S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
GASP! It’s been a hot minute since I last posted one of these, I know. But THE RESOLUTION I’ve made (drama necessary, haha) is to read at least one book a month (ideally two, so I can work through Harry Potter and still enjoy other books), and I want to finish off the Sherlock Holmes collection I’ve had chilling on the back-burner for ages now. I still have a decent chunk of the book leftover, and tomorrow starts the New Year, so hopefully I can kill it off in the first week!
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get right down to this newest short story. The Reigate Squires occurs after a particularly strenuous case for Holmes, and it finds Watson visiting him abroad to check on his health. After suggesting a spring vacation, they are off to visit Colonel Hayter near Reigate in Surrey (man, I get jealous of my friend Foo for her work trips to the London area when it comes to knowing the lay of the land proper!). The Colonel is a genial man, and they can’t help but chat about a peculiar burglary that occurred nearby at Mr. Acton’s home.
Now, normally it’s impossible for Holmes to do anything without cases finding him (at least, as far as these tales are concerned), and such is the case here. A murder unfolds that night, and next thing you know, the local inspector has arrived to seek Holmes’ professional aid. He understands that Holmes is recovering from an illness, but really, please? Pretty please? It’s likely nothing compared to the exciting international case Holmes just finished.
The murder was of the coachman of the Cunningham’s, another local family–presumed to be a botched robbery. The only clue, a curious fragment of note with the time of the murder written upon it. Holmes is particularly interested in the note. When everyone rounds together to visit the Cunninghams, the inspector nearly slips about the note. On that note (haha), Holmes falls over flat on his face. From here, his behavior becomes even more erratic; he writes a note for Mr. Cunningham to sign with the wrong time of the murder upon it, he knocks over a bowl of oranges and forces the blame upon Watson… and then, poof! He’s gone.
Turns out, he’s inspecting Alec Cunningham’s dressing-gown for the remainder of the note. In that act, he riles up the two Cunninghams are they are off in a flash to assault Holmes, attempting to murder him with an inspector right there in the next room over! An act of desperation, surely. They are arrested, and it’s up to Holmes to fill in the gaps to wrap up the story.
Basically, the Actons and the Cunninghams were both rich at one point, but were involved in a legal battle because the Actons had rights to some of the Cunningham’s land. The Cunninghams attempted to find the paperwork regarding this in the burglary, failed, then made it look like they were after petty items. The coachman, William, had followed, witnessed the act, and proceeded to blackmail his employers. The Cunningham son has a nasty disposition, and tricks William to come to the home and murders him (his father complicit–the handwriting of the note proves this fact) under the guise of the local burglaries.
Now, there’s always a little touch of the fantastic in Holmes’ methods, and in this case, it’s the quick work of handwriting analysis that I dislike. Holmes goes on at length about being able to tell the age, dominance, and blood relations in the handwriting. It may be simply because I know little of handwriting analysis to confirm or deny his words (which is extremely true, for the record–my ignorance, that is). I felt a little frustrated in not knowing the truth behind the matter, and it derailed me from the story for a bit, since the note was the main focus of the entire tale.
Interested in The Reigate Squires? It can be purchased here.