In The Redheaded League, Holmes is engaged upon two seemingly unrelated cases, a daring bank robbery and the disappearance of a pawnbroker’s assistant. Using minute details of the small mystery, he is able to solve the larger one.
What did I think?:
This is the second Sherlock Holmes story in Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, focusing on a mysterious case where a gentleman comes begging for Holmes’ assistance after his assistant has disappeared. As Holmes digs a bit deeper, he finds out that the pawnbroker had recently replied to an advertisement in the paper seeking men with red hair to join the intriguing “Red-Headed League.” ‘four pounds a week for purely nominal services. All red-headed men who are sound in body and mind and above the age of twenty-one years are eligible.’ The perplexed pawnbroker informs Holmes and Watson that he answered the advertisement immediately, having a fine head of blazing red hair, and when arriving at the meeting point where a queue of other hopeful red-haired men were waiting, was hired on the spot. The most curious thing about this however, is that he is employed for four hours in the morning to copy out the encyclopedia word for word starting with A (naturally!) and is informed that he may not leave the room for the duration. After a couple of months of diligently copying, the pawnbroker arrives at “work” one morning to find the doors locked and the League apparently dissolved with no trace of his employer, or indeed his assistant who had first informed him of the vacancy in the League.
Of course Sherlock solves the case with his usual style and wit, confounding Watson in the process, as usual. As always, the solving of the case is my favourite part as we get an insight into the weird and wonderful deductions of Holmes and how everything fits together to settle the mystery. Unfortunately, this was not one of my favourite Sherlock stories, it seemed slightly on the shorter side of short, in that I felt I was just getting into the story when it finished, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, I believe any mystery and crime fans will find this a good, solid tale with a fascinating conclusion.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference.
Yellow fog is swirling through the streets of London, and Sherlock Holmes himself is sitting in a cocaine-induced haze until the arrival of a distressed and beautiful young lady forces the great detective into action. Each year following the strange disappearance of her father, Miss Morstan has received a present of a rare and lustrous pearl. Now, on the day she is summoned to meet her anonymous benefactor, she consults Holmes and Watson.
What did I think?:
This is the second of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle and opens shockingly on Sherlock having a whale of a time shooting up liquid cocaine. Admonished by Watson he admits that he uses it often as a cure for boredom, little has come in recently case-wise for Holmes, and he finds the drug keeps his mind active. Luckily he does not have to explain himself any further to a dumbfounded Watson as a potential case (and in the future, a wife for Watson!) walks in through the door. Mary Morstan’s soldier father disappeared in mysterious circumstances years previously and since then every year Mary has received a rare pearl with no clue as to whom it was from or why it was being sent. This year however, a note has been sent with the pearl, proclaiming her as a “wronged woman” in that there were treasures owed to her with an unusual request to meet the note-writer so they could explain the situation further. Holmes and Watson accompany Mary to the meeting, and as with all of the Sherlock stories, the mystery only deepens and twists that little bit more.
It turns out that there is a very complex plot afoot involving stolen and buried treasure, a plan hatched up between four convicts (hence the title), a criminal with a wooden leg, a murder committed in a locked room, and the knowledge of some aboriginal tribesmen’s poison dart techniques. All of this is maddening to Watson as usual, but Holmes manages to crack the case with his usual panache, highly developed skills of observation and deduction, and queer often random knowledge. Personally, I didn’t enjoy this story as much as A Study in Scarlet, but I still appreciated the way the mystery is unravelled and then rolled back up in a nice little “Eureka, so THAT’s what’s going on!” moment for the reader. The author certainly does not shy away from complicated plots, and I often wonder how he managed to figure out such minute details so exactly. Another thing that I am finding with the Sherlock Holmes stories and which I am loving, is the feeling of learning a little something as well as being gripped by a fantastic story.
“A Study in Scarlet” is the first published story of one of the most famous literary detectives of all time, Sherlock Holmes. Here Dr. Watson, who has just returned from a war in Afghanistan, meets Sherlock Holmes for the first time when they become flat-mates at the famous 221 B Baker Street. In “A Study in Scarlet” Sherlock Holmes investigates a murder at Lauriston Gardens as Dr. Watson tags along with Holmes while narratively detailing his amazing deductive abilities.
What did I think?:
I’ve read a couple of Sherlock Holmes stories previously, most notably “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” which seems to stick in my memory, probably because I first listened to the audio version at school which was accompanied by a comic strip which you could follow. I’ve also read the new Sherlock Holmes novel “The House of Silk,” by Anthony Horowitz which I loved and highly recommend. “A Study in Scarlet” was the very first Holmes novel, where he meets Dr Watson and solves an enigmatic mystery involving a man who has been murdered with no visible signs of violence except for bloodstains which are not the victims own and a sinister word “RACHE” written in blood on one of the walls of the property.
I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this story, especially as it is a story in two parts, with the second part reading almost like a completely different novel. Actually, I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much – it felt so original and fresh, and I loved how the two parts of the story are knitted together in the end. I ended up with a completely different view of the proceedings than I did at the outset. I just feel that this story has everything you could possibly want in a narrative: suspense, drama, murder, confusion, puzzles, a bit of a love story, shocks, and some random Mormon activity! What’s not to like?