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