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In these sixteen tales of intellectual derring-do, Sherlock Holmes is shown at the height of his powers: He co-operates with a young Winston Churchill in the famed siege of Sydney Street; helps defeat a plan for a German invasion outlined in the Zimmerman Telegram; establishes a link between two...
In these sixteen tales of intellectual derring-do, Sherlock Holmes is shown at the height of his powers: He co-operates with a young Winston Churchill in the famed siege of Sydney Street; helps defeat a plan for a German invasion outlined in the Zimmerman Telegram; establishes a link between two missing lighthouse keepers and the royal treasures of King John; contends with a supernatural curse placed upon an eccentric aristocrat; and discovers a lost epic poem of Lord Byron.
Everywhere in these finely wrought tales, encompassing the critically acclaimed The Execution of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes and the King’s Evil, and Sherlock Holmes and the Ghosts of Bly, riddles and mystery hover in the air. But they are not beyond the grasp of the incomparable Sherlock Holmes.
The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes
The alleged bigamy of King George V ... The theft of the Irish Crown Jewels in 1907 ... The bizarre circumstances of the death of President Faure of France ... Such dramas are not fiction but historical reality.
'It would have been astonishing,' wrote Dr John Watson of these cases, 'if the skills of Sherlock Holmes had not been employed by those at Scotland Yard.'
The investigations described in this volume relate the part played by the great detective in seven major crimes or scandals of the day, some of them too damaging to the monarchy, the government or the security of the nation to be fully revealed at the time.
Compiled in narrative form by Dr Watson soon after Holmes's death, the notes have been kept under lock and key at the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane.
Now, seventy years later, we can finally open the secret cases of Sherlock Holmes ...
A Letter to Posterity from John H. Watson, MD
The Ghost in the Machine
The Case of the Crown Jewels
The Case of the Unseen Hand
The Case of the Blood Royal
The Case of the Camden Town Murder
The Case of the Missing Rifleman
The Case of the Yokohama Club
A Letter to Posterity from John H. Watson, MD
Those who have read my narrative of the Brixton Road murder, made public under the somewhat sensational title of A Study in Scarlet, will recall the events which led to my first meeting with the late Sherlock Holmes. For any who come new to this story, let me recapitulate the circumstances as briefly as I may. Having taken my medical degree at the University of London in 1878, I had attended the required course of the Army Medical Department at Netley. When my time at Netley was over, I was attached as Assistant Surgeon to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. I will not repeat in detail how I landed in Bombay when my regiment was already in action in the Second Afghan War; how I joined it at Candahar only to be wounded in the shoulder, my active service career terminated by a Jazail bullet at the battle of Maiwand.
It was not the wound received in battle that alone decided my fate. Enteric fever contracted at the base hospital of Peshawar so weakened and emaciated me that the medical board had not the least hesitation in ordering my return to England. A few months later I was endeavouring without success to lead a comfortless existence at a private hotel in the Strand upon my invalid allowance of eleven shillings and sixpence a day.
The weeks of summer passed in 1880, and I watched with dismay as my little stock of capital ran lower. I had no family in England, no expectations, no one to whom I could turn for immediate assistance. My state of mind may easily be imagined, as I contemplated the loss of both health and independence.
In such gloomy circumstances I had taken a turn down Piccadilly one morning in July. That fashionable avenue was busy with swan's-neck pilentum carriages drawn by glossy bay geldings, here and there a coach with armorial bearings upon its door and a hundred hansom cabs. Among these symbols of imperial prosperity, I reflected that walking costs a man nothing. The clocks had struck twelve as I began to make my way back from the trees and carriages of Hyde Park Corner, where the pretty horse-breakers and their escorts rode under the leafy branches of Rotten Row.
In the course of this stroll, I had decided that my first economy must be to leave the private hotel where I had been living. I would seek cheaper lodgings. With that, I felt a little richer and entered the old Criterion Bar in Coventry Street. It was a chance in ten thousand that, as I stood at the bar, I should have been tapped on the shoulder by young Stamford, who had been a surgical dresser under me at Bart's Hospital. To him I described my situation and my new resolve as to where I should live. He it was who mentioned his acquaintance Sherlock Holmes, a man also in search of diggings. That very day Holmes had been bemoaning to Stamford that he could not get someone to go halves with him in a nice set of rooms which he had found but which were too much for his purse.
