In 1891 and ’92 Arthur Conan Doyle wrote twelve short stories for The Strand Magazine published in London. The stories all use the voice of Dr. Watson. His stories are about the exploits of the genius, Sherlock Holmes. A righter of wrongs, Holmes helps people to find justice, especially if the problems are difficult to almost impossible to solve. The stories boosted the sales of the magazine so high, that Doyle asked for more money on subsequent stories.
The first of the twelve stories is “A Scandal in Bohemia”. The King of Bohemia has an affair with the beautiful Irene Adler. There is a photograph of the two of them together that he asks Sherlock to get for him from Irene. Sherlock goes undercover, and arranges to get the photo. But, before he can, Irene leaves the country with her new husband and the photo. She leaves behind a letter for Sherlock and a portrait of herself for the King. In the end, the King gives the portrait of Irene to Sherlock.
“The Red-Headed League” is about a bank robbery, and “A Case of Identity” is about a woman who is fooled by her step-father so he can keep control of her money. Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade plays a prominent role in the next story, ‘The Boscombe Valley Mystery’. A young man is falsely accused of murder, and Lestrade asks Holmes for help.
In “The Five Orange Pips” Sherlock must help a man who receives an envelope with orange pips in it and the initials K.K.K. His father and grandfather had also received these and had died days afterward. He tells the man to follow the directions in the letter, but he dies before he can. Sherlock figures out the Ku Klux Klan is behind the murders, and came by ship. He sends an envelope with five orange pips to the ship, and it sinks.
A beggar is the basis for the next story, “The Man with the Twisted Lip”. A woman sees Sherlock because her husband has disappeared. She thought she saw him in an opium den, but all she found were rags left be a homeless man. She has him arrested for murder, but Holmes discovers the beggar is actually her husband. He discovered the pay was better as a beggar, and that is his profession. When confronted, he promises to stop, if Holmes won’t tell his wife. In “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” Holmes finds the stolen carbuncle in the throat of a Christmas goose. He discovers the thief was an attendant at the hotel where the goose was to be served.
“The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, Doyle’s professed favorite story, is about a newly engaged woman who thinks her step-father is trying to kill her. Holmes finds out it is true when a snake crawls into the girl’s room through the vent. ‘The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb’ involves a patient of Dr. Watson’s. The man comes in to see the doctor because his thumb had been cut off at work. The story comes out that sounds fishy to Holmes. When he investigates, he discovers a counterfeiting ring.
A run-away-bride makes up the next story. In “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” Sherlock must help Lestrade find a woman who disappeared as she was walking down the aisle. He discovers that her dead husband from America, was not dead and found her just in time. A thwarted robbery is the topic of the next story, “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet”. A banker is keeping a bejeweled coronet at his house, but it is almost stolen by his niece. When his son stops the crime, he is thought to be guilty of stealing it, but he won’t implicated his cousin,who he loves.
And last, but not least, is “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”. This story involves pieces of the other stories. A lost love, mistaken identity, manipulating father, and elopement. A young woman is hired for a great paying job as governess, that seems odd. She asks him to look into it. They discover someone had been locked in one of the rooms. They discover a father had locked his daughter up to keep her from marrying the man she loves. But, she escaped and eloped.
Although the stories are not in chronological order, the tales hold up through time. Readers today become just as enthralled with Sherlock Holmes as they did when the stories first came out, over a hundred years ago.
A Scandal in Bohemia
Although the character has been used in many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories, Irene Adler only shows up in this tale. She is often portrayed as Sherlock’s love interest, though he did have a bit of a crush, it was more a respect for her wit. The story begins with a visit from the King of Bohemia in disguise. The king is engaged to a young Scandinavian princess from a very conservative family. The problem is five years before, the king had had an affair with a beautiful opera singer, Irene Adler. She was in possession of some love letters and a photo of the two of them together. He needed it back, but all attempts to retrieve it had failed, including burglary, threats and bribes. He offers Sherlock a thousand pounds to get it. Sherlock accepts the job.
In disguise, Sherlock finds Irene just as she is marrying a successful lawyer and preparing to leave for America. After setting up a plan with Watson, his trusty side-kick and the narrator of all the stories, they rush to Irene’s house. Sherlock has arranged for a fight to break out in front of her house, just as she arrives home. He rushes in to save her and is injured. She brings Sherlock into her home to tend to his injuries. Through a prearranged signal from Sherlock, Watson knows to throw a smoke bomb into the window and shout fire. Naturally, the first thing Irene rushes to save is the photo she has stashed. With this Sherlock knows the hiding place. But, he is forced to leave and can’t retrieve it.
