S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
A return to the Sherlock Holmes world, with The Adventure of the Speckled Band! I had actually read this short story back in August, but as I had forgotten the precise details, I wanted to reread it real quick before writing anything about it. Easily done, because honestly this might be my favorite (or at least most memorable) crime committed in Holmes’ portfolio. A young lady, the living remainder of a pair of twins, comes to seek Holmes’ aid because no one else believes her to be in danger. And boy, was she as good as dead had she not. Chronologically-speaking, Watson puts the crime as being one of the earliest ones he witnesses with Holmes, and he is eager to see what takes place.
The lady in question is Helen Stoner, and the criminal in question is her step-father, Dr. Roylott of Stoke Moran, Surrey. He is a huge man of a foul disposition, with an extensive background in India. He has been living off the will of his deceased wife, Helen’s mother, but if Helen or her sister were to marry, they’d be granted a portion of that money. When the sister nearly married, she suddenly died, crying out, “The speckled band!” in her sister’s arms; there were no visible signs of harm. It is believed that their step-father and the gypsies he permits to live on the property are to blame. Helen is now due to wed, and has been moved into her sister’s room–right next to Dr. Roylott. It’s a secure room in every way but one, and this is what interests Holmes the most: a ventilator into Dr. Roylott’s room, right next to a dummy bell pull that hangs upon the bed–that, by the by, is clamped to the floor. Yes, that all seems a bit too obvious an issue, something more tangible and easy to understand compared to other mysteries.
Ultimately, a snake is tricked to slide down the dummy bell pull in the middle of the night to potentially kill the sleeper. However, Holmes and Watson’s interference ends with the snake becoming enraged and attacking its master, killing him immediately. This short story is well-known, particularly for the detail about the identity of the snake. The line reads, “It is a swamp adder! …the deadliest snake in India.” There is much argument on this detail, because this snake does not formally exist. Some say that Watson misheard Holmes, while others (those who believe that the stories are based on real events) point to an Indian cobra as the culprit (and truth be told, every time I read the story, I forget this detail and assume the snake is a cobra). It is a good, quick short story, with a positive end, as Ms. Stoner is alive and well at the end, saved by the detective duo.
Interested in The Adventure of the Speckled Band? It can be purchased here.