I recall, as if it were only a week ago, my excitement at this chance of solving my own problem so easily. I turned to Stamford and exclaimed, 'By Jove! If your friend really wants someone to share the rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him. I should prefer going halves to living alone!'
As yet, I had not set eyes upon my unwitting partner.
This is not the place to draw a complete portrait of him who was to be my friend and companion for so many years. I must say, however, that in all the time I knew him the appearance of Sherlock Holmes seemed to alter no more than his demeanour. He was a little over six feet in height and throughout his life he remained so lean that he looked, if anything, taller. His eyes were sharp and his gaze penetrating, his nose was thin and hawk-like, making him seem always alert and decisive. His jaw was firmly set, square and prominent with a look of resolve and determination. If I were to compare his features and behaviour to those of public figures, he had the stance and manner of Sir Edward Carson QC, that most vigorous and astute of prosecuting lawyers. In his style, he had something of the combative and self-assured manner of Lord Birkenhead, the former Mr F. E. Smith. Perhaps I do him and them a disservice by such comparisons. There was never any man who was a twin for Sherlock Holmes.
My first meeting with him, when Stamford introduced us later that day, was in the chemical laboratory of Bart's. His fingers were blotched with acid and stained a little by ink. Surrounded by broad low tables, shelves of bottles, retorts, test-tubes, and Bunsen burners with their blue flickering flames, Holmes seemed in his element. He quite ignored me in his excitement at explaining to Stamford the success of an experiment on which he had been engaged. He had discovered a reagent which was precipitated by haemoglobin and by nothing else. In plain terms, it would now be possible for the first time to identify blood stains long after the blood had dried.
I was soon to see for myself a curious antithesis in my new friend's character. He alternated between periods of fierce intellectual excitement and moods of brooding contemplation. There were days of torpor in which he appeared to see little or nothing of the world about him. I had yet to discover that the last of these states was often produced by his use of narcotics. Life cannot always be lived at a pitch of fierce excitement. There are days, weeks, and months of tedium. Other men might have turned to drink or sexual vice. Sherlock Holmes preferred the less complicated palliative of cocaine. I deplored his use of it and protested to him—but in vain. I came to see that the drug was not his true addiction, merely a substitute for a more powerful enchantment. Cocaine, he said, was his protest against the tedium of existence. When his powers were fully occupied, he showed not the least need of it. The excitement of discovery, detection, activity, was everything to him. I firmly believe that cocaine was a make-do for the greater stimulant of adrenalin. The syringe provided for his needs when his adrenal gland failed to do so.
The world knows so much about the reputation of Sherlock Holmes that I need add little here. He pretended to be the dedicated student of science, yet from time to time one caught a glimpse of the great romantic. When I first met him, I noted that he had a profound knowledge of chemistry, an adequate but unsystematic acquaintance with anatomy. He had a good practical knowledge of the English law and was unrivalled in his reading of the literature of crime. From botany and geology he took just such information as seemed useful to him. Whenever necessary, he could make himself expert at a new subject in an astonishingly short time. When the new science of morbid psychology came into its own after 1880, he mastered it with such skill that neither Krafft-Ebing nor Charcot could tell you more of his own works than could Holmes.
At first I noted that he appeared to have little knowledge or interest in literature or philosophy. I was to discover that, when it suited him, he could show a degree of familiarity with writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, or Robert Browning, the analysts of human darkness, which lifelong students of literature might envy. There were days when he exercised his brain as other men would have used a chest-expander or a set of dumb-bells. In such times of idleness he set himself the task of confronting the great unsolved problems of mathematics. If he did not find solutions to Fermat's Last Theorem or the Goldbach Conjecture, I believe that he understood at length the nature of those abstract impossibilities better than any man living.
There was something not quite English about Sherlock Holmes. Having played rugger for Blackheath in my younger days, I found he had no sense of sport in his physical activities. You could not imagine him among 'the flannelled fools at the wicket and the muddied oafs in the goal'. His physical exercise was Continental rather than Anglo-Saxon. Like a French or German student, he was an expert swordsman, boxer, and single-stick player. Though far from burly in his build, he demonstrated a grip that was the strongest of any man I have ever known.
