My Copy: 9780880292610 (image from abebooks.com)
I bet some of you were wondering if I miscounted again, but nope–apparently this is Arthur Conan Doyle’s last collection of Sherlock Holmes. The very last–complete with the “I mean it this time” from the author:
I had fully determined at the conclusion of The Memoirs to bring Holmes to an end, as I felt that my literary energies should not be directed too much into one channel. That pale, clear-cut face and loose-limbed figure were taking up an undue share of my imagination. I did the deed, but fortunately no coroner had pronounced upon the remains, and so, after a long interval, it was not difficult for me to respond to the flattering demand and to explain my rash act away.
–Arthur Conan Doyle
The majority of these cases have our duo living in or commonly at Baker Street, so a throwback to earlier days, I suppose. If there’s anything rabid readers like, it’s familiar scenery. I am one of those who likes the rooms at Baker Street. It reminds me of my crazy office: papers, hobbies, books of all kinds on every shelf and cups that might’ve once held coffee or cocoa but now might have to be donated to the university science lab.
Oh wait, I’ve cleaned since then. Sort of.
Anyhoo, I guess I’m reluctant to see our lovely boys go, so I’m stalling even on this review. But I will say, there are plenty of interesting surprises to read. It makes me wish Doyle had kept on going…but I guess that’s what fanfiction and movies are for.
I’ll just hop to, I guess.
The Adventure of the Illustrious Client
Holmes and Watson are met by a Sir James Damery, who is requesting help on behalf of a client that must remain nameless, but Holmes–being Holmes–figures out who it is in a few moments of conversation. Apparently, the daughter of an influential man is about to marry someone known to be a murderer and blackguard of the worst type, Baron Gruner, but she’s been fully under his sway and won’t hear anything against him. It’s up to Holmes and Watson to figure out if there’s a way to make this young woman see the truth…especially since his last wife ended up murdered.
I loved this case–it’s a case where you feel for so many of the players and there’s a very certain bad guy. You just wanna knock his head off the more he talks, and knock some sense into the daughter (but then again, we know what the boys know, so no wonder). It made me wonder, what can one do in such a scenario. And yet, the ending disappointed me a bit because there was a bit of a “deus ex machina” feel to it.
Still not spoiling it–hee hee. Definitely in my top short-story cases list for the other 98%.
“I am accustomed to have mystery at one end of my cases, but to have it at both ends is too confusing. I fear, Sir James, that I must decline to act.” (pg 985)
“A complex mind. All great criminals have that. My old friend Charlie Piece was a violin virtuoso. Wainwright was no mean artist. I could quote many more. Well, Sir James, you will inform your client that I am turning my mind upon Baron Gruner.” (pg 987)
“But if the lady will not accept what is already known, why should any fresh discovery of yours turn her from her purpose?”
“Who knows, Watson? Woman’s heart and mind are insoluble puzzles to the male. Murder might be condemned or explained, and yet some smaller offence might rankle.” (pg 988)
The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
Well, this one’s certainly different, and I’ll let the first few lines explain why:
The ideas of my friend Watson, though limited, are exceedingly pertinacious. For a long time he has worried me to write an experience of my own. Perhaps I have rather invited this persecution, since I have often had occasion to point out to him how superficial are his own accounts and to accuse him of pandering to popular taste instead of confining himself rigidly to facts and figures. “Try it yourself, Holmes!” he has retorted, and I am compelled to admit that, having taken my pen in my hand, I do begin to realize that the matter must be presented in such a way as may interest the reader. (pg 1000)
Well, better late than never, Holmes (hee hee). I was trying to remember when Holmes actually got to tell the story in his own way, and it’s not too difficult to follow.
In this case, Holmes and Watson are approached by James Dodd, a young soldier returned from the Boer War who is looking for a comrade who’d been injured and shipped home long before him. Dodd wrote, called, and even went to the family home to find out more about his friend, Godfrey Emsworth. The family, however, insists the boy went on a year-long trip around the world to get over his injuries and get his health back, but any requests Dodd makes to reach him and catch up are shut down. Dodd found it peculiar, especially at night when he finds a blanched face in the window and recognizes it as Godfrey. He’s essentially kicked out of the house and that’s when he goes to find Holmes, because he fears his friend’s life is in danger. They, of course, take the case, and it’s an interesting one all around.
