to sacrifice his daughter to either of the brutish sons of the Elders, he decides they can all go **** themselves and with the help of Jefferson Hope escapes with her. He doesn’t get far though, being shot by the pursuing Mormons and buried where he falls.

Lucy Ferrier: The child John Ferrier carries with him as the Mormons discover and rescue them. Lucy is not his child, but her parents are dead and so he adopts her, she taking his name. She grows up into a beautiful young lady and falls in love with rancher Jefferson Hope when she goes into the city. Their romance blossoms, but is threatened by the Elders’ insistence that she marry within the cult. After John Ferrier is shot she is brought forcibly back and wed to Enoch Drebber, but with a broken heart she only lasts a month before she dies.

Jefferson Hope: Having fallen in love with Lucy and secured her father’s permission to marry, he is determined to save them both from the Mormons, but while away hunting he comes back to find John dead and already buried. Hiding out in the hills, unable to take on all the Mormons, he hears of her death and goes down into the settlement, taking her wedding ring and vowing vengeance on the men who caused her death. He spends his life fulfilling this promise, and finally makes good just before he dies himself, from a heart condition. He admits to his crimes, proving Sherlock Holmes correct in his assumptions.

Enoch Drebber: Son of one of the powerful Holy Four of the Mormons, the Elders and leaders of the cult, he desires Lucy Ferrier for his wife. Well, truth to tell, she could have gone to his friend, Joseph Stangerson, but they played cards and he won her. Once he has her though, having witnessed the death of her father, he loses interest and when she dies he is not at all bothered. Later he breaks with the Mormons for unspecified reasons (perhaps he was interfering with the wives of others? He’s that sort of prick) and flees America with Stangerson acting as his secretary. Jefferson Hope follows him, tracking the two across Europe until he finally runs them down in London. Picking him up as he emerges drunk out of Mrs. Charpentier’s boarding house, he takes him to Lauriston Gardens, where he reveals his identity and forces Drebber to take one of two pills, the other of which he takes himself. He says Providence guides his hand, or maybe he’s just lucky, but in either case Drebber takes the poison pill and dies. Hope leaves him there, where he is discovered by PC Rance, leading to the beginning of the mystery, while he goes off to kill Stangerson.

Joseph Stangerson: Another son of the Elders, he is Drebber’s confederate, and indeed subordinate, working for him as his secretary. It seems likely he is the one who shot John Ferrier, though this is never confirmed. After he hears of the death of Drebber, and with a telegram in his pocket advising him that his pursuer is in Europe, he remains in his hotel, terrified to come out. But Hope gets in, and offers him the same choice he gave Drebber. Stangerson, however, takes matters into his own hands and goes for Hope, who then stable him through the heart.

The story in 100 words or less.
(The Tealdeer version)

After both Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson are found dead, the one poisoned, the other stabbed, Sherlock Holmes links the crimes to a cabby with the initials J.H., who turns out to be Jefferson Hope, tracking the two men from America after they were both responsible for the death of his sweetheart and her father. Before he can be brought to trial however, Hope dies of a heart condition.

Holmes’ Hit List

This is where I will recount all the “collars” Holmes has racked up during his career, at least in the stories. The criminals he has caught or that the police have caught with his help. Only ones directly involved in the stories will be entered here; for instance, when he refers back to some case not recorded by Watson - “I remember the case of…” which involved a criminal he caught, this will not be noted.

Jefferson Hope

Total: 1
Running total: 1

The Holmes Body Count

Broken down into those in whose death Holmes or Watson have an active, accidental or deliberate hand in, those who die incidentally (victims, witnesses, police etc) and those who are mentioned as having died as a result of the case, even if that is before Holmes gets involved. I’m not blaming him for all these deaths, nor making any judgement; merely listing the number of people who die as the stories progress.

Direct refers to deaths Holmes either had a direct hand in, or that he caused by his presence.

Indirect refers to deaths which occur as a result of Holmes’ investigation, but usually outside of his presence or control, for instance, someone Holmes is pursuing kills an accomplice to cover his tracks etc.

Incidental takes into account deaths NOT CONNECTED DIRECTLY TO THE CASE but which would most likely not have occurred had Holmes not been investigating. Bystanders, servants, girlfriends, that sort of thing.

Historical refer to deaths which occur as a result of the case but before it, for instance people killed in the events leading up to the case.