He cared very little for society, let alone for politics or public men. Early in our friendship he assured me that a nation was better led by a rogue than by a reformer. In more recent years, he abominated Mr Asquith as leader of the government but openly admired the style and complicity of Mr Lloyd George. As the result of services which he had rendered to the Crown in the years before the German war, I was with him once at the Reform Club, when Mr Asquith spoke after dinner. Sherlock Holmes had attended the function reluctantly and sat with eyelids drooping and an air of ineffable boredom. Intending to compliment or instruct his audience, the late Prime Minister remarked that he owed much of his success in life to an endeavour to associate only with those who were his intellectual superiors. To my dismay, I heard Holmes rouse himself and say loudly enough for all those around him to hear, 'By God, that wouldn't be difficult!'
He was once at a soirée of the late Mr Oscar Wilde, an occasion which he would have avoided if he could. The unfortunate playwright was at his most self-satisfied and paradoxical, preening, praising his own works and genius in every nuance, while his sycophants chortled and encouraged him. As the guests prepared to depart, Sherlock Holmes stood up and the faces of the company turned towards him. He fixed Mr Wilde, the serene egotist, with those glittering eyes and seemed to bow a little towards him. The breath hissed slightly between his teeth.
'Master,' he said with expressionless irony, 'before we leave, could you not perhaps tell us a little about yourself?'
It was cruel and it was deadly. For more than an hour, Mr Wilde had seemed to talk of nothing but himself. This egotism would have justified Holmes's sardonic reprimand. Yet there was something more about the playwright which Wilde knew and Holmes had guessed, but which remained hidden from the others. Holmes, as I have said, was well read in the literature of morbid psychology. From this knowledge he had divined a pathological truth behind the mask of the poseur and he let the unhappy victim know it. A smile touched Wilde's lips, the worse for its ghastliness. The truth which Holmes inferred was one that the rest of the world was soon to hear in three trials at the Central Criminal Court.
I believe it was as well that Sherlock Holmes remained a private and secretive man. His tongue would have destroyed him in public life, though not before it had destroyed a good many other men. Among several instances of his savagery, his brother Mycroft told me, after the funeral, of young Sherlock Holmes's first brief acquaintance with formal education at a great Oxford college, whose master was something of a household name. It was the master's custom to take each of the new men out for a walk alone, from Oxford into the countryside and back again. The great scholar would keep an absolute silence as the pair walked to Headington or Godstow. The hapless undergraduate would feel the strain of this and would compel himself at last to make some nervous and banal remark, often about the weather or the meadow scenery. The master would either crush this by his retort or would continue the walk without reply, as if the observation were beneath notice. In either event, the poor young man would have been put securely in his place for the next three or four years. The stratagem had not been known to fail.
When Holmes was taken on this solitary freshman exercise, it was he who maintained a silence. Keeping step with the master of the college, he walked over Magdalen Bridge, through Headington and up Shotover Hill. Unused to this resolute behaviour but enjoying a natural position of superiority and eminence, the master himself broke the silence at last. It was a laconic and patronising inquiry.
'They tell me, Holmes,' he said, 'they tell me that you are very clever. Are you?'
'Yes,' said Holmes ungraciously.
Silence returned, unbroken, as they walked grimly back into Oxford and at last reached the college gates. Holmes turned to face the offended master with a slight bow, expressionless otherwise.
'Goodbye, sir,' he said courteously. 'I have so much enjoyed our talk.'
Mycroft Holmes assured me that his younger brother thereupon shook the illustrious dust of that college off his feet and found a humbler institution, where he was left to live pretty much as he chose. Sherlock Holmes himself had told me that Victor Trevor, son of a Norfolk squire, was the only friend he made during the two years he remained at college. Holmes was never a very sociable man. By his own account, he was always rather fond of moping in his rooms and working out his own methods of thought. His line of study was quite distinct from that of the other fellows, so that they had no points of contact at all.
In the long vacation he would go up to his London rooms, where he would spend the summer weeks working out a few experiments in organic chemistry. At first he had rooms in Montagu Street, just round the corner from the British Museum. Then, as he spent more time in the chemical laboratories of the great hospitals, he crossed the river and found lodgings in Lambeth Palace Road.