I liked this case, and even though we’re supposedly following Holmes’ POV, it’s not terribly hard to do (and he even admits he’s holding things back for the sake of the audience, which he says is so hard to do–hee hee). And we get a few notions of how he feels about Watson, coming straight from himself. Interesting case, and I kinda suspected the reasons for the ending, but not the story of Godfrey–that was something altogether different.
Sherlock-ism (about Watson):
A confederate who foresees your conclusions and course of action is always dangerous, but one to whom each development comes as a perpetual surprise, and to whom the future is always a closed book, is indeed an ideal helpmate. (pg 1000)
The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone
Watson shows up to Baker Street and sees the page, Billy, there, watching over the place. Holmes has been working his tail off and is sleeping, and Billy shows Watson a wax dummy of Holmes in the chair, or at least the head, hidden behind a curtain. Apparently, Holmes is in danger of getting killed and wants a decoy, but it’s all about a priceless royal jewel and Holmes is on the trail to find it. Some want him desperately to succeed, some to fail, and someone’s coming to visit–but is it friend or foe, and how will Holmes get the jewel if he’s likely to get killed?
This is definitely a fun story, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I was glad to see the Baker Street flat essentially become an important character. Let’s face it, the place has its quirks which prove useful for the “home team.” So–
“I’m expecting something this evening.”
“To be murdered, Watson.”
“No, no, you are joking, Holmes!”
“Even my limited sense of humour could evolve a better joke than that. But we may be comfortable in the meantime, may we not? Is alcohol permitted?” (pg 1014)
“You won’t die in your bed, Holmes.”
“I have often had the same idea. Does it matter very much? After all… your own exit is more likely to be perpendicular than horizontal. But these anticipations of the future are morbid. Why not give ourselves up to the unrestrained enjoyment of the present?” (pg 1018)
The Adventure of the Three Gables
Holmes and Watson are in Baker Street when a bruiser barges in and demands Holmes stay out of someone’s business. Holmes and Watson are looking into the strange goings on at Mary Maberley’s home, a widow whose recently deceased son was an attache in Rome and a former client of the duo. Someone’s very interested in her home and named prices to buy it outright from her, with the stipulation that she could not take anything from the home, except maybe her money and jewelry. All hers and her son’s things are in that home, so she refused, and at one point gets injured interrupting a burglary. Holmes and Watson go to looking, and quickly find out what had the thieves so interested, and who was pulling their strings.
Sometimes there are characters you love to hate. Well, when we get to the “puppetmaster” and the motive, I thought about punching them in the face…but since it’s a book and I might break the spine, I held back. Wow.
It did feel a bit rushed and abrupt toward the end, and the premise just about absurd…but then again, subtlety wouldn’t have done much to create interest in the case. But huh…at least the characters were interesting. This one’s not one of my favorites, but I’ll re-read it just so I can hate on the perp.
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
Holmes doesn’t believe in vampires, and is annoyed at first, but he gets intrigued when he hears about the odd behavior of Robert Ferguson’s wife toward the children, a young teenage son by his first wife, and a baby. Apparently, she’d taken to beating the older child fiercely on a few occasions and was then found with blood on her mouth and on the baby’s neck. When they’d taken the baby from her, she’d confined herself to her room and refused to see anyone. Holmes and Watson are requested to help get to the bottom of her behavior and what could have made such an abrupt change in her, and who all had a stake in it.
I wasn’t sure what this story was going to become, but I liked the resolution and reasoning. I didn’t think it was out of the realm of possibility, and time has proven that in similar cases. Worth a read, and a careful read at that.
“Rubbish, Watson, rubbish! What have we to do with walking corpses who can only be held in their grave by stakes driven though their hearts? It’s pure lunacy.”