Direct: None yet
Indirect: 3 (Jefferson Hope, Stangerson and Drebber)
Historical: 2 (John and Lucy Ferrier)
Total: 5

Famous firsts

Obviously, this being the first time we meet the pair, there are quite a few.
First meeting of Holmes and Watson
First mention of Baker Street
First examples of Holmes’ deductive methods
First connections of Holmes with Scotland Yard

Satisfied Customer(s)?

No customer as such so this would be a N/A.

Legal outcome (if any):

Arrest made but culprit dies before coming to trial.
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Old 03-08-2023, 06:30 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm so pleased to see a dedicated thread to exploring Doyle's works! I have a substantial collection of rare Holmes treasures and am actively exploring the original tales, myself.

In this blog post from 2020 I showcase a few of my rarities, including an original 1967 first-single-volume-edition of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, comprising the complete texts of the four novels and fifty-six short stories, accompanied by an introduction, notes, maps, diagrams, photographs, and drawings – an indispensable possession for all mystery fans.

I also have the complete 223-CD collections of every radio dramatization in existence, including the 83-CD original CBS Radio Mystery Theater's New Adventures..., the 79-CD BBC Adventures..., the 60-CD complete unabridged audiobooks, and Orson Welles' Mercury Theater broadcast of The Immortal Sherlock Holmes.

I also maintain a Blu-ray video library of The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection featuring every Basil Rathbone portrayal of the great detective - 14 films on 5 DVDs. And I've framed original artwork by Sidney Paget in my home.

But the rarest and most beloved of my Holmes artifacts is something I tracked down in celebration of my 40th birthday - an original printing of the 1893 first-ever publication of the concluding tale of Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of The Final Problem" in which the great detective meets his untimely demise.

The Strand magazine serials were published in clothbound hardcover editions biannually, and "The Final Problem" first appeared with four other Holmes adventures in Vol VI July-to-December 1893. I had a copy flown in from Northumberland in North East England for my library. This lavishly illustrated first edition includes Sidney Paget’s famous image titled, “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” depicting Holmes and Professor Moriarty’s final battle over Reichenbach Falls.

A treasure for my collection.

Just this week I watched the first two Basil Rathbone films, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes each released in 1939. I'll look forward to your future features! "The game is afoot!"
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Old 03-09-2023, 11:32 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Hey, thanks for the interest! And what a collection! I know you're not a TV fan, but really, if you haven't seen the ITV TV series starring Jeremy Brett, you should. It's about as perfect a portrayal of Holmes as I've seen. A sad loss to us all.

I'll be updating again soon; I'm already I think halfway into The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, so there's a lot to get through. Stay tuned, and, as no doubt the great detective himself would say, stay alert.
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Old 03-26-2023, 03:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Title: The Sign of the Four
Year first published: 1890
Type: Novel
Chronology: Second novel, second Holmes story
Location(s): Baker Street; The Lyceum Theatre, the Strand (in passing) Rochester Row, Vincent Square, Vauxhall Bridge Road, Wordsworth Road, Priory Road, Larkhall Lane, Stockwell Place, Robert Street, Cold Harbour Lane; Norwood; Pondicherry Lodge; Lower Camberwell; Lambeth; Millbank Penitentiary; India* - Muttra*, Agra*, Madras*; Andaman Islands*
Date: September 1888
The crime or the mystery: The disappearance of Captain Arthur Morstan and the appearance, over six years, of a pearl sent in a box every year to Miss Morstan anonymously. Also a note received the above date, asking her to meet someone who will give her information on her father’s fate. The focus quickly shifts to that of a murder, but not of the father.
The time (if given): 11 PM (for the murder, or at least, the discovery of same)

(*in flashback; Small’s story)

The Players
The client(s): Miss Mary Morstan
The victim(s): Bartholomew Sholto
The accused or suspected: Thaddeus Sholto, his brother
The arrested: Thaddeus Sholto. McMurdo, Lal Rao
The investigating officer(s): Inspector Athelney Jones
The advocate(s): Holmes and Watson. Mary Morstan
The real culprit(s): Jonathan Small and Tonga, an islander from the Andamans (a pygmy)
Others: Mrs. Bernstone, housekeeper at Pondicherry Lodge; McMurdo, the gatekeeper at the Lodge; Lal Rao, Indian servant at the Lodge; Sherman the taxidermist; Mrs. Cecil Forrester, with whom Miss Morstan lodges; Toby the dog; Mordecai Smith, boat owner; Mrs. Smith, his wife; Wiggins, leader of the Baker Street Irregulars