He meets up with Watson on the street to tell him the whole story, but they don’t know they are being overheard by a young boy. When Sherlock brings the king to her home the next day, they learn that she and her new husband have left, and she had placed a note and a photo of herself in the hiding place. She had dressed as a young boy to follow Sherlock the night before and overheard his conversation with Watson. Since, she didn’t want the photo to get out anymore than the king did, she would take it with her. The king was thrilled and offered Sherlock whatever he wanted as reward. He asked for the photo of Irene.
The Red-Headed League
A man with brightly colored red hair arrives at 221 B Baker St. to hire Sherlock. Since Dr. Watson is there, they both hear the story of the lost job and the mystery surrounding it. It seems that the client was a pawn broker. Not very successful, so when he was given a part time job in the afternoons, he jumped at it. He was paid the princely sum of 4 pounds a week to copy the encyclopedia. The job was going nicely until Oct. 9th when he arrived at the office to find a sign stating, ‘The Red-Headed League is Dissolved’. After further inquiry the pawn broker learned none of the surrounding offices knew anything about the Red-Headed League. The whole thing was a sham. Holmes is intrigued and takes the case. He tells the man he will have the case solved by Monday.
After a little investigating, tapping the sidewalk with his cane and noticing the location of the pawn shop, Sherlock deduces the crime about to happen. Bringing Dr. Watson along, Sherlock has Jones from Scotland yard and Mr. Merryweather, the director of the bank next door to the pawn shop. That is where they catch the officiates of the Red-Headed League red-handed. The men who had hired the pawnbroker did it to get him out of his shop so they could dig a tunnel from his shop to the bank in order to rob it. Case solved.
A Case of Identity
One afternoon, while Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson are discussing the variances of the female mind, a young woman comes banging at Holmes’ door. Miss Mary Sutherland is distraught. The man she wants to marry is missing. She had heard from her friend that Sherlock Holmes is the man to find him. She asked her step-father to hire him, but he would not.
Holmes discovers that her step-father is only a few years older than she is, and is also in control of her finances, of which he would lose control if she remarried. Through careful investigation, Sherlock learns that the man she had fallen in love with an impostor. The typewritten love letters, the fact that her lover and step-father were never in the same place at the same time, led Sherlock to the fact that her step-father was posing as her boyfriend, made her promise to wait for him, and then disappeared.
Sherlock, for once doesn’t find the missing man. He thinks that if he tells her the truth, she will be heartbroken, so he just tells her to forget the man. He is not keeping the information from her to spare her feelings, though. Sherlock feels that to take her delusions away from her would be like taking a cub from a mother tiger, liable to get a man bitten. She disregards his advice and plans to keep waiting for the return of her lost love. Sherlock allows for his half-truth by deducing that her step-father will someday go too far and end up hanged.
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
This is a story with Sherlock’s favorite of Scotland Yard’s best, Detective Lestrade. There has been a murder at Boscombe, and Lestrade needs Sherlock’s help in finding the true killer. Many years ago, John Turner immigrated from Australia, bought a sizable bit of land and started his family. After his daughter, Alice was born and his wife had died, a friend of his from Australia also came to England, with his son. Charles McCarthy had also lost his wife. The two men seemed to have a lot in common and were almost the only friends each man had, Turner even gave McCarthy some land. James McCarthy and Alice Turner grew up together. She asked James to marry her, but he turned her down.
One day, a maid notices James and his father arguing by the pool. It looks like James has a gun and is about to strike his father. She runs away before she can see what happens next, but as she is relaying the story, James appears saying his father is dead and he needs help. James is arrested for the murder of his father, but Alice believes he is innocent. She sends a message to Lestrade asking for help and he asks Sherlock.
Upon arriving Sherlock and Watson investigate the area around the pool and finds a third set of footprints. After more questioning and delving Sherlock uncovers the true villain and the rest of the story. John Turner was with a gang in Australia who had robbed a gold convoy of which Charles McCarthy was the driver. Turner saved McCarthy’s life, but left an eye-witness. When McCarthy learned Turner was in England he came too, and began to blackmail him. That is why Turner gave him land and paid him. Whenever McCarthy learned from his son that Alice wanted to marry him, he told Turner that her wanted them together, too. Turner didn’t want the taint of McCarthy to touch his daughter, so he killed him. Turner signed a statement and Holmes promised to only reveal it if James could not be acquitted any other way.
