S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
One more down! Last night I read The Dancing Men, a Sherlock Holmes short story that I’ve seen depicted and read many times over the years. It’s a nice, twisted up little tale that involves cryptography (which I love). The dancing men, as they are called, are a written code, hidden behind what appears to be children’s scribbles. Holmes is keen to solve the mystery behind the riddle, but it takes time; he needs more samples of the curious messages. Mr. Hilton Cubitt asks that Holmes solve the mystery so that his mysterious wife can rest at ease. Ever since the messages began, she’s steadily declined in mental health and is just dying before his eyes and he can’t take it!
Sadly, the last message Holmes receives causes him to rush towards Mr. Cubitt’s home in a desire to prevent a tragedy, but when he reaches the station he finds he is too late. Murder has been done, supposedly the loving wife upon the trusting husband. No one is sure who shot first, only that they both suffered injury and he is dead. So, while the first half the of the story was about decoding the messages, the latter half is about solving a murder. The murder isn’t as straight-forwards as the local inspector feels, but he’s more than willing to follow in Holmes’ lead to see the great detective work. Almost immediately, Holmes discovers that there was a third shot, as well as a third person present during the crime. From there, he figures out where the third person has been staying and sends them a letter, written in the dancing men, supposedly from the injured woman’s hand. It is in this fashion that Holmes soon has his man. Once the particulars are ironed out so that the woman will not be shamed with possible guilt of murdering her husband, of which she is not guilty, Holmes quietly puts to rest the dancing men, which soon become immortalized as decor at 221B Baker Street.
It is an iconic piece of decor, really, and, outside of the bullet holes forming letters I can never quite recall, the dancing men are the first piece that always comes to mind for me. This is a brief review, but honestly, the majority of the story that interested me was Holmes’ explaining the finer points of cryptography, and there isn’t much to comment on in that regard! So cheers, I’m so close to done with this collection!
Interested in The Dancing Men? It can be purchased here.