The clues: A poison dart, small footprints in Sholto’s room, the note bearing the Sign of the Four
The red herring(s): None
The breakthrough: Holmes figures out where the Aurora has been hidden, and is lucky enough to be there when Smith comes calling for it.
The result: The treasure is lost, but Small is taken. Tonga is killed and Watson is engaged to Mary Morstan.
[b[]How the case is solved:[/b] Realising there have been two people in the room when Bartholomew Sholto was murdered, and seeing the name Jonathan Small on the paper with the Sign of the Four on it, Holmes searches for the launch which he has determined is to take Small to a ship which will enable him to get out of the country. Having located it, he and the police chase it till they run the criminal down and take him in.

Famous Firsts

First mention of Holmes’ use of cocaine
First mention of the monographs he has written
First “review” by Holmes of Watson’s chronicling of his cases
First mention of Mrs. Hudson by name (in A Study in Scarlet she is just referred to as “the landlady”)
First meeting of Watson with his soon-to-be wife
First time Holmes plays the violin
First participation in a case by Holmes of Inspector Athelney Jones

Deductions made by Holmes which have nothing to do with the case:

That Watson has been out to post a telegram

That the watch Watson hands him belonged to his brother, who had a bad life and squandered his inheritance, fell into debt, out of which he occasionally rose. He was clumsy and careless, took to drink and has passed on.

Before the case

Watson is arguing with Holmes about the damage he is doing to his body and brain by taking cocaine. Holmes argues that he gets bored when there is no case, and this is his alternative. He lets Watson know about the monographs he has written, then he examines Watson’s watch, whereupon Mary Morstan is shown in.


Mary Morstan arrives to request Holmes’ help. She has been receiving, for six years now, a pearl sent in a box, from an anonymous source. She has lost her father, whom she went to meet in London after he had returned from service in India, but he never turned up and she has not seen him from that day to this. She now has received a letter to ask her to meet a mysterious person who he says will tell her what happened to her father. She is allowed bring two friends, but no police, so Holmes and Watson accompany her to her meeting. In the cab she shows them a piece of paper she has found in her father’s desk, marked with four crosses and the legend “The Sign of the Four - Jonathan Small, Mohammed Singh, Dost Akbar and Abdullah Khan.” This means nothing to Holmes, though he notes it is written on Indian paper and was once pinned to a board, but has since been carried in a pocketbook.

On meeting the writer of the letter, they find it to be a small, nervous man called Thaddeus Sholto, who tells them that he and his brother Bartholemew are the sons of Major Sholto, who was in the same regiment as Miss Morstan’s father. He further enlightens them that his own father had a terrible fear of men with wooden legs, and that he received a letter from India which shocked and frightened him so that he sickened and never recovered. The night he died he told his sons how Captain Morstan had died, of a heart attack after the two men had quarrelled about his share of what he called the Agra treasure. Fearful that he would be blamed for the man’s death, he had his body buried and said nothing. The decision weighed heavily upon him for the rest of his life, and he now told his sons that he had wronged Mary Morstan and that half the Agra treasure was hers. He was about to reveal its location, when he spotted someone looking in the window and died of fright. The next morning the room had been turned over, and a piece of paper was found pinned to the dead man’s chest with “The Sign of the Four” scrawled on it.

He says they must go to see his brother, Bartholomew, but when they get there they find to his distress and their worry that the man is dead, seemingly having been killed without anyone entering the room he is in. It’s locked and the windows are closed. There is a poison dart in Bartholomew Sholto, and his brother additionally bemoans the theft of the Agra treasure. Holmes sends him to alert the police, while he figures out how the assassin got in. Fairly quickly he deduces it was through a hole in the roof, with no doubt a companion to lower him down and pull him back up with the aid of a rope. The footprints left by the companion are very small though, which sets the detective thinking.

Seeing that the footprint leads into some creosote, Holmes sets a dog on the companion’s trail, but unfortunately all it does is lead them to a timber yard, where the creosote probably came from. Thaddeus, meanwhile, is, as he worried he might be, arrested, along with the rest of his household, by the investigating officer, Inspector Athelney Jones. Holmes continues his own investigation and concludes that the real killer, whom he now knows to be a man called Jonathan Small and a tiny savage from the Andaman Islands, have booked passage on a launch called Aurora, but there is no sign of her. He sets the Baker Street Irregulars to track it down.

