“One of the best examples of [Sherlock Holmes pastiche] that this die-hard Sherlockian has encountered . . . Faye perfectly captures the tone and spirit of the Conan Doyle originals.”Adam Woog, Seattle Times
Internationally bestselling author Lyndsay Faye has been enamored with the tales of Holmes and Watson ever since she was introduced to “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”and later began to spin these quintessential characters into her own acclaimed works of fiction. The Whole Art of Detection collects the best of her Holmes tales written for the Strand Magazine and other publications, plus two new works. These fifteen brilliant stories span Holmes’s career, from self-taught young upstart to lauded detective, both before and after his faked death over a Swiss waterfall in 1894. With Holmes and Watson encountering all manner of “scientific” spiritualists, poisoned wives, cunning relatives, plaid-garbed villains, and even a corpse horribly drained of all blood, this is a must-read for Sherlockians and any fan of historical crime fiction.
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About the Author
Lyndsay Faye is the author of five critically acclaimed books, including The Gods of Gotham and Jane Steele, both finalists for the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and Dust and Shadow, about Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper. She lives in New York City with her husband, Gabriel.
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The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness
My friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, while possessed of one of the most vigorous minds of our generation, and while capable of displaying tremendous feats of physical activity when the situation required it, could nevertheless remain in his armchair perfectly motionless longer than any other human being I have ever encountered. This skill passed wholly unrecognized by its owner. I do not believe he held any intentions to impress me so, nor do I think the exercise was, for him, a strenuous one. Still, I maintain the belief that when a man has held the same pose for a period exceeding three hours, and when that man is undoubtedly awake, that same man has accomplished an unnatural feat.
I turned away from my task of organizing a set of old journals that lead-grey afternoon to observe Holmes yet perched with one leg curled beneath him, firelight burnishing the edges of his dressing gown as he sat with his head in his hand, a long-abandoned book laid upon the carpet. The familiar sight had grown increasingly unnerving as the hours progressed. It was with a view to ascertain that my friend was still alive that I went so far against my habits as to interrupt his reverie.
"My dear chap, would you care to take a turn with me? I've an errand with the boot-maker down the road, and the weather has cleared somewhat."
I do not know if it was the still-ominous dark canopy that deterred him or his own pensive mood, but Holmes merely replied, "I require better distraction just now than an errand which is not my own and the capricious designs of a March rainstorm."
"What precise variety of distraction would be more to your liking? I inquired, a trifle nettled at his dismissal.
He waved a slender hand, at last lifting his dark head from the upholstery where it had reclined for so long. "Nothing you can provide me. It is the old story — for these two days I have received not a shred of worthwhile correspondence, nor has any poor soul abused our front doorbell with an eye to engage my services. The world is weary, I am weary, and I grow weary with being weary of it. Thus, Watson, as you see I am entirely useless myself at the moment, my state cannot be bettered through frivolous occupations."
"I suppose I would be pleased no one is so disturbed in mind as to seek your aid, if I did not know what your work meant to you, I said with greater sympathy.
"Well, well, there is no use lamenting over it."
"No, but I should certainly help if I could."
"What could you possibly do? he sniffed. "I hope you are not about to tell me your pocket watch has been stolen, or your great-aunt disappeared without trace."
"I am safe on those counts, thank you. But perhaps I can yet offer you a problem to vex your brain for half an hour."
"A problem? Oh, I'm terribly sorry — I had forgotten. If you want to know where the other key to the desk has wandered off to, I was given cause recently to test the pliancy of such objects. I'll have a new one made —"
"I had not noticed the key, I interrupted him with a smile, "but I could, if you like, relate a series of events which once befell me when I was in practice in San Francisco, the curious details of which have perplexed me for years. My work on these old diaries reminded me of them, and the circumstances were quite in your line."
"I suppose I should be grateful you are at least not staring daggers at my undocketed case files, he remarked.
"You see? There are myriad advantages. It would be preferable to venturing out, for it is already raining again. And should you refuse, I will be every bit as unoccupied as you, which I would also prefer to avoid. I did not mention that if he remained a statue an instant longer, the sheer eeriness of the room would force me out of doors.