As for James and Alice; although he did love her, James was already married to a bar maid. He kept the marriage a secret from his father so he wouldn’t be disinherited. But, we learn the bar maid was already married when she married James, so their marriage was conveniently dissolved. Therefore, he is able to marry Alice, which he does after her father dies, seven months after James is acquitted. The many objections of Holmes to James being the murderer, raise enough reasonable doubt for the accusation to be set aside. Only Holmes, Watson, Turner and the reader know who the real murderer of the scoundrel was.
The Five Orange Pips
A young man comes to Sherlock for help. He tells the story of the death’s of his great uncle and father and the danger to his own life. John Openshaw’s great uncle was a colonel in the confederate army of America. After the war, he suddenly appears in England at the estate he had left for his nephew, John’s father to run. One day the uncle receives an envelope from India with the letters ,KKK on it and 5 orange seeds in it. He becomes distraught and burns some papers that had been hidden away in a trunk he brought back from the war. A few days later he is killed. The murderer is not caught.
A couple of years later, John’s father receives an envelope from Dundee with the five orange seeds and the letters KKK on it. He is to leave the ‘papers’ by the sundial. But, not knowing what they are asking for he can’t , but he also refuses to alert the police. A few days later, he is murdered also. The killer is not caught.
Now it is John’s turn. The only clue he has for Sherlock is a diary entry by his uncle annotating an envelope with orange seeds given to three men. Two are killed and one escapes. His letter tells John to leave the ‘papers’ on the sundial. Holmes advises him to leave the diary entry stating that his uncle destroyed all the papers. But, before that can happen, John is found dead.
Holmes wants revenge. He knows the KKK stand for the Ku Klux Klan. He also knows they have been traveling by ship and he deduces which ship they are on, the Lone Star. He leaves an envelope for the captain with five orange seeds and then sends notice to the Savanna police about the arrival of murderers on the ship. But, the ship never makes it. The only thing left is a mast with the initials “L.S”.
The Man with the Twisted Lip
Dr. Watson goes to an opium den to fetch an old colleague. While there he comes across Sherlock posing as an rag wearing opium addict in order to get information about the disappearance of a man last seen there. It seems a respectable man had been spotted by his wife in an upper window of the building. When she tried to get in to see him, she was stopped. So, expecting foul play she went to the police. When they entered the room, they found it empty except for some rags and clothes left by a beggar they knew named Hugh Boone. But, the distraught wife found evidence her husband had been there. Later, her husband’s jacket was found in the river. The police arrest Hugh Boone. Fearing for her husband, she hires Sherlock.
At first Sherlock thinks her husband is dead, but after more investigation, he goes to the jail and washes the beggar’s face only to discover it is the missing man. Apparently, while the man was a journalist, he posed as a beggar for a story. His costume and acting abilities helped him to earn so much begging that he quit his job at the paper, bought a nice house and started his family. His wife had no idea what he did for a living. Sherlock agreed to keep his secret if he would go home to his wife, and stop begging.
The Blue Carbuncle
On Christmas morning Dr. Watson stops in to see Sherlock Holmes and wish him a merry Christmas. He finds Sherlock closely examining a disreputable hat. Sherlock tells him that an honest man had found the hat and a goose in the road. The only clue was a tag on the goose that read Henry Baker. Holmes told the man to take the goose home for dinner and he would try to discover who Henry Baker is, but he had little hope. Shortly, the man comes rushing in carrying the missing blue jewel that was taken from the room of the Countess of Morcar, who was staying at a hotel in London. The police had arrested a man who was working on the fireplace in the room, but he claimed to be innocent and didn’t know where to find the jewel. It turns out the jewel was in the neck of the goose the man had found. Now the mystery is to find out who stole the jewel and how it landed in the goose.
By examining the hat Sherlock finds out the social status, the age, and domestic status of the owner of the hat, but not where to find him. He decides to put a lost and found ad in the paper to return the goose and hat to the owner. Whenever Baker shows up, Sherlock is assured he did not steal the gem, as he didn’t know it was in the goose. After giving Baker another goose, Sherlock finds out where the man had bought the goose and goes there. The goose merchant is irritated because he isn’t the first person to inquire. When Sherlock chases down the inquirer, he finds a small man, James Ryder, the head attendant at the hotel the jewels were stolen from. He and the countesses’ maid worked together to steal the jewel and frame the repairman.