Those who have followed the published adventures of Sherlock Holmes in the past thirty years will know something of these matters. Let me now explain how this further collection of narratives has been compiled.
From time to time, during the years when I shared rooms with him, he would lug from his bedroom the famous tin box which was half filled with bundles of papers tied separately with ribbon, each bundle representing a case now closed. Some of these which occurred before our meeting, like the case of the Gloria Scott or the Musgrave Ritual, have already been published from the documents and my friend's own recollection of them. Others were not so readily given to the world.
They included services to the state, matters of personal confidence, and investigations upon which Sherlock Holmes had been engaged before our meeting in the chemical laboratory of Bart's in 1880. In almost every instance, a delay was necessary before the facts of the case could be published. I may safely say that by the time you read these pages, Sherlock Holmes and I, as well as every other person mentioned in them, will have been dust for a good many years.
I have written often in the past of my friend's success as a 'consulting detective' to private individuals. Once or twice, in writing of the Naval Treaty or the Bruce-Partington Plans, I have hinted at something more. The reputation of Sherlock Holmes was such that his services were increasingly in demand by officers of the state. The Fenian dynamite outrages, the blowing up of post offices and the Metropolitan Railway in the 1880s, led to the setting up of the Special Branch at Scotland Yard. The safety of the Crown and its representatives was no longer a matter which could be left to an amateur police force and the good sense of all the people. Later still, as the threat of war with the German Empire approached in 1914, the Crown and government gave authority to the organisation of Military Intelligence. From Queen Anne's Gate, almost in the shadow of Parliament itself, such operations were undertaken by various divisions of this service. Two of its branches were of paramount importance. The fifth division of Military Intelligence was to supervise security at home against intrusion by our enemies, and a sixth division was to control our espionage against foreign powers.
Excerpted from The Lost Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes by Donald Thomas. Copyright © 2012 Donald Thomas. Excerpted by permission of PEGASUS BOOKS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 29, 2013
Posted February 3, 2013
The Game is Afoot
This space is usually dedicated to a review of a single book or film.
This time the review will be of a person, namely Sherlock Holmes. Last year, Stanford University’s School of Continuing Studies offered participation to anyone who wanted it in the project “ Discovering Sherlock Holmes.” A selection of Arthur Conan Doyle’s early tales and novels of Sherlock Holmes were re-released in serial format over a period of twelve weeks just as they appeared in The Strand Magazine in the 1800s. The response across the country was tremendous. Some of the stories published were : A Scandal in Bohemia , The Speckled Band, and The Hound of the Baskervilles. This year the project is being repeated with a new selection of Sherlockian tales. Even though I have read and reread these stories throughout my life, I find myself anxiously waiting for each week’s installment.
As enjoyable as it is to reread the original Holmes stories, I find myself yearning for new tales of the great detective. Enter the pastiche writers, the copy cats. Adrian Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur’s son, and John Dickson Carr teamed up in 1952 to publish The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes . This was a collection of Sherlock Holmes adventures based on cases mentioned by Dr. Watson in the original stories. Adrian even used his father’s desk where the original stories were written.
In the 1970s, August Derleth , an American, created the characters of Solar Pons and his friend and faithful companion, Dr. Lyndon Parker, who lived at 7B Praed Street in London. Pons was called the “ Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street . “ Derleth wrote nine books featuring Pons including among them The Casebook of Solar Pons, The Reminiscences of Solar Pons, The Memoirs of Solar Pons and The Return of Solar Pons all of which mimic the Doyle titles.
Larry Millett, a columnist of the Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, has even published five books whereby Sherlock and Dr. Watson journey to America, specifically Minnesota, to solve some tough mysteries including Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon, Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders and Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery. Millett’s books have been published very recently coming out in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.
While Sherlock Holmes is a creation of fiction, he has almost assumed a life of his own. Just last November, Atlantic Monthly Press published Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography by Nick Rennison. In reviewing the book, Mitch Cullin, author of A Slight Trick of the Mind, said “If Sherlock Holmes didn’t exist, he certainly does now.”
In closing, I would hope that what has been written above will inspire some to read the Sherlock Holmes stories and to thrill to Sherlock’s call to Watson: “Come
Watson! The game is afoot!”
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