Sherlock Holmes

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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.

The Sign of Four – Arthur Conan Doyle

Published October 23, 2013 by bibliobeth

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)

What’s it all about?:

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.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Short Story Challenge – A Scandal in Bohemia, Arthur Conan Coyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Published July 17, 2013 by bibliobeth

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #3)

A Scandal in Bohemia (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #1)

What’s it all about?:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the series of short stories that made the fortunes of the Strand magazine, in which they were first published, and won immense popularity for Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. In the first story, Holmes is hired by the King of Bohemia to recover blackmail evidence, held by the woman whom the king once promised to marry, but who he abandoned for a woman of noble birth.

What did I think?:

Regarding the infamous Sherlock Holmes, I had only read one of the stories “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” when I was a teenager, but reading A Study in Scarlet  recently, and thoroughly enjoying it, I knew I had to read all the Holmes stories published. In this tale, Dr Watson (our constant narrator) has not seen Holmes for a while, they are no longer “flatmates” as Watson is married, and he worries about Holmes’ constant desire for solitude and increasing dependance on cocaine. I have to say, the opening lines of this story are among the best first lines currently published in fiction:

“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.”

This opening excerpt talks about Irene Adler, the only woman to have ever out-foxed the great Sherlock Holmes. Holmes first comes across this lady when the King of Bohemia comes to him, desperate for his help. There is an incriminating photograph of Irene and the King in her possession, and she is blackmailing him, as he prepares to marry. The King is frantic that he should have this photograph back, as the lady is not of a high social standing, and the photo may ruin his reputation and his current relationship. Previously, he has tried to buy, bribe and steal the photograph, but the intelligent, cunning and ruthless Irene has always managed to out-smart him. And she manages to do the same thing to Holmes, even though he dons various disguises, plays different characters, and is presumed by Watson to be the “master of disguise.” A written letter to Holmes at the end pacifies the worried King and even leads him to announce that “she would have made an admirable queen.”

I love how Doyle’s stories are written from the point of view of a bewildered Watson, who is continuously baffled by Holmes’ powers of deduction. I also enjoyed that the great Sherlock Holmes was finally proved to be human, and able to be beaten! And by a woman, no less. In 1892, when this was written, the era was filled with male dominance, and Doyle giving Irene Adler wit, intelligence and cunning (as well as the obvious beauty) shows how ahead of his time he was. The only quibble I have was this story is that it was too short! By the end, I was hooked and felt quite disappointed on finishing. Nevertheless, I am eagerly anticipating more Holmes in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Butcher’s Perfume, Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle

Published April 19, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“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?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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