In his terror at giving false testimony and being found with the gem, Ryder fed it to one of the geese, knowing he would get one for Christmas. But, in his haste he lost his goose and took the wrong one. Ryder begs Sherlock not to turn him over to the police and upon release flees the country. Sherlock returns the jewel and knows the case against the repairman will collapse without Ryder’s testimony. After all, Sherlock reasons, he is not paid to correct the mistakes of the police.
The Speckled Band
One morning bright and early, Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes meet with a clearly distraught young woman, Helen Stoner. She is engaged to be married and thinks her step-father may be trying to kill her. Sir Grimesby Roylott met her mother and married her in India. He is from a family of violent people and spent time in jail for killing a servant. Roylott is friends with a band of Gypsies and keeps dangerous pets, such as a cheetah and a baboon.
Her older sister was engaged and died before the wedding. Her last words were ‘the speckled band’. Now her step-father is remodeling the house and has her staying in her sister’s room. Holmes takes the case. He and Watson make plans to go to her house in the country, but first he stops off at the courthouse to read her mother’s will.
At the house, Sherlock and Watson stay the night in her room. When a deadly snake slithers into the room, Sherlock beats it back with a cane. The snake then goes back to her step-father who is waiting for it after it has killed Helen. But, the snake bites him, instead. The speckled band is the snake. Sherlock had suspected her father, especially after reading in the will that if either daughter married, they would take the fortune their mother left for them.
The Engineer’s Thumb
Dr. Watson has a patient who needs Sherlock’s help. Mr. Victor Hatherley is a consultant hydraulic engineer. He was hired to do repairs on a press. The pay was good, but when they picked him up, the windows were frosted on the carriage. The man who hired him, Colonel Lysander Stark, told Hatherley the press was for making fuller’s earth into bricks. But, after he checked it out, he realized bits of metal were around on the floor. When he questioned the colonel, he tried to kill Hatherley. In the rush to get away, Stark cut off his thumb with a cleaver
Sherlock figures out the press was for counterfeiting. And, by doing the math, he deduces the location of the house, even though, they tried to hide that location with frosted glass and misdirection. When Sherlock, Watson and the police arrive at the house, they see it is on fire. Apparently, the lamp Hatherley had knocked over in his fight to freedom had torched the press. The counterfeiters got away, though, carrying some heavy boxes.
The Noble Bachelor
Lord St. Simon comes to Sherlock to find his new bride. St. Simon tells Sherlock that after the wedding ceremony, his wife became short tempered, then went to her room. When they went to check on her, she was missing. They found her dress and ring on the shore of the river. The only thing else the groom knows is that when she dropped her bouquet and a man in the first pew picked it up.
Although Dr. Watson and Lestrade think the case is hopeless, Sherlock thinks its simple. He finds her and the man who picked up the bouquet in a hotel room. The two tells him their story. Hatty Doran, the bride, and Frank Moulton, the man who saved her bouquet, were husband and wife. After they were married in California, Frank left to find his fortune. Having received news of her husband’s death by Apaches she left for England, where she met Lord St. Simon. She agreed to marry him, and would have done her best, but then her husband returned from the dead. He asked her not to make a scene at the wedding, so when she met him later, they planned to leave together quietly. Since Sherlock found them, they agreed to confess to Lord St. Simon, who was not pleased and felt he had been crassly used.
The Beryl Coronet
Sherlock Holmes is contacted by a banker, Mr. Alexander Holder. He had loaned 50,000 pounds to a prominent client, taking a bejeweled coronet as collateral. Worried about the safety of the coronet, Holder took it home to put in his safe. During the night he heard a slight noise and found his son holding the coronet. It was bent and had two gems missing.
Sherlock figures out one man can’t bend the coronet by himself. Also, there are tracks in the snow outside the window. Sherlock deduced that Holder’s niece is the culprit. She had been in league with a notorious criminal, Sir George Burnwell, but was unaware he was a thief. He convinced her to help him steal the coronet. Holder’s son, Arthur, had tried to stop the robbery, but didn’t come forward to blame his cousin because he was in love with her. The niece and Bunwell both got away, but, Sherlock believed they would some day pay.
The Copper Beaches –
For the first time, Watson thinks that Sherlock may be romantically interested in a woman. Miss Violet Hunter comes to Sherlock for advice. She is offered a job as a governess. The pay is astounding, but the requests are odd. She must cut her hair before she can take the job. She takes the job, and Sherlock tells her to contact him if she needs him.
