Sherlock Holmes

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published March 13, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb all about?:

A young man comes to see Dr Watson in his surgery with a bloody cloth wrapped around his missing thumb. However, this was no accident. Why exactly would someone want to remove someone else’s thumb? It is for Holmes and Watson to find out.

What did I think?:

This is one of the very few mysterious cases that Dr Watson happens upon himself and brings to his partner, Sherlock Holmes, he of the incredible deducing capabilities and brilliant nose for figuring out clues. It is when Watson has left Baker Street, is married and has opened his own practice. One morning a young man comes to see him missing a thumb that he swears was taken “by murderous intent,” and has quite the story to tell Holmes and Watson as the good doctor rushes him to Baker Street.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, as usual for anyone who hasn’t read it yet but I’ll give you a quick overview. Our missing thumb man is Victor Hatherley, hydraulic engineer who set up his own business but work has been slow of late until a strange, sinister looking man by the name of Colonel Lysander Stark offers him twice what he has made in the past two years simply to look at a piece of machinery that he owns, fix it up and stay the night. For some strange reason, Victor must visit the property at midnight to see the equipment, must stay overnight as there is no way he could return home at that time of night and must keep everything about this job completely top secret before, during and after the work is completed. This is stressed to be of the utmost importance by the peculiar Colonel Stark.

Of course, in complex cases such as these brought to Watson and Holmes things are never what they seem and it turns out this piece of equipment has a use far beyond what Stark has told the engineer it is used for. When Victor discovers what its true purpose is, he becomes in very real danger of losing his life but manages to escape leaving just his thumb behind.

There are not so many breadcrumbs of clues in this adventure as compared to other Holmes and Watson stories I’ve read in this collection but in no way did this affect the excitement of the plot and brilliance of the writing. Colonel Stark made a wonderful villain of the piece and it all got terribly tense and frightening, especially close to the end. It’s also one of those stories where the criminals may not necessarily get their comeuppance which used to irk me slightly at the beginning of this collection but I don’t mind so much anymore as occasionally it’s quite interesting to end the story in this way with the “baddies still on the loose” so as to speak!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

 

Short Stories Challenge – The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published July 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Adventure Of The Speckled Band all about?:

Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr Watson come to the aid of another damsel in distress whose beloved sister has died in rather suspicious circumstances.

What did I think?:

I’m really enjoying making my way through the entire Sherlock Holmes collection of stories and this latest offering, The Adventure Of The Speckled Band just re-iterated to me what an absolute genius Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was as an author. The lady desperate for assistance is Helen Stoner, a member of the well-known Roylott family of Surrey who have a grand estate but have fallen on harder times due to a number of gamblers and wasters in the family that have frittered away most of the fortune. When Helen’s mother passes away she leaves a considerable sum to her husband (Helen’s stepfather) on the provision that part of it should be paid to Helen and her sister Julia when they married.

The stepfather, Dr Grimesby Roylott is bit of a strange character to be honest. He meets and marries the girls mother when in India but has amassed a bit of a reputation as someone with a violent temper, narrowly escaping a prison sentence for beating his butler to death. He takes the girls back to the ancestral home in Surrey where, for a while, things run fairly smoothly… well, apart from the pet cheetah and baboon that he insists should be brought over from India for his amusement which leads the girls to lock themselves in their rooms each night for fear of the wild creatures. Then Julia becomes engaged to be married, not long after which a terrible tragedy occurs.

Julia had confided in her sister that she was beginning to feel quite afraid at night – she kept hearing a low whistle, from which direction she was not sure. Their stepfather has invited a band of gypsies to camp on their estate and she isn’t sure if the sound is coming from there but their rooms are both secure and there is no way entry can be forced. So, one night Helen hears an awful scream and a metallic “clang” sound from her sisters room and when she runs to her aid, Julia is petrified, shouts something about a “speckled band,” and promptly collapses, never regaining consciousness. When Holmes probes a bit further, he is certain that no-one has been inside Julia’s room and there are no obvious signs of injury to the body so what exactly killed her? Worse still, Helen has now been moved to her sister’s room and has heard the same low whistle that Julia described in the days before her death.

This was one of the more sinister of the Holmes stories that I have experienced and as a result, I absolutely loved it. There are quite obvious clues as to the perpetrator of the crime and the reasons behind it but the beauty of this little mystery lies in just how Julia met her untimely death. My heart was in my mouth most of the time, especially as Holmes and Watson take their investigation to the estate and sit in the foreboding room themselves, getting all the answers to their questions and much more besides. And, as always with Arthur Conan Doyle, I couldn’t have seen this conclusion coming! What is the mysterious speckled band? Read it for yourself!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

NEXT SHORT STORY: Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published December 8, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle all about?:

It is Christmas and the disappearance of a precious jewel, along with a rise in the popularity of geese (or one particular goose!) leads to a curious case for Holmes and Watson.

What did I think?:

I’m really enjoying the stories in this collection, especially trying to figure out what exactly is going on before Holmes and Watson (which I never manage to of course). I have found that each story has elicited a different response from me and I’ve actually learned a lot along the way which I had never realised about the classic detective and his trusty and often befuddled side-kick. For example, sometimes no actual crime has been committed and the story veers into the “cosy little mystery” genre with Holmes and Watson solving a puzzle rather than catching a bad guy. I mention this because The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle has within it another new realisation for me, that is – sometimes the perp may not always be brought to justice.