“But surely the vampire was not necessarily a dead man? A living person might have the habit. I have read, for example, of the old sucking the blood of the young in order to retain their youth.”
“You are right, Watson. It mentions the legend in one of these references. But are we to give serious attention to such things? This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.” (pg 1034)
The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
Holmes is being cryptic at the start–which does get annoying, but I guess it’s supposed to get us in the mood to read on–and talks about how due to some strange American named Garrideb, there’s a fortune at stake. All the man who consults Holmes needs to do, a Mr. John Garrideb, is find two other men with the name Garrideb and they’ll all get five million dollars. Sounds absurd to our duo, but Holmes and Watson go to meet Nathan Garrideb at his home, who actually requested a consult from Holmes about the will and the matter before John G did. It doesn’t take long before John G. comes back and says that he found another man with the same last name and where he was, but wondered if Nathan would like the honor of bringing him back to town. Holmes and Watson are wondering how legit the will is, and why so many strange stipulations.
This was a rather puzzling case, and I did find the premise as absurd as Holmes did (hell, he flat out says it to Watson). But my interest was with Mr. Nathan G., and I admit I felt some kinship with this eccentric homebody. I just wondered at the case and how long it would take things to come to light. I kinda figured some of it out, but the reveal was definitely an odd turn.
“I was wondering, Watson, what on earth could be the object of this man in telling us such a rigmarole of lies. I nearly asked him so–for there are times when a brutal frontal attack is the best policy–but I judged it better to let him think he had fooled us.” (pg 1047)
The Problem of Thor Bridge
J. Neil Gibson requests Holmes’ help to help his governess, who is accused of murdering Gibson’s Brazilian wife. There are many bits of evidence that point to her, especially a gun found on the floor of her room under some clothes, but she and he both insist she is innocent and yet they can’t prove it to the police. There are also many accusations regarding the true relationship between Gibson and the governess, and his fierce behavior toward his wife. The wife was found shot near a bridge, a note from the governess in her hands mentioning a meeting. Holmes and Watson wonder if he actually killed his wife to be with the governess, she killed the wife to be with him, and who else might’ve had motive in the household.
This is definitely a character-driven story, and the case is rather interesting on its own. I did like the little quirks of Holmes shining through, some of his pet peeves and biases. I was a little taken aback with how he dealt with Gibson; on the other hand, I’ll let you judge if it was deserved or not (for myself, I say “yes”).
“If his wife dies, who more likely to succeed her than the young lady who had already by all accounts received pressing attentions from her employer? Love, fortune, power, all depending upon one middle-aged life. Ugly, Watson–very ugly! (pg 1057)
Gibson: You’re like a surgeon who wants every symptom before he can give his diagnosis.”
Holmes: “Exactly. That expresses it. And it is only a patient who has an object in deceiving his surgeon who would conceal the facts of his case.” (pg 1060)
“It is only for the young lady’s sake that I touch your case at all. I don’t know that anything she is accused of is really worse than what you have yourself admitted, that you have tried to ruin a defenceless girl who was under your roof. Some of you rich men have to be taught that all the world cannot be bribed into condoning your offences.” (pg 1061)
And on that note, I’d like to say “Boo-yah!”
The Adventure of the Creeping Man
Mr. Bennett, the assistant to Professor Presbury and future son-in-law, has come to Holmes and Watson for help. It turns out the widower professor has been acting peculiar since his engagement to the daughter of one of his colleagues, easily half his age. The assistant and daughter, Edith, noticed that the Professor was prone to lashing out, fits of rage, his own dog biting him (when he’d never done that before), and even crawling around the house in the middle of the night. The family are concerned about the Professor’s reputation and what this might mean for it, if there’s some kind of dementia at work or something more sinister. They want to get to the bottom of it before the marriages can take place and nip it in the bud. Holmes and Watson go to meet the man and see the situation for themselves, and find out some very surprising facts.
My eyes were glued to the pages throughout this story. I was really running through all the scenarios in my head, thinking about poisons or molds or scheming relatives, pretty much the whole gamut. I admit, when I got to think about it, I was equal parts disturbed and amused by the situation. Oh boy…Doyle was ahead of his time.
