Holmes and Watson investigate the disappearance of a gentleman called Neville St. Clair who was last seen by his wife in the most mysterious of circumstances yelling from a window of a house notorious for being an opium den.
What did I think?:
Arthur Conan Doyle has created yet another intriguing detective story in The Man With The Twisted Lip. Once again I found myself hopelessly sympathising with Holmes’ sidekick, Dr Watson as I was pulled into a world where I didn’t have the faintest clue what was going on, that is, until Sherlock explains the case so succinctly that I wondered why I didn’t pick up the clues in the trail of breadcrumbs that was left by the author in the first place. In this tale, Dr Watson proves that chivalry isn’t dead by visiting an opium den to retrieve the husband of a female friend who hasn’t been seen for a few days. What he doesn’t expect is to also find his friend Sherlock there – in fact, he almost misses him completely so great is Sherlock’s disguise.
Even though Holmes admits his fondness for “cocaine injections,” he soothes Watson’s worries and explains that he is working on a case not partaking in some opium fuelled orgy. Before long they are taking a cab to meet a woman desperate for their help after she last saw her husband in the same building but by the time she reaches the top room where she saw him he has vanished. The police working the case are also mystified especially as some of his clothes are found in the same room, there are some bloodstains on the window ledge where he was seen by his wife and a coat belonging to him was washed up on the edge of the river weighted down with coins.
I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who has not read it but I have to say that I really didn’t see this twist coming! It was pure brilliance, stands out as one of my favourites in the collection and is one of those stories that makes you shake your head in disbelief wondering how on earth a tale like this was imagined as the plot is so intricate. Holmes as always is a fantastic character with so much depth although I feel slightly cynical over the fact that he managed to disguise himself so well that one of his closest friends would not recognise him. Suspending my disbelief however I just let myself go with the flow and enjoy the writing. For in the end I don’t think anyone could deny that Arthur Conan Doyle knows how to spin a yarn and hook his reader. I’ve come to discover while reading this collection that it doesn’t really matter if justice is not served or indeed if no crime has been committed in the first place. Instead, you can just sit back (with a nice cup of tea/your own favourite tipple) relax and enjoy a master of British detective fiction.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Nightlong River 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.