The story is set in the festive season quite appropriately for when I am writing this review and, as often happens, Watson comes across Holmes in his infamous rooms in Baker Street in quiet reflection mode. Holmes has been brought a battered old hat earlier that day by Commissionaire Peterson who tells a rather strange story. The hat and a goose had been dropped by a man in a brawl with some rather nasty characters who had meant to rob him. Holmes is attempting to work out what sort of man owned such a hat, and doing rather well much to Watson’s amazement, predicting such intricate details even down to what kind of products the man used on his hair!

The tale ramps up another notch when the excited Peterson rushes into his rooms after finding something rather curious in the goose that his wife had been preparing for dinner. It is the almost priceless Blue Carbuncle, a jewel previously owned by the Countess of Morcar but had disappeared from her room where she was staying. The police already have a man in custody for the crime, a plumber who carrying out some work in the room when the jewel was assumed to have gone missing. Of course, Holmes believes the man is innocent of the charge and after some digging around is able to unmask the true thief. Sherlock must have a soft heart under that often implacable exterior though as it looks like he might let this one get away. It is Christmas, after all!

This was a really nice little story and came round in perfect timing for the holiday season. At first, I did think it was going to be a bit more of the same old thing i.e. Holmes has a clue, manages to deduce crazy things from the look, smell, taste etc of an object, Watson is befuddled, Holmes provides the explanation, Watson is amazed! I do enjoy this part of course, and his deductions this time were incredibly clever but it can get a little formulaic from story to story. This time, I was delighted to find the cosy little mystery combined with a jewel robbery and then implantation of the said jewel into a goose of all creatures! It was also interesting to see the tender side of Sherlock as he reasons that the jewel will return to its rightful owner and the thief would be unlikely to offend again. Lovely little tale if you fancy reading some detective fiction based in the festive period.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

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Domestic geese have been used for centuries as watch animals and guards, and are among the most aggressive of all poultry – just a random fact for you!

Image and info from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_goose

Short Stories Challenge – The Man With The Twisted Lip by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Published August 14, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Man With The Twisted Lip all about?:

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):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Nightlong River by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Short Stories Challenge – The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Published March 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Five Orange Pips all about?:

Sherlock Holmes’ new client, John Openshaw is worried about a curse that appears to fall on his family. Both his uncle, his father, and now he himself have received five orange pips in the mail with the lettering K.K.K. on the envelope. This appears to be a threat as his uncle and his father have now died in mysterious circumstances after receiving the pips.

What did I think?:

Where do I start with this one? Well, as usual I’ll give a little (spoiler-free, of course) summary of the story and then I’ll try and talk about my very fragmented thoughts on this particular tale. Watson and Holmes are sitting peacefully in the study at Baker Street commenting on a few of their old cases as a gale is howling outside the windows. This provides a perfect opportunity for the next client to come knocking and plead his case to the ever superior Holmes and his willing assistant Watson. The client is John Openshaw and he promises that his case will be one of the strangest that Holmes has ever heard which instantly intrigues our canny detective.

It all started with John’s uncle, Elias Openshaw who emigrated to America as a young man and had a lot of success on a plantation in Florida. He then fought in the army as a Colonel and returned to his plantation where he stayed for a few years before returning to Britain and taking up a small estate in Sussex with his fortune. It is said that he left because he had “an aversion to the negroes, and his dislike of the Republican policy in extending the franchise to them.” Elias was a bit of a belligerent character, not liked by many and enjoyed a drink or three but had a bit of a soft spot for his nephew, John and begged him to come and work on his estate as household manager which John agreed to do. John had no problems with his uncle and they managed to live in harmony together yet John was always curious about one room that was out of bounds which, peeking through the keyhole, seemed to contain only chests and bundles of paper. Then one day at breakfast, his uncle receives an ominous letter postmarked from India which instantly makes him nervous:

“Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five little dried orange pips, which pattered down upon his plate. I began to laugh at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight of his face. His lip had fallen, his eyes were protruding, his skin the colour of putty, and he glared at the envelop which he still held in his trembling hand, “K.K.K!” he shrieked, and then “My God, my God, my sins have overtaken me!”

The next day John is called up to the curious room which always remains locked where his uncle is burning papers and making his will with his lawyer. Turns out he was right to do this as after a few tense weeks where his uncle is constantly on edge (and mostly drunk) he is found at the bottom of the garden face down in a small pool. The estate passes to John’s father whom after a few weeks receives the same letter with five orange pips and the K.K.K. marking with the postmark Dundee, letting the receiver know that some “papers” should be placed on a sundial in the garden. John thinks that they should inform the police, but his father doesn’t seem too worried and he tells us, is slightly obstinate, but John is still shocked when he receives a telegram to say that his father has been found dead, apparently after falling over a deep chalk pit. Now John has received the same letter, the same request and the same five orange pips with the K.K.K. marking and he is desperate for Holmes help.

I’m not going to give away the ending but I have to say this has to be the most frustrating Sherlock Holmes story I have read so far. I really enjoyed the build-up, the whole mystery and the way Holmes went about figuring it out. Then, comes the ending and I was so disappointed! Although I think it’s great that Conan Doyle doesn’t end every single Holmes story with him solving the case, catching the perps, getting a pat on the back etc and there are even times when Holmes is beaten, I just really really wanted to have the mystery explained in this case. It’s still bugging me. I am still giving it a three star rating however, as I was captivated by the story up until that point. For people who have read it, did you feel the same as me? I’d love to know.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure. Probably for the story – not sure for the ending.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: She Murdered Mortal He by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Short Stories Challenge – A Case Of Identity by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Published April 27, 2014 by bibliobeth

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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):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Bees by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

 

Short Stories Challenge – The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Published December 21, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Red-Headed League all about?:

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?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference.