My Copy: 9780880292610 (image from abebooks.com)
Ah, yes, the master of deduction has returned (by popular demand, I can assume, if the stories of poor A.C.D.’s rabid fanbase are any indication). From the first story of “Adventure of the Empty House” to 12 more spanning different facts of Holmes and Watson’s partnership, it’s a fun bunch of stories to read.
I don’t recall feeling any boredom with a single story, or any general disinterest. What I did feel at times was relief that our boys were back.
So, without further ado:
The Adventure of the Empty House
Watson is called out to a puzzling scene whereby a judge has been killed, but no one can figure out how the shot was fired or where. He finds Sherlock Holmes on his way back home, and the interesting story of his survival. the judge’s murder has stimulated Holmes’ interest, and leads to a trap to find out if Sherlock is the main target or not of this killer.
Great story, and Holmes’ story of survival is fun to read all on its own. It does explain the erratic nature of Holmes during “The Final Problem,” which I mentioned felt a bit sketchy and hurried in my last review. Well, this clears that up.
“My dear Watson, I owe you a thousand apologies. I had no idea that you would be so affected.” (pg 485)
“There are some trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height, and then suddenly develop some unsightly eccentricity. You will see it often in humans.” (pg 494)
The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
J.H. McFarlane, a solicitor, bursts into the Baker Street flat saying that the police are going to arrest him at any minute for the murder of an old builder, Jonas Oldacre, at his home the night before. Oldacre had, unexpectedly, willed his entire estate and holdings to the young man just hours before his death, and the police are certain of this greed as a motive. Holmes and Watson look harder and go to the builder’s home, while Lestrade is getting more certain of his own theories, and the case unravels, morphs, and puts itself together again in unexpected ways.
This was a very interesting little story, with its abrupt start and all the twists and turns. I liked it a lot and want to read it again soon just to see if I can find the clues a bit sooner the 2nd time around.
“Arrest you! This is really most grati– most interesting. On what charge do you expect to be arrested?” (pg 497)
“It’s all going wrong, Watson–all as wrong as it can go. I kept a bold face before Lestrade, but, upon my soul, I believe that for once the fellow is on the right track and we are on the wrong. All my instincts are one way, and all the facts are the other, and I much fear that British juries have not yet attained that pitch of intelligence when they will give the preference to my theories over Lestrade’s facts.” (pg 503)
The Adventure of the Dancing Men
Mr. Hilton Cubitt comes in with some pages of curious little drawings of dancing figures that have been left around the property, some even chalked onto the walls in the night. They’re scaring his American wife badly, but she won’t explain why or what she thinks they mean. When things take a turn for the worst, Holmes and Watson go to figure out who left them and why.
“Now, Watson, confess yourself utterly taken aback,” said he.
“I ought to make you sign a paper to that effect.”
“Because in five minutes you will say that it is all so absurdly simple.” (pg 511)
“It is not really difficult to construct a series of inferences, each dependent upon its predecessor and each simple in itself. If, after doing so, one simply knocks out all the central inferences and presents one’s audience with the starting-point and the conclusion, one may produce a startling, though possibly a meretricious, effect.” (pg 511)
“What one man can invent another can discover.” (pg 525)
The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
Miss Violet Smith is a poor woman and piano teacher who learned from two men that were friends of her uncle that she should be taken care of on his behalf. One has a daughter she ends up teaching and she lives in his house. However, in a few months, the comings and goings of other people and neighbors has made her uneasy, and she’s been followed on her bicycle by different people. She wants to leave as things escalate, so Holmes and Watson go to find out who the parties are watching over her and why.
This case had a lot of turns in it, and quite a few mini-mysteries in the fold. They all come together pretty neatly, though, and I have to say I was a bit freaked out on the lady’s behalf (and no wonder).
“I get so little active exercise that it is always a treat. You are aware that I have some proficiency in the good old British sport of boxing. Occasionally, it is of service; to-day, for example, I should have come to very ignominious grief without it.” (pg 532)
The Adventure of the Priory School
A Duke’s son has either been kidnapped from his prep school or ran away, and a teacher is missing. No one knows where they could’ve gone, and Holmes and Watson have to deal with a very closed-mouthed noble family and a wary neighborhood around the school to crack the case.
The conclusion of this case is something I’ve seen happen before in true crime, amazingly enough, in some older cases, which made it one I’ll be coming back to to figure out what other clues I missed before. I did find the having to tip-toe around nobles thing interesting (being a working class American, what’re the odds I’d be in that position, anyway?–hee hee).
Holmes: It is the second most interesting object that I have seen in the North.
Duke: And the first?
Holmes folded up his check and placed it carefully in his notebook. “I am a poor man,” said he, as he patted it affectionately, and thrust it into the depths of his inner pocket. (pg 558)
The Adventure of Black Peter
Peter Carey, a bully and a tyrant in his home and neighborhood, is dead and there is no shortage of people who would’ve liked to see it happen. He’s found in his private, locked cabin on the edge of his property, a harpoon pinning him to the wall. It looks like he had a visitor before his end, but who was it and why…and will the list of suspects ever shrink?
Nice little locked-room mystery with lots of possibilities.
He had gone out before breakfast, and I had sat down to mine when he strode into the room, his hat upon his head and a huge barbed-headed spear tucked like an umbrella under his arm.
