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Posted July 16, 2014
If you enjoy mystery stories and Sherlock Holmes in particular, you will love this short story. The plot is quite interesting: While the currently married Dr. Watson is paying Holmes a visit, a visitor arrives, introducing himself as Count Von Kramm, an agent for a wealthy client. However, Holmes quickly deduces that he is in fact Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein and the hereditary King of Bohemia.
It transpires that the King is to become engaged to Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meiningen, a young Scandinavian princess. However, five years previous to the events of the story he had a liaison with an American opera singer, Irene Adler, while she was serving a term as prima donna of the Imperial Opera of Warsaw, who has since then retired to London. Fearful that should the strictly principled family of his fiancée learn of this impropriety, the marriage would be called off, he had sought to regain letters and a photograph of Adler and himself together.
The next morning, Holmes goes out to Adler's house, disguised as a drunken out-of-work groom. He discovers that Adler has a gentleman friend, the lawyer Godfrey Norton of the Inner Temple, who calls at least once a day. On this particular day, Norton comes to visit Adler, and soon afterwards, takes a cab to the Church of St. Monica in Edgware Road. Minutes later, the lady herself gets in her landau, bound for the same place. Holmes follows in a cab and, upon arriving, finds himself dragged into the church to be a witness to Norton and Adler's wedding. Curiously, they go their separate ways after the ceremony.
Holmes asks whether or not Watson is willing to participate in a scheme to figure out where the picture is hidden in Adler's house. Watson agrees, and Holmes changes into another disguise as a clergyman. The duo depart Baker Street for Adler's house.
When Holmes and Watson arrive, a group of jobless men meander throughout the street. When Adler's coach pulls up, Holmes enacts his plan. A fight breaks out between the men on the street over who gets to help Adler. Holmes rushes into the fight to protect Adler, and is seemingly struck and injured. Adler takes him into her sitting room, where Holmes motions for her to have the window opened. As Holmes lifts his hand, Watson recognizes a pre-arranged signal and tosses in a plumber's smoke rocket. While smoke billows out of the building, Watson shouts "FIRE!" and the cry is echoed up and down the street.
As Holmes expected, Adler rushed to get her most precious possession at the cry of "fire"—the photograph of herself and the King. Holmes was able to see that the picture was kept in a recess behind a sliding panel just above the right bell pull.
The following morning, Holmes explains his findings to the King. When Holmes, Watson, and the King arrive at Adler's house, her elderly maidservant informs them that she has hastily departed for the Charing Cross railway station. Holmes quickly goes to the photograph's hiding spot, finding a photo of Irene Adler in an evening dress and a letter dated midnight and addressed to him. In the letter, Adler tells Holmes that he did very well in finding the photograph and fooling her with his disguises. Adler has promised she keeps the photograph only as protection and not to use it against the King.
I highly recommend this book to the permanent library of all mystery book lovers. You will not regret reading it!