"You are to tell me a tale of your frontier days, and I am to solve it? he asked blandly, but the subtle angle of one eyebrow told me he was intrigued.
"Yes, if you can."
"What if you haven't the data?"
"Then we shall proceed directly to the brandy and cigars."
"It's a formidable challenge. To my great relief, he lifted himself in the air by his hands and crossed his legs underneath him, reaching after he had done so for the pipe lying cold on the side table. "I cannot say I've any confidence it can be done, but as an experiment presented to the specialist, it has a certain flair."
"In that case, I shall tell you the story, and you may pose any questions that occur to you."
"Take care that you begin at the beginning, Watson, he admonished me sternly, settling himself into a comfortable air of resigned attention. "And provide me with as many details as you can summon up."
"It is quite fresh in my mind again, for I'd set it down in the volumes I was just mulling over. As you know, my residence in America was relatively brief, but San Francisco lives in my memory quite as vividly as Sydney or Bombay — an impetuous, thriving town nestled among the great hills, where the fogs are spun from ocean air and the pale amber light refracts from Montgomery Street's countless glass windows. It is as if all the men and women of enterprise across the globe determined they should have a city of their own, for the Gold Rush built it and the Silver Lode built it again, and now that they have been linked by railroad with the Eastern states, the populace believes quite rightly that nothing is impossible. One sees quite as many nations and trades represented as in London, all jostling each other into a thousand bizarre coincidences, and you would not be surprised to find a Chinese apothecary wedged between a French milliner and an Italian wine merchant.
"My practice was based on Front Street in a small brick building, near a number of druggist establishments, and I readily received any patients who happened my way. Poor or well-off, genteel or ruffianly, it made no difference to a boy in the first flush of his career. I'd no long-established references, and for that reason no great clientele, but it was impossible to feel small in that city, for they so prized hard work and optimism that I anticipated sudden successes lay every moment round the next corner.
"One hazy afternoon, as I'd no appointments and I could see the sun lighting up the masts of the ships in the Bay, I decided I'd sat idle long enough, and set out for a bit of exercise. It is one of San Francisco's peculiar characteristics that no matter in what direction one wanders, one must encounter a steep hill, for there are seven of them, and within half an hour of walking aimlessly away from the water, I found myself striding up Nob Hill, staring in awe at the array of houses.
"'Houses,' in fact, is rather a misnomer; they call it Nob Hill because it is populated by mining and railroad nabobs, and the residences are like something from the reign of Ludwig the Second or Marie Antoinette. Many are larger than our landed estates, but all were built within ten years of the time I arrived. I ambled past a Gothic near-castle and a Neo-Classic mansion only to spy an Italianate villa across the street, each making an effort to best all the others in stained glass, columns, and turrets. The neighborhood —"
"Was a wealthy one. Holmes sighed, hopping out of his chair to pour two glasses of claret.
"And you would doubtless have found that section of town appalling. As he handed me a wineglass, I smiled at the thought of my Bohemian friend eyeing those pleasure domes with cool distaste. "There would have been others more to your liking, I think. Nevertheless, the villa was a marvel of architecture, and as I neared the crest of the hill, I stopped to take in the view of the Pacific.
"Standing there watching the sun glow orange over the waves, I heard a door fly open, and turned to see an old man hobbling frantically down a manicured path leading to the street. The mansion he'd exited was built more discreetly than most, vaguely Grecian and painted white. He was very tall — quite as tall as you, my dear fellow — but with shoulders like an ox. He was dressed in a decades-old military uniform, with a tattered blue coat over his grey trousers, and a broad red tie and cloth belt, his silvery hair standing out from his head as if he'd just stepped from the thick of battle.
"Although he cut an extraordinary figure, I would not have paid him much mind in that mad metropolis had not a young lady rushed after him in pursuit, crying out,'Uncle! Stop, please! You mustn't go, I beg of you!' "The man she'd addressed as her uncle gained the curb not ten feet from where I stood and then all at once collapsed onto the pavement, his chest no longer heaving and the leg which had limped crumpled underneath him.