When Thaddeus Sholto is proven to have an alibi Jones has to let him go, and turns to Holmes for help. Holmes has him commandeer a police launch and they set off after Small and his companion, having located the launch in a shipyard and been lucky enough to be there when Mordecai Smith came back shouting for it to be ready for eight o’clock. There ensues a high-speed chase down the Thames, during which the pygmy is shot by Watson as he readies a poison dart to blow at them, and Jonathan Small tips out the treasure into the river before being caught.

In custody, he tells his story, of how he lost his leg to a crocodile and therefore had, as Holmes had deduced, a wooden one, how he had served in the army during the Indian Mutiny, and how he had fallen in with three others (Dost Akbar, Mahomet Singh and Abduallah Kahn, you’ll now doubt be unsurprised to hear) who had set about a envoy of a rajah, who was carrying his master’s treasure, killed him and hid the chest away, until the mutiny had been put down. But the murder of the envoy had been witnessed and all four of them were arrested and convicted. Moved eventually to the Andaman Islands, Small confided in Major Sholto, who was posted there in command and due to go home on leave, and broke from his gambling debts, about the treasure. He and Morstan then agreed to Small’s terms, to help all four escape - for they had sworn an oath to always act together, and this agreement marked with the Sign of the four of them - and they should both have a fifth share of the loot. Sholto however betrayed them all, and left without helping them, but did help himself to the treasure, which he brought back to England.

Small eventually managed to secure his escape by befriending Tonga, a pygmy who had fallen ill and whom he nursed back to health, and who was then fanatically loyal to him. Back in England, he then shadowed Major Sholto until finally he heard he was dying, got into his room and stole the treasure. He says he had not intended to kill him, but Tonga did that himself. This does not of course save him from prison. There is good news for Watson though, when Mary Morstan accepts his offer of marriage.

After the case

Not a lot. Watson announces his intention to marry Mary Morstan, and Holmes groans that he is about to lose his friend so soon.


I don’t know if he did it on purpose, but damn if that chasing the launch down the Thames scene wasn’t made for TV adaptation! You’d have to say this novel has more overall excitement, or at least a more powerful denouement than the previous; whether Doyle learned from it or not I don’t know but it’s a real crowd-pleaser. So much happens here, and it’s odd in a way that having gone to the trouble of getting Holmes and Watson together he pulls them apart in the next novel, leaving the latter having to visit or be called in by Holmes whenever there’s a case. I mean, if this was his plan, why have them living together in the first place? Or if he was going to split them up, why not wait till later, when they’d had a bunch of adventures? Anyway the special relationship between them will continue, but there’s an element of it being dampened now, as a) they’re no longer living in the same rooms and b) one of them is no longer a bachelor.

This novel does much to solidify the idea of Holmes as an unemotional calculating crime-solving machine. This comes through strongest when, at the beginning of the novel, he’s asked by Watson what he can glean from the watch he’s handed, and goes into some detail about the owner, his late brother’s troubles, upsetting Watson. He remarks that he saw it as a problem to be solved and had not taken into account the personal side of things. He does apologise, but it’s illustrative of how little Holmes considers people’s feelings, even those of his friend. When Mary Morstan has left Watson remarks on her beauty and Holmes grunts that he didn’t notice. Not only that, but when his friend tells him of his engagement he groans that it will be the ruin of him; this is quite selfish of the man. He’s thinking now Watson will move out and I will have nobody to bounce ideas off and go for walks with. A bit childish really, a bit petulant.

We’re introduced here too to a second inspector, whom again I think we don’t hear from after this; as I say, and as everyone knows, Lestrade ends up being the main police contact for Holmes. I suppose it makes sense just to have one. I think this is the first real instance we hear too of Holmes’ use of cocaine, quite a controversial subject I would have thought in the nineteenth century. Here we’re told he uses it only when he’s bored and has no cases, as it relieves the everyday humdrum, which is I suppose how most people look on cocaine use: an escape, a way to ignore or to not to have to deal with the world they can’t face or don’t like.

The treasure is handled in a different way too. It’s supposed to belong to Mary Morstan, but Watson sees it as an obstacle to his love for her. If she were to marry him he would feel that she might think he was doing it for money, and even if she didn’t, society would. Apart from that, as a woman of means and wealth she would surely suddenly have many suitors, and he doesn’t consider himself as having much to offer. When the chest is found empty, Athelny Jones is angry, Holmes really doesn’t care as long as he has solved the mystery, and both Watson and Mary are happy, as there is now no barrier to their love, which is reciprocal. So it’s almost a macguffin I suppose: something that moves the plot along but in the end is actually not important to it. Well, apart from poor old Bartholomew Sholto being killed for it, I guess.