“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones. And their passing moods may reflect the passing moods of others.” (pg 1071)
“When one tries to rise above Nature one is liable to fall below it. The highest type of man may revert to the animal if he leaves the straight road of destiny….. Others may find a better way. There is danger there–a very real danger to humanity. Consider, Watson, that the material, the sensual, the worldly would all prolong their worthless lives. The spiritual would not avoid the call to something higher. It would be the survival of the least fit. What sort of cesspool may not our poor world become?” (pg 1082-83)
The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane
Holmes is writing this one while in his “retirement” in his house near the sea and a school with plenty of intellectual neighbors he can speak with. One morning he is walking along the cliff to descend to the popular beach, which has little pools people can swim in thanks to the tides. He and Mr. Stackhurst end up meeting Fitzroy McPherson on the way up, who chokes and gasps the words “the Lion’s Mane” before dying on the path, his back covered in dark red lines like he’d been flogged. They can see nothing that would cause such wounds, and no witnesses to narrow down when it could’ve happened. Holmes gets involved when there’s some quarreling between other professors about McPherson’s habits, and his apparent meeting with a young woman in a nearby town who’d had many suitors among the school’s faculty and locals. Holmes puts his senses to use and figures out the culprit and the method, possibly just in time to prevent another death.
This case was a bit odd, and I felt silly for not putting things together sooner, but it puts me in good company because Holmes had the same issue. I liked the resolution, though, and will definitely read it again to see if I could put it together a bit sooner.
The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
Holmes is met by a Mrs. Merrilow, who brings a note from a Mrs. Ronder, who is the lodger with a veil. Apparently she’d had a terrible accident and her face was badly disfigured, but now she’s seemingly dying and wants to tell her story right. Holmes and Watson go to hear it, since Holmes is aware of Mrs. Ronder’s case, but not the story behind her husband’s death and her disfigurement.
Character driven and a half–I liked the story Mrs. Ronder told and the attention to detail…and also the final bit with Holmes and Watson, which opened up another world for me. I had to go back and read it again to see what I’d missed, but was pleasantly surprised when I noticed I was just absorbed in her story. Great read.
The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
Mr. John Mason is worried about his employer, Sir Robert, who runs racehorses and lives in a sprawling house owned by his ill sister. Sir Robert has been erratic in his behavior regarding his sister’s friends, and even gave her dog away because it wouldn’t stop yapping. Mason’s worry multiplied when he spotted Sir Robert spending time around the family crypt in the middle of the night. Mason is concerned something’s happened to the sister after finding some bones in the furnace and Holmes and Watson take the case.
Another “love to hate” character shows up in this one, but perhaps that’s not hard to do in this story. Great case.
The Adventure of the Retired Colourman
Mr. Josiah Amberley came to call on Holmes to find his wife and the new acquaintance she supposedly ran off with, taking his securities and other money with them. He’s desperate to get his money back. Holmes lets Watson take point on this one, but he seems to be harsh and annoyed by the case, but later intrigued when Watson gets to describing Amberley’s home and behavior. Holmes then jumps back into it and figures out where the couple went and what must’ve happened to the money.
Oh man, I wondered about this story, and I was kinda right. It’s a story that’s happened with many other detectives, though perhaps not quite the same outcome (and no wonder Holmes didn’t wanna touch it at first). I had a Columbo episode pop into my head when I got to the end of the story and it started me cackling a bit.
Worth a read, if only for another “love to hate” character.
My take on it all…now that the adventures are over
Oh heavens, what a ride that was. This collection was fun to read, and the characters were sharpened to a fine point. Now it feels a bit like NASA’s Apollo program: just when they were getting really good at it, they had to quit. Ugh.
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is a good end to the original stories, however…and the boys are on their next great adventure in so many other mediums now I suppose it doesn’t matter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson have a well-deserved place in English literature, and I’ll be reliving these cases again and again.
A keeper. Happy reading and hugs to all…console yourself with a cup of tea and start all over again if you want (hee hee).