"I rushed to his side. He breathed, but shallowly. From my closer vantage point, I could see that one of his limbs was false, and that it had come loose from its leather straps, causing his fall. The girl reached us not ten seconds later, gasping for breath even as she made a valiant effort to prevent her eyes from tearing.
"'Is he all right?' she asked me.
"'I think so,' I replied,'but I prefer to be certain. I am a doctor, and would be happy to examine him more carefully indoors.'
"'I cannot tell you how grateful we would be. Jefferson!' she called to a tall black servant hurrying down the path. 'Please help us get the colonel inside.' "Between the three of us, we quickly established my patient on the sofa in a cheerful, glass-walled morning room, and I was able to make a more thorough diagnosis. Apart from the carefully crafted wooden leg, which I reattached more securely, he seemed in perfect health, and if he were not such a large and apparently hale man I should have imagined that he had merely fainted.
"'Has he hurt himself, Doctor?' the young lady asked breathlessly.
"Despite her evident distress, I saw at once she was a beautiful woman, with a small-framed figure and yet a large measure of that grace which goes with greater stature. Her hair was light auburn, swept away from her creamy complexion in loose waves and wound in an elegant knot, and her eyes shone golden brown through her remaining tears. She wore a pale blue dress trimmed with silver, and her ungloved hand clutched at the folds in her apprehension. She — my dear fellow, are you all right?"
"Perfectly, Holmes replied with another cough which, had I been in an uncharitable humor, I would have thought resembled a chuckle. "Do go on."
"'This man will be quite all right once he has rested,' I told her. 'My name is John Watson.'
"'Forgive me — I am Molly Warburton, and the man you've been tending is my uncle, Colonel Patrick Warburton. Oh, what a fright I have had! I cannot thank you enough.'
"'Miss Warburton, I wonder if I might speak with you in another room, so as not to disturb your uncle while he recovers.'
"She led me across the hall into another tastefully appointed parlor, this one decorated with paintings of desert landscapes I thought must have depicted the American South, and fell exhaustedly into a chair. I hesitated to disturb her further, and yet I felt compelled to make my anxieties known.
"'Miss Warburton, I do not think your uncle would have collapsed in such a dramatic manner had he not been under serious mental strain. Has anything occurred recently which might have upset him?'
"'Dr. Watson, you have stumbled upon a family embarrassment,' she said softly. 'My uncle's mental state has been precarious for some time now, and I fear recently he — he has taken a great turn for the worse.'
"'I am sorry to hear it.'
"'The story takes some little time in telling, but I will ring for tea, and you will know all about it. First of all, Dr. Watson, I live here with my brother Charles and my uncle the colonel. Apart from Uncle Patrick, Charles and I have no living relatives, and we are very grateful to him for his generosity. Uncle made a great fortune in shipping during the early days of California statehood. My brother is making his start in the photography business, and I am unmarried, so living with the colonel is for the moment a very comfortable situation.'
"'You must know that my uncle was a firebrand in his youth, and saw a great deal of war as a settler in Texas, before that region was counted among the United States. The pitched fighting between the Texians — that is, the Anglo settlers — and the Tejanos so moved him that he joined the Texas Army under Sam Houston, and was decorated several times for his valor on the field, notably at the Battle of San Jacinto. Later, when the War Between the States began, he was a commander for the Union, and lost his leg during the Siege of Petersburg. Forgive me if I bore you.'
"'Not at all.'
"'From your voice, I do not think you are a natural-born American,' she added with a smile.
"'Your story greatly interests me. Is that his old Texas uniform he wore today?' I asked.
"'Yes, it is,' she replied as a flicker of pain distorted her pretty face.' He has been costuming himself like that with greater and greater frequency. The affliction — for I do not know what else to call it — began several weeks ago. Indeed, I believe the first symptom took place when he changed his will.'
"'How so? Was it a material alteration?'