Character Study

Thaddeus Sholto: Although much is made of his description, and after Mary has engaged Holmes he is the agency by which Holmes and Watson are brought into the mystery, he doesn’t actually figure that much in the story. He sort of fades out of it once the body is discovered and he is arrested on suspicion of murdering his own brother. We hear later that he has been released as he has an alibi, but we hear no more of him after that.

Mary Morstan: In similar fashion, though she acts as the conduit for Holmes to get involved in the mystery, she’s a sort of peripheral figure, being brought news of the progress of the case by Watson, but not involved in it. Of course, she does play an important part at the end when she agrees to marry Watson.

Inspector Athelney Jones: And a third time, pretty much peripheral. Jones is, like much of the police input to Holmes stories, used really as a way to show how the official force bollocks things up, and how Holmes has to show them where they go wrong. Although he engages the police launch and does take part in the chase down the Thames, he’s mostly a sort of spectator and then a listener as Small pours out his story. He gets it wrong, has to turn to Holmes and is relegated to watching more or less while the consulting detective solves the mystery.

Jonathan Small: I suppose you’d have to say that of all the characters here other than Holmes and Watson, Small has the largest (sorry) part to play, but even so it’s only at the end that we even know his story, and it is told rather quickly, just a sort of tying up of loose ends and explanations. Unlike Jefferson Hope, who takes up the entire second part of A Study in Scarlet, Small does not have the lion’s share of the narrative, despite being the unintentional murderer and intentional thief.

Better than you

Holmes as always smiles when he sees Athelney Jones arrest Thaddeus Sholto, along with most of the rest of the household. He knows the inspector is on the wrong track, but then things do not go entirely his way either. Witness his comedic bumbling effort to track down Tonga via the creosote and Toby the dog, or his frustration when he can’t find the launch. He even admits at the end that he believed the islander out of darts, and when he is told that Tonga retained one in his pipe, shrugs that he had not thought of that. So he’s not infallible, but in fairness never claimed to be. You’d have to say that in one way though his break in the case comes about purely by luck. Yes, he methodically searches the shipyards along the docks until he finds the one that took in the Aurora, but he would have had no idea either that it was leaving that night or what time, had Smith not chanced to stumble along with the information rather helpfully. So there is an element of chance in his solving the mystery.

I guess that’s good, as it shows us that the mighty detective, with all his powers of reasoning and deduction, can be as susceptible to the vagaries of fate and chance as any of us, and like all cases, it’s often pure dumb luck, being in the right place at the right time that gives you the answer and allows you to solve it.

The story in 100 words or less.
(The Tealdeer version)

After a lady comes to Holmes to ask him to accompany her in finding out what happened to her father, a murder results. This turns out to be due to the theft of a great box of treasure by the man who originally stole it, and who was betrayed by the father of the dead man. Holmes catches him but the treasure is lost overboard in the case. Watson marries the client.

Holmes’ Hit List

Jonathan Small, Tonga

Total: 2
Running total: 3

The Holmes Body Count

Direct: 1 (Tonga)
Indirect: 1 (Bartholomew Sholto)
Incidental: 0
Historical: 4 (Major Sholto, envoy, soldier killed by Small in his escape bid, Captain Morstan)
Note: it would be ridiculous to add in all the soldiers and civilians killed in the Indian Mutiny, so it should be understood that the Body Count only covers specific characters in the story whom we are told died or were killed, and either were named or described - in the latter case, the soldier Small kills as he escapes from the Andaman Islands.
Total: 6
Running total: 11

Satisfied Customers?

In this section I will ask the question, did Holmes give value for money/time, and did he solve the case in a way that satisfied the client? Did he do all he could on behalf of them, or did he leave them hanging? Were they, in the end, glad to have sought out his services, or did they perhaps wonder they they had bothered?

Some of these will be nowhere near as straight-forward as asking was the case solved? In many stories, the answer is in the affirmative but this does not always necessarily mean that the client’s best interests have been served, or that the outcome is a satisfactory one. I will be explaining my reasoning and why I make the determination I do.

Hard to call this one really. Essentially, you would say no, as the object the client had in mind was to find her father, and he is dead, but then, she finds perhaps something more important, love with John Watson, so on balance I would say YES, though in fairness not through any agency, and indeed against the personal preference of Holmes.
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