My Copy: 9780880292610 (image from Abebooks.com)
“Memoirs” is all over the map regarding the stories and how they’re told. I wonder if this is where A.C.D. was getting tired and wanted to end Holmes because he didn’t want to be known only for Sherlock Holmes (hey, Doyle, there are far worse legacies, you know). I do have a book that should shed light on the subject, but haven’t read it yet…and if I was smart, I probably should have before I cracked open this whole book.
Oh, well–gives me something to look forward to and speculate on when these readings are said and done.
There aren’t a lot of well-known Sherlock-isms in these stories, but I’d like to extract some important ones for your reading pleasure when I find them as I give you some brief synopses (minus spoilers) of the 11 stories in “Memoirs”
And here we go again…
Mr. John Straker, the trainer of the favored racehorse, Silver Blaze, was found dead near the home and the horse missing. They discover that the stable boy on guard duty was drugged and none of the boys in the loft woke up when the horse got out. Holmes and Watson go to the home and stables to find out what happened to the man and the horse, and who else was on the grounds that night, and what it all means for the next race.
It’s a pretty good little story, and if you like horses and horse racing you’ll get a lot out of it. I’ve never been much for horses, but I gotta say, I liked the mystery.
“It is one of those cases where the art of the reasoner should be used rather for the sifting of details than for the acquiring of fresh evidence. The tragedy has been so uncommon, so complete, and of such personal importance to so many people that we are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture, and hypothesis. The difficult is to detach the framework of fact–of absolute undeniable fact–from the embellishments of theorists and reporters. Then, having established ourselves upon this sound basis, it is our duty to see what inferences may be drawn and what are the special points upon which the whole mystery turns.” (pg 335-36)
Col. Ross: Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
Col. Ross: The dog did nothing in the night-time.
Holmes: That was the curious incident. (pg 347)
The Yellow Face
Mr. Grant Munro comes to Holmes and Watson to get a bead on the strange behavior of his wife. She’d been a widow from America when he married her, and they had a house in the countryside of Norbury. However, she’d been leaving the home quite often lately, and once in the middle of the night to a cottage down the lane where he caught a glimpse of a strange yellow face in the window. He’s never met the neighbors and has to wonder why his wife is suddenly so secretive and what is the deal with that face. The gents go to investigate as Mr. Munro’s agitation reaches the breaking point.
I have to say, this was a pretty unique little story. I guess it’s one of the few where you can see Mr. Munro’s side and Mrs. Munro’s side rather equally. It made me wonder what I’d do in her shoes–nope, not spoiling it for you.
“Watson, if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.” (pg 362)
The Stock-Broker’s Clerk
Mr. Hall Pycroft, a clerk in need of a job, gets a good one at a prestigious stockbroker’s firm, but is given an even better offer by a man representing a quieter firm that specializes in trade on the Continent. The money is hard to refuse, so he goes to it, but a few days after interviewing with the firm’s director, he figures out it’s the same man as the one who recruited him. He wonders what’s really going on and Holmes and Watson are determined to help him get to the bottom of it.
This was a pretty good story, and has some missteps from our heroes in it, but I found the mystery easy enough to follow. Worth a read.
The “Gloria Scott”
Sherlock Holmes tells Watson about his first case. He was in university at the home of a classmate, Victor Trevor and his observations rattle the man’s father, who didn’t realize Holmes could see a tattoo with some initials on it. However, things get worse when Holmes leaves and a slovenly visitor comes along and basically takes over the house. Trevor senior dies soon after the other man leaves with a threat, and gives his story to his son in a letter. Sherlock and Victor try to find out what on earth it was all about.
For an “origin story” case, this one was a doozy. He was young and probably going to make mistakes, and hadn’t found his footing. But there’s enough there to see what Holmes would become. Worth a look.
The Musgrave Ritual
While cleaning Baker Street, Watson and Holmes come across a tin box full of old cases and relics Holmes kept as keepsakes from his time before Watson. He pulls out what look like rusty trinkets, such as a key and some metal disks, and Holmes tells him that it’s all that’s left of “the Musgrave ritual.” The story contains a sneaky butler, an angry maid, and a family puzzle passed down through the generations and without real meaning…at least, until the butler disappeared.
The Reigate Puzzle
Holmes has been working himself to the bone and become very ill, so Watson goes to get him, only to take him to a fellow soldier’s place in the country so Holmes could rest. Turns out, not going to be much resting since a house nearby had been broken into, and then in another house the coachman was shot while trying to stop a thief, some ripped paper in his hand. Holmes gets sucked into the case and tries to determine the course of events to find the culprits of both the break-in and the murder.
I wondered what it’d be like if Holmes had mobility or health issues, how it might impact him and his working style. Well, I got a good deal of info on that in this story, and Watson got a bit of an education, too!