"'Charlie and I had been the sole beneficiaries,' she replied, gripping a handkerchief tightly. 'But now, his entire fortune will be distributed amongst various war charities. Texas War for Independence charities, Civil War charities. He is obsessed with war,' she choked, and then hid her face in her hands.
"I was already moved by her story, Holmes, but the oddity of the colonel's condition intrigued me still further.
"'What are his other symptoms?' I queried when she had recovered herself.
"'After he changed his will, he began seeing the most terrible visions in the dark. Dr. Watson, he claims in truly passionate language that he is haunted. He swears he saw a fearsome Tejano with a pistol and a whip threatening a white woman, and on another occasion he witnessed the same apparition using a bayonet to slaughter one of Houston's men. That is what so upset him, for only this morning he insisted he saw a murderous band of ghosts brandishing swords and torches, with the identical Tejano at their head. My brother believes that we have a duty as his family to remain and care for him, but I confess Uncle frightens me at times. If we abandoned him, he would have no one save his old manservant. Sam Jefferson served the colonel for many years — as far back as Texas, I believe — and when my uncle built this house, Jefferson became the head butler.'
"She was interrupted in her narrative as the door opened and the man I knew at once to be her brother stepped in. He had the same light brown eyes as she, and fine features, which twisted into a question at the sight of me.
"'Hello, Molly. Who is this gentleman?'
"'Charlie, it was horrible,' she cried, running to him. 'Uncle Patrick tore out of the house and collapsed. This is Dr. John Watson. He has been so helpful and sympathetic that I was telling him all about Uncle's condition.'
"Charles Warburton shook my hand readily. 'Very sorry to have troubled you, Doctor, but as you can see, we are in something of a mess. If Uncle Patrick grows any worse, I hate to think what —'
"Just then a great roar echoed from the morning room, followed by a shattering crash. The three of us rushed into the hallway and found Colonel Warburton staring wildly about him, a vase broken into shards at his feet.
"'I left this house once,' he swore, 'and by the devil I will do it again. It's full of vengeful spirits, and I will see you all in Hell for keeping me here!'
"The niece and nephew did their utmost to calm the colonel, but he grew even more enraged at the sight of them. In fact, he was so violently agitated that only Sam Jefferson could coax him, with my help, toward his bedroom, and once we had reached it, the colonel slammed the door shut in the faces of his kinfolk.
"By sheer good fortune, after some cajoling I persuaded him to take a sedative, and when he fell back in a daze on his bed, I stood up and looked about me. His room was quite Spartan, with hardly anything on the white walls, in a simple style I supposed was a relic of his days in Texas. I have told you that the remainder of the house also reflected his disdain for frippery. The wall-facing bed rested under a pleasant open window, and as it was on the ground floor, one could look directly out at the gardens after turning about and blinking oneself awake.
"I had turned to rejoin my hosts when Sam Jefferson cleared his throat behind me.
"'You believe he'll be all right, sir?'
"He spoke with the slow, deep tones of a man born on the other side of the Mississippi. I had not noticed it before, but a thick knot of scarring ran across his dark temple, which led me to believe he had done quite as much fighting in his youth as his employer — or worse, been somehow brutalized during the period before the harrowing conflict which ripped the nation asunder to end the slave trade.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Whole Art of Detection"
Copyright © 2017 Lyndsay Faye.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
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Table of Contents
Part I Before Baker Street
The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness 3
The Adventure of the Magical Menagerie 24
The Adventure of the Vintners Codex 45
Part II The Early Years
The Adventure of the Honest Wife 67
The Adventure of the Beggar's Feast 92
Memoranda upon the Gaskell Blackmailing Dilemma 113
The Lowther Park Mystery 131
Part III The Return
An Empty House 155
The Adventure of the Memento Mori 174
Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore 199
The Adventure of the Willow Basket 221
Part IV The Later Years
The Adventure of the Lightless Maiden 247
The Adventure of the Thames Tunnel 267
The Adventure of the Mad Baritone 297
Notes upon the Diadem Club Affair 328