When dividing loyalties, consider your options…

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

So here we are, at the final story in my Sherlock Holmes collection: The Priory School. I’ve read it before, so bits and pieces came back to me as I read. I was mostly excited to be finishing the book so that I could move on to the next, truth be told! But, as to the matter of this story… it has a fairly good lesson on where loyalties should lie, when dealing with family and scandal and so on. The Duke of Holdernesse has a complicated situation, that is only revealed at the end of the tale. He has an illegitimate son (he had apparently tried to enter a legitimate marriage with his mother, but the woman would have none of it and died) whom he kept as a secretary. A marriage and ensuing legitimate heir however upset the matter greatly. The elder son isn’t on his best behavior, and ultimately the wife leaves for France, and the younger son goes to Dr. Huxtable’s priory school nearby.

The case is, when it comes right down to it, the kidnapping of the younger son by the elder, with an accidental murder in-between. Holmes goes about in his usual methods, scouring the region for clues and keeping Watson mostly in the dark until the ultimate reveal. For once, he gets a hefty sum for his involvement (and his silence). The one thing he does do is make certain the Duke understands just how foolish he’s been to keep James, the elder son, under the same roof as his hated little brother, with his behavior being as it is. The Duke assures him that James will be going to Australia to find himself, and that he’s already in the process of tidying up his relationship with his wife since it was ultimately just James that was the problem, and Holmes is satisfied.

My only real question is, why end on this note? I do not know the rhyme or reason behind the stories included in this collection, honestly. I cast a fresh eye upon the introduction to the book, and it mostly says that, of the 56 stories about Holmes’ adventures, they chose those which stood out (which is funny to me, because this is precisely what Watson is supposedly doing at the introduction to each tale). Finally, for now, my reviews of Sherlock Holmes are at an end, until I pick up with my complete collection on the Kindle or another collection with new selections. For those interested, the pretty hard cover edition with a slip case that my friend Jesus purchased for me can be found here.

Interested in The Priory School? It can be purchased here.

~Lils

Too many dancing men and one too many stalkers.

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.

~Lils

A Welcome Return to Baker Street

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

In a curious turn of events, the short story following The Final Problem (last post’s review!) is yet another I never read. It is, however, not surprising that it is the story that should immediately follow the death of Mr. Sherlock Holmes: the triumphant return of said detective. And it is either a very enjoyable short story, or my holiday sickness fading away is causing me to rather enjoy myself. Either way, let us revisit this tale, eh?

It is titled The Empty House, and, most appropriately, half of it takes place in an empty house. It begins with Watson talking about how he remembers his friend, how he attempts to apply Holmes’ methods to cases that pop up now and again in the headlines with “indifferent” success. There is a current case that he wishes Holmes could help solve, as it is strange indeed. But as Holmes cannot do so, Watson satisfies these thoughts by visiting the home himself. While there, he bumps into a grumpy book collector who quickly leaves, but thinks nothing of it.

Naturally, Watson is visited by this man, as he’s come to apologize for his behavior, only, when Watson turns his back on him for a moment, he turns back around to come face to face with Sherlock Holmes. Normally not one to do such a thing, Watson faints at the shock. When he is revived, they discuss the events that truly unfolded at the Reichenbach falls, that Holmes realized what he could accomplish if the world thought him dead. Only Moriarty’s confederates knew otherwise, as one had witnessed Holmes’ escape. “The second-most dangerous man in London”, according to Holmes.

Well, Holmes invites Watson to help him once more, and they set out on the adventure of the empty house–and it really is an empty house. It’s across from Baker Street, where one can see the visage of a Holmes decoy set up. Holmes wishes to catch this dangerous man tonight. But the man is delayed, and Holmes gets restless, until at midnight, the man doesn’t appear on the street below–rather, he comes into the empty house himself, sets up his gun, and shoots! Holmes and Watson overtake him, call the police that were hidden on the street (we even get a nice moment with Inspector Lestrade), and all is well. Holmes explains to Lestrade that this man, Moran, was the guilty party in the curious case that had drawn Watson’s earlier attentions and to leave the attempt on Holmes’ life out of it, giving Lestrade all the credit to solving the other case. The men return to Baker Street to discuss the matter as usual, with Holmes only surprised that Moran had decided to set up his gun from the empty house instead of the street.

On that singular point, I admit to being confused. Guns naturally work better when you have a clear shot, and Moran would not have had a very good angle from the street up to the floor (am I mistaken in remembering it as the first floor (second to Americans)? Seems like The Baker Street building was only a ground floor and first floor, but I could very well be mistaken. Anyway, an unoccupied home right across the street with a level view of Holmes’ window would naturally be the ideal spot. Holmes went on at length about how skilled a hunter this man is, it seems to me that any impatience and desire to instantly kill Holmes would still have the man looking for a good angle. But that would just make for a boring story, I suppose, as the suspense of the wait for Moran as well as his entry into the empty house is a great part of the tale! Next is The Dancing Men, a tale I know well and enjoy a lot. Cheers~

Interested in The Empty House? It can be purchased here.

~Lils