“It may prove the simplest matter in the world, but all the same at first glance this is just a little curious, is it not? A gang of burglars acting in the country might be expected to vary the scene of their operations, and not to crack two cribs in the same district within a few days. When you spoke last night of taking precautions I remember that it passed through my mind that this was probably the last parish in England to which the thief or thieves would be likely to turn their attention–which shows that I have still much to learn.” (pg 399-400)
“It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which are vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated.” (pg 407)
The Crooked Man
A Colonel Barclay was seemingly crazy about his wife while she wasn’t quite so taken with him, but they had a good marriage by all accounts. However, he began to be jealous of her time and one night they had an argument. Something had happened that evening out that forced them to really have it out with each other. Unfortunately, in the locked room, she started to scream and when someone went around and forced the window open to get in, he was dead, the door-key missing, clawed curtains, and she in hysterics. Holmes and Watson go to find out what happened that evening and what secrets may have come out during that time she’d left the house and returned.
I found this a pretty interesting story. I mean, let’s face it, the amount of exposition that comes from these characters, spilling their guts for all to realize, is unrealistic as hell. But they do make a good story all around…some of them better than the initial set-up of the case. It’s another case that makes me wonder…
“It is one of those instances where the reasoner can produce an effect which seems remarkable to his neighbour, because the latter has missed the one little point which is the basis of the deduction.” (pg 412)
The Resident Patient
Dr. Percy Trevelyan had the good fortune to have a benefactor help him rise in the medical and research field. The man, Mr. Blessington, had some peculiar and reclusive habits, and lived in the same house as Trevelyan’s practice. One day, Blessington finds out his things have been searched through and he becomes more paranoid. But when Blessington is found hanging, they wonder if it was really suicide or murder, and why the man’s things were searched and why he died.
I gotta admit, this one’s not one of my favorites, though the setup was good. I did feel like it had a “gotcha” quality to it in the reveal. Those annoy me because there’s no way to follow the case, not really. Still, good setup.
The Greek Interpreter
Ah, Mycroft comes in to play at last.
Holmes and Watson visit the Diogenes Club to see Mycroft, and he ends up giving them a case. Mr. Melas, a Greek who works as an interpreter in many fields, has a story to tell Holmes and Watson of a very scary encounter he had that was practically a kidnapping. He was forced to interpret to a young Greek man being held captive and starved until he agreed to sign some papers. Mr. Melas was left on the side of the road, threatened with death if he ever spoke of it to anyone. Holmes and Watson take the case, and are alarmed when it appears Mr. Melas was taken again. They have to try and find him before it’s too late.
Well, this story I didn’t like quite so much, though the beginning with Mycroft was interesting. Watson didn’t seem to know Mycroft existed and took it in stride. The club itself, I have to say, is one that’d appeal to me and my reclusive nature…though I can tell they didn’t cater to women (damn).
Still, to each his/her own. Feel free to read.
The Naval Treaty
Percy Phelps, a schoolmate of Watson’s, has a huge problem. He was in charge of copying a Naval Treaty that couldn’t be leaked, and through bad luck or circumstances, the original treaty was taken from his desk before he could secure it. Still ill from his breakdown, Phelps asks Watson to bring Holmes and find out what happened to the Treaty, and who might be trying to destroy him as well.
I thought it was a decent case, certainly better than “The Greek Interpreter.” I could get the gist of the set-up better and follow the pieces as they went along. Worth a read.
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it.” (pg 455-56)
The Final Problem
“It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.” (pg 469)
These are the first words in “The Final Problem,” which was supposed to be the last Sherlock Holmes story. Yes, with Moriarty at last and the Reichenbach Falls.
This is the story where Sherlock actually says Moriarty’s name: no hints, it’s all about tracking down Moriarty and his network and drawing a trap around them. Watson notices that Holmes is particularly on the raggedy edge and tired, especially after meeting Moriarty face to face. They take precautions to get out of London after several attempts on Sherlock’s life and the burning of the Baker Street rooms. But what is it that Holmes is trying to do now, other than stay alive?
“I think that you know me well enough, Watson, to understand that I am by no means a nervous man. At the same time, it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you.” (pg 470)
My verdict on this story: I’m 50/50 on this one, because it’s great we finally get a gist of the Moriarty angle, hinted at in less than a handful of previous stories, but that’s it. The story is largely Holmes trying to stay ahead of him and Watson watching him get worn down in the attempt. Just keep in mind this one’s more of a character-study than an actual case and you’ll probably be less picky than me.
ABOUT “MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES”:
I don’t know how I feel about it even now, because it actually felt pretty disjointed and even rushed. I mean, I guess A.C.D. just wanted to end it, and that’s why Mycroft and Moriarty were thrown into the last few stories. I guess he didn’t want the public to be without the characters, but it just felt abrupt. As important to pop-culture as the Moriarty angle has been in the various Sherlock incarnations, this was a very abrupt sendoff.
Ah, yes. A.C.D. seems to have been done with his creation. And now we can go on our way to other–
This is only part 3 of 8 in this review series.
There’s over 600 pages left in the book.
Whew–I don’t like being made a liar. Guess we’ll have to figure out how Doyle brings his creation back…muahahahahaha!
In the meantime, I’m gonna go make a nice cup of tea (I don’t care how freaking hot it is outside) and put in “The Great Mouse Detective.” I wish I’d had access to “Basil of Baker Street” growing up, but thank goodness for DVD so I can relive the little bit I could see.