Soon Violet does contact Sherlock. The job gets stranger by the day. The little girl she is supposed to care for is cruel to small animal and the servants, Mr. and Mrs. Toller are strange. He drinks too much and is the only one who can control a huge, starved dog. Sometimes, her boss, Mr. Rucastle, would have her sit in front of a window, with her back to it, wearing a blue dress. Violet finds a lock of hair in a locked drawer that is exactly like hers, but when she looks she finds her own lock of hair in her suitcase. But, the strangest thing is the locked door to a wing of the house with darkened windows. One day, Voilet gets the keys from Toller while he his passed out drunk. She sneaks in and finds a shadowy figure. She runs out smack into Rucastle. He tries to comfort her, but, becomes enraged when she says she didn’t see anything.
Sherlock soon gets to the bottom of things. Inside the locked room is Rucastle’s oldest daughter, Alice. He locked her up when she threatened to marry. After Alice had refused to sign over control of her inheritance from her mother to Rucastle, she became ill with a brain fever. She had to cut off her hair. Rucastle had had Violet sit by the window, so Alice’s suitor would believe she didn’t want to see him anymore. When they go into the room, they find it empty and Rucastle blames Sherlock, Watson and Violet with freeing her. He becomes enraged and sets his dog upon them, not realizing the dog has become mad with hunger and attacks Rucastle. Dr. Watson has to shoot the dog to get it to stop.
In the end, Rucastle is an invalid and must be cared for by his second wife. Alice had escaped to her fiance, who she married, and Violet achieves success as the principal of a girl’s school. The romance Dr. Watson had hoped for his friend, didn’t come about. Apparently, Sherlock Holmes was only interested in Violet as long as her case was interesting.
Sherlock Holmes – the most famous detective in literature. Sherlock Holmes is a man of indeterminate age, somewhere in his 40’s, slim with sharp eyes. He began as a detective while in school and continued through adulthood. He is an eccentric with a far reaching education. He is a master at chemistry, cryptography, philosophy, astronomy, law, politics, geology, etc. Sherlock is also a champion boxer and swordsmen. His use of firearms is astounding. His analytical reasoning solves cases, but his disregard of the accepted laws means the authorities don’t always know he’s solved them.
Dr. John Watson – a medical doctor and friend of Sherlock Holmes. He served in the Anglo-Afghan War where he was wounded. When he first arrived in London, he took a room with Sherlock at 221 B Baker St., but during these stories he is married and just assists Sherlock on his cases. He writes Sherlock’s stories and publishes them, which has boosted Sherlock’s fame. Watson is continually amazed by Sherlock’s skills of deduction. He is often called upon by Sherlock for his medical skills and to bring his gun along. Watson is a crack shot. His character is the one that moves the story along by asking the right questions.
Inspector Lestrade – A detective with Scotland Yard. They think he is the best detective at Scotland Yard because Sherlock allows him to take credit for his discoveries. He is a regular visitor to Baker St. and often shares stories of his cases with Sherlock. Although, Sherlock has little regard for policemen, he does think Lestrade is the best. Although, at times, his speech is a bit rustic, he his well educated and dresses impeccably. As a character his job is to make Sherlock seem even smarter. Representing the above average detectives of Scotland Yard, he still falls grossly short of Sherlock. But, he looks at Sherlock like he’s a resource and Lestrade is not afraid to use him.
Irene Adler – although used quite often in movies, television, and so forth, as a love interest of Sherlock Holmes. She really wasn’t. She only appears in ‘Scandal in Bohemia’, and gets married the first time he sees her. But, she is exceptionally beautiful and outwits Sherlock, which few can do. She sees through his best disguises. Irene was a opera singer who had had an affair with the King of Bohemia. The king hires Sherlock to retrieve a picture from her. But, Sherlock not only doesn’t get the picture, he gets a note from her instead and she sails away. From then on, Sherlock only refers to her as “The Woman”. Not a love interest, but a worthy adversary.
Violet Hunter – the one woman Watson thought might be a romantic relationship for Sherlock. She was a pretty girl. A governess. When she comes to him for advice, Sherlock is kind and tells her to let him know if she needs him. Later he runs to her rescue, bringing Watson along. Sherlock seems to find her competent, but, mostly falls in love with her case. Once it is solved, his interest in her wanes. She goes on to be a successful principal in a girl’s school.