“Good Gracious, Holmes!” I cried. “You don’t mean to say that you have been walking about London with that thing?”
“I drove to the butcher’s and back.”
“And I return with an excellent appetite. There can be no question, my dear Watson, of the value of exercise before breakfast. But I am prepared to bet that you will not guess the form that my exercise has taken.” (pg 559)
(Uh, I can give Sherlock viewers a hint with that…hee hee)
The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
Holmes and Watson have to negotiate with the king of blackmailers on behalf of a young woman about to marry into nobility, but Milverton apparently has something on her that would call the wedding off and make her destitute. The man is untouchable in the eyes of the law and causes as much fear as Moriarty, apparently. Holmes and Watson will have a helluva time trying to figure out how to save their client and stop his evil doings.
Whew–what a story! What the hell can somebody do against someone like that? I have had a time not wanting to punch the character in the face in my mind…eww. I think Holmes described it best, ya know:
“Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo, and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow. And yet I can’t get out of doing business with him–indeed, he is here at my invitation.” (pg 572)
“You can’t help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards as best you can when such a stake is on the table. However, I rejoice to say that I have a hated rival, who will certainly cut me out the instant that my back is turned. What a splendid night it is!” (pg 576)
The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
Retailers and homes have been burglarized, but all that seems to have been taken are busts of Napoleon, all smashed to pieces. Holmes thinks there is more than some psychological quirk or hatred of the man at stake and takes the case, especially when someone ends up murdered.
I was pretty sure what the result would be, the reasons why the busts were smashed. Not a difficult case, but kinda fun to put the pieces together.
The Adventure of the Three Students
A college student studying for an important exam, and a scholarship, is in competition with 3 other students. When he comes back into his room after a short absence, he finds his papers scattered and maybe copied. Since the college and honor code are at stake, the tutor, who is an acquaintance, begs them for help lest the exam be invalidated and many reputations ruined.
To me it felt like a bit of a flimsy premise–or maybe I can’t think of a better way to describe the gist without giving it away. Granted, as a pseudo-teacher myself, cheating really rubs me the wrong way and is easily one of the things that pisses me off more than anything academically, but it didn’t seem a strong enough premise to get into the story. (Hell, even Holmes is reluctant to get involved!)
My friend’s temper had not improved since he had been deprived of the congenial surroundings of Baker Street. Without his scrapbooks, his chemicals, and his homely untidiness, he was an uncomfortable man. He shrugged his shoulders in ungracious acquiescence, while our visitor in hurried words and with much excitable gesticulation poured forth his story. (pg 596)
The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
A professor’s assistant is found dead in the office of the reclusive man’s home. All that is left to give clues are the assistant’s cryptic dying words, the desk knife he was stabbed with, and a lady’s pince-nez near the body. But no one recalls anyone coming to or leaving the house, and there are no noticeable prints anywhere. Who killed him and why?
This story had some peculiarities to it, and the ending seemed rushed. I wish the reveal had lasted longer, because I wanted to know more about the players involved in that regard. Oh well, I guess we can speculate or re-read at our leisure.
The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter
A Rugby player and favorite of the university team has gone missing before a big game. The few people who spoke to him before are either tight-lipped about the man, or are totally unaware. It’s going to take some guts and some grit to crack this case wide open, especially with reputations on the line on all sides.
“You live in a different world from me, Mr. Overton–a sweeter and healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many sections of society, but never, I am happy to say, into amateur sport, which is the best and soundest thing in England. However, your unexpected visit this morning shows me that even in that world of fresh air and fair play, there may be work for me to do.” (pg 623)
Dr. Armstrong: I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I am aware of your profession–one of which I by no means approve.
Holmes: In that, Doctor, you will find yourself in agreement with every criminal in the country. (pg 629)
The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
A member of the nobility is killed in his home with his own fireplace poker by what looks like a notorious band of thieves and his wife was incapacitated, but still alive. Why did the thieves take what they took and leave the lady alive, and where did they go?
I did like the resolution, though part of me felt it was a bit random how things came about and who the culprits were and all. I guess I feel about 50/50 on this one. I’ll give it another shot another day.
Holmes: I dare say you thought I acted rather badly to Stanley Hopkins just now?
Watson: I trust your judgment.
Holmes: A very sensible reply, Watson. You must look at it this way: what I know is unofficial, what he knows is official. I have the right to private judgment, but he has none. He must disclose all, or he is a traitor to his service. In a doubtful case I would not put him in so painful a position, and so I reserve my information until my own mind is clear upon the matter. (pg 647)
The Adventure of the Second Stain
The Premier was working on a very important state document, the ramifications of which could lead to war if published prematurely or put in the wrong context. He returned to his room to work on it when he found it missing from the documents box he put it in. Holmes and Watson are tasked with finding the document and who might have taken it while being quiet about the matter, something that becomes more difficult when the foreign agent suspected of having it ends up dead.
For the reveal, the motive wasn’t quite as clear to me as I’d like, but the rest of the story clips along just fine. Guess I’ll have to read it again on another day and get another perspective on it.
My take on it all:
Pretty good collection of stories, some were great and really kept me riveted, and some left me feeling a bit skeptical or kind of left out. But otherwise, the backstories and characterizations are largely helpful.
I guess A.C.D. was getting his groove back. Many more great tales to go through, including his most famous one, which I’ll save for tomorrow.
Toodles and hugs, and happy reading.