What’s A Case of Identity all about?:
Miss Mary Sutherland, angry and beside herself with feelings of loss, asks Sherlock Holmes to solve the sudden, mysterious disappearance of a shy and attentive man she has grown to love upon the very day they were to be married.
What did I think?:
A Case of Identity is the third story in this Sherlock Holmes collection and one of the shorter ones but one which I enjoyed immensely. It opens on Holmes and Watson having an interesting discussion in their lodgings at Baker Street where both men have differences of opinion (until Holmes brings Watson round to his way of thinking as usual!). Watson believes that many of the common crimes committed that they are aware of through the newspapers are terrible enough but are neither fascinating or artistic enough to excite him. Holmes disagrees vehemently declaring that: “there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace,” and that Watson would be surprised if he knew what actually bubbles beneath the surface of the most common of circumstances.
This links in nicely with the arrival of Holmes next client Mary Sutherland, a relatively wealthy lady who manages to live quite comfortably off the money she makes type-writing. She has another income of about one hundred pounds a year in New Zealand stock which was left to her by her uncle, but hands the money straight over to her mother and stepfather for her keep as she hates to be a burden by continuing to live with them. As Sherlock digs a bit deeper he finds out that when her father died her mother married again to a man who was considerably younger than her, in fact very close to Mary’s age – a Mr Windibank. Windiback is quite strict with Mary and does not allow her to go out socialising but she becomes determined to attend a particular ball and this is where she meets a fellow called Mr Hosmer Angel whom she becomes engaged to in a whirlwind romance.
However there is something a little strange about Hosmer Angel… he has to meet her at a specified time of day (always in the dark) and he is reluctant to give her his home address and merely directs any correspondence she wants to write to a Post Office. Curiouser still, just before they are due to be married he makes her swear on a Bible that she will always be true no matter what may happen to him. On the day of the wedding, Mary arrives at the church to find that her husband-to-be has vanished from the cab that he entered to take him on the short journey, and she is frantic with grief and worry not knowing what has happened to him.
I’m not going to give away how Holmes solves the case of the mysterious missing bridegroom but it’s certainly one I didn’t see coming that Holmes resolves with his usual panache, style, mixture of intense observational analysis and examination of the evidence and logic that he is famous for. Seriously, I don’t know how Arthur Conan Doyle managed to construct these stories – did he start with the conclusion and work backwards trying to make a way that it could all fit? Utterly brilliant and mind-bending, this is my favourite of the stories in this collection so far.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Bees by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference