Friday, November 14, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 13 stories in the cycle collected as The Return of Sherlock Holmes. It was originally published in Strand Magazine in 1904 with illustrations by Sidney Paget.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: In this story, Mr. Cyril Overton of Trinity College, Cambridge comes to Holmes seeking his help in Godfrey Staunton’s disappearance. Staunton is the key man on Overton’s rugby team (who plays at the three-quarters position, hence the story's title), and they will never win the important match tomorrow against Oxford if Staunton cannot be found. Holmes has to admit that sport is outside his field, but he shows the same care he has shown to his other cases.
Staunton had seemed a bit pale and bothered earlier in the day, but late in the evening, according to a hotel porter, a rough-looking, bearded man came to the hotel with a note for Staunton which, judging from Staunton’s reaction, contained rather devastating news. He then left the hotel with the bearded stranger, and the two of them were seen running in the direction of the Strand at about half past ten. No-one has seen them since.
Overton has wired to Cambridge to find out if Staunton has been seen there; he has not. He has also wired Lord Mount-James, Staunton’s very wealthy and thoroughly miserly uncle and nearest living kin, but has heard no answer. Staunton is the almost-eighty-year-old Lord Mount-James’s heir, but he must meanwhile live in relative poverty owing to his uncle’s miserly behavior.
At the hotel, Holmes questions the porter. This bearded man who brought the note was neither a gentleman nor a workman, and he seemed to be bothered by something, too, for his hand was trembling as he handed Staunton the note. The only word that the porter overheard of their short conversation was “time”.
At six o’clock, the porter had brought Staunton a telegram, and he saw Staunton write a reply. Staunton told the porter that he would send it himself. Holmes looks at the telegraph forms in Staunton’s room, and then at the blotter, finally finding a clue. The impression on the blotter yields a part of the message that Staunton sent: “Stand by us for God’s sake”. Obviously at least one other person is involved (“us”), and there is some kind of danger. Other papers left in the room yield clues.
Lord Mount-James also briefly visits, and can give Holmes no useful information as to his nephew’s whereabouts. The old miser seems utterly aghast at the possibility that it might be a kidnapping whose object would be to extort his wealth.
Holmes and Dr. Watson then go to the telegraph office where Holmes uses a ruse to get the woman there to show him the counterfoil of the message that Staunton sent. It was addressed to Dr. Leslie Armstrong, an academic at Cambridge. They go to see him.
Dr. Armstrong tells Holmes that Staunton is an intimate friend of his. He does not react when told that Staunton has disappeared, and claims not to know where he is, and not to have seen him recently. He also says that Staunton is very healthy, but Holmes then produces one of Staunton’s papers, a thirteen-guinea bill from Dr. Armstrong. Furious, Armstrong refuses to answer any more questions, and denies that he had the telegram from Staunton. He then has his butler show Holmes and Watson out. They lodge at an inn just across the street from Armstrong’s, where they can watch him.
Holmes conducts some inquiries. A man in the yard before the inn tells Holmes that Armstrong, although not in actual medical practice, regularly rides in his brougham out into the country somewhere. The roundtrip seems to take about three hours. Holmes tries following the brougham on one of its outings, hiring a bicycle for the purpose. He is thwarted by Dr. Armstrong, who makes it quite clear that he is aware that Holmes is following him. He gives Holmes the slip.
The next day, Holmes’s inquiries in all the local villages come to naught; no-one has seen the doctor’s brougham passing through their village.
The mystery is at last unlocked by Pompey, a beagle-foxhound cross by appearance, who tracks the doctor’s brougham to a cottage in the countryside after Holmes had coated the wheels in aniseed oil. What Holmes finds is not pleasant. Staunton is there, but is grieving over his young wife, who has just died of consumption. Her existence was kept secret, because Lord Mount-James would not have approved of the marriage and would have disowned his nephew. Dr. Armstrong had told the woman’s father about her condition, and he, the bearded stranger, had unwisely told Staunton, who felt compelled to rush off forthwith.
As there is no broken law, Holmes decided to keep everything quiet.
I recommend this story to all readers that appreciate a very well written mystery.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 13 stories in the cycle collected as The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: In this story, we are in one wretched November night, and Inspector Stanley Hopkins comes to see Holmes at 221B Baker Street to tell him of a murder that defies solution. The dead man is Willoughby Smith, secretary to Professor Coram, an old invalid. The murder happened at Yoxley Old Place near Chatham, Kent. The most perplexing thing about the case to Hopkins is that it is apparently motiveless. Willoughby Smith seems to have nothing untoward in his background, and not an enemy in the world. He was the third secretary to the professor, the former ones not having worked out. The murder weapon was a sealing-wax knife belonging to the professor.
The maid found Smith, and the last words that he uttered as he lay dying were “The professor; it was she.” The professor, however, is a man.
This same maid told Hopkins while he was at Yoxley that she had heard Smith leave his room and walk down to the study. She had been hanging curtains and did not actually see him, only recognizing his brisk step. The professor was in bed at the time. A minute later, there was a hoarse scream from the study, and the maid, after hesitating for a moment, went there to find a murder scene. She later tells Holmes that Smith went out for a walk not long before the murder.
The murderer’s only likely means of entry was through the back door after walking along the path from the road, and Hopkins found some indistinct footmarks running beside the path, the murderer obviously having tried to avoid leaving a trail. Hopkins could not tell whether the track was coming or going, made by big or small feet. The road was a hopeless quagmire and nothing could be discerned there.
The professor’s study contained a bureau; nothing seemed to have been stolen. Its drawers were left open, as always, and the cupboard in the middle was locked. The professor kept the key.
One important piece of evidence was found in Willoughby Smith’s hand: a pair of golden pince-nez glasses. Holmes examines these and from them alone deduces several things about the murderer:
It is a woman;
She is of some good breeding;
She dresses like a lady;
She has a thick nose;
Her eyes are close together;
She has a puckered forehead, a peering look, and likely rounded shoulders;
She has been to an optician at least twice over the last few months.
She is a person of refinement, and is well dressed.
Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Hopkins all go to Yoxley the next day, and Holmes makes a careful examination of everything. In the study, he notices a recent scratch on the bureau, and reasons that the murderer’s purpose was actually to fetch something from in there. Smith was killed merely because he had interfered with a burglary. No-one saw the murderer leave, nor did anyone hear a door opening.
Holmes notes with some interest that both the corridors, the one leading from the back door and the one leading to the professor’s bedroom, are about the same length, and lined with coconut matting.
Holmes interviews the professor in his bedroom, smoking many Egyptian cigarettes while there, dropping the ashes everywhere. The professor claims utter ignorance as to what has happened in his house, and ventures the hypothesis that Smith’s death might have been suicide. Holmes asks about the locked cupboard in the bureau. The professor hands over the key. Holmes looks at it and then hands it back, not bothering to look in the bureau.
Shortly afterwards, Watson asks Holmes if he has a clue, and Holmes enigmatically replies that the cigarettes might show him.
Holmes meets the housekeeper in the garden and has a seemingly unimportant chat with her about the professor’s eating habits. Apparently he has been eating quite a lot today.
Early in the afternoon, the three men go back to see the professor in his room, and Holmes deliberately knocks the cigarettes over to provide an excuse for getting down on all fours on the floor. At this point, he solves the mystery, and the murderer, who looks exactly as Holmes deduced, emerges from a hiding place in a bookcase. Holmes has seen her tracks in the cigarette ashes.
The business unfolded thus: The woman came to the professor’s house to get hold of some documents, having obtained a duplicate key from one of the former secretaries. She came without the professor’s knowledge. She was surprised by Smith, whom she killed without meaning to, grabbing the nearest thing to defend herself — the sealing-wax knife. She lost her glasses in the scramble to escape, and was unable to see clearly. She turned along the wrong corridor and wound up in the professor’s room. Although surprised, he hid her. It turns out that she is the professor’s estranged wife, Anna, and they are both Russian. The documents in question would exonerate her friend in a Siberian prison. She and this friend had both been betrayed by the professor for gain, and she had also been sent to Siberia for a time.
Anna had met Smith while he was taking his walk, explaining Smith’s last words. The professor’s increased appetite is of course explained by his having to feed a second, hidden person.
At the end, Anna dies from poison she took before leaving her hiding place. As she dies, she asks Holmes to deliver the documents to the Russian Embassy, which he duly does.
I recommend this book to any reader that appreciates a well written mystery story.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Three Students" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Three Students", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 13 stories in the cycle collected as The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: In this story, Sherlock Holmes finds himself in a famous university town (probably either Oxford or Cambridge) when a tutor and lecturer of St Luke's College, Mr. Hilton Soames, brings him an interesting problem. Someone had been into Soames’s office and looked at the galley proofs of an exam he was going to give. Soames had gone to a friend’s for tea and locked his office. When he came back an hour later, he found a key in the lock. His servant, Bannister, forgot his key after he found Soames was gone for tea. Nevertheless, the proofs were found out of place, with one near the window, another on the floor, and the last still on the desk. Bannister swears that he did not touch the papers. Interestingly, Holmes can tell Soames which of the papers was in which place.
Soames’s desire is to uncover the cheater and prevent him from taking the exam, since it is for a sizeable scholarship. Fortunately there are only three students who will take the exam, all of which live above him in the same building.
Soames found other clues in his office: pencil shavings, a broken pencil lead, a clean, new cut in his new desk surface about three inches (7.5 cm) long, and a small hollow pyramidal blob of black clay speckled with sawdust. He could find no footmarks or other physical evidence.
Daulat Ras, one of the three students, had been to see Soames while the proofs were on his desk, but as far as Soames can recall, they were rolled up and likely would not have been recognizable as such. At Holmes' request,. Soames gives a brief outline of each of the three students. The first, Giles Gilchrist, is an athletic industrious scholar (in contrast to his father who squandered his fortune in horse racing); the second, Ras, is described as quiet and methodical; the third is Miles McLaren, a gifted man but thoroughly dissolute and given to gambling.
Holmes examines the office window from outside, standing on tiptoes to look in. Inside, there are no clues in the carpet. The cheater obviously took the papers over to the window one by one so that he could see Soames returning, but as it happens, he did not come back the usual way. When Soames came in, he was not aware of any hurried footsteps.
Holmes examines the blob of clay, and pays particular attention to the cut in the desk. This then leads him to ask where a nearby door leads. It is Soames’s bedroom. Upon examining that, Holmes finds another, similar, sawdust-speckled blob of clay. Then, he stuns Soames by telling him that the cheater, upon hearing his approach, hid in Soames’s bedroom. He was there, hiding behind a curtain, all the time that Soames was questioning Bannister.
Holmes questions Bannister and is apparently interested in the fact that anyone in the room could have got out after having entered with the key. He also asks Bannister why he sat several chairs away when he suddenly felt unwell at what had happened. Bannister will not venture a hypothesis as to a suspect.
Holmes decides to call on all three students. In Gilchrist’s room on the first floor, and Ras’s room on the second, Holmes cleverly contrives a ruse which will make it necessary for him to borrow a pencil, and a knife to sharpen his own. In neither case was there a promising clue to match evidence found in Soames’s room.
On the third floor, Miles McLaren is rude and will not let anyone in. Curiously, Holmes then asks Soames how tall McLaren is. Soames reckons McLaren’s height is about five foot six (165 cm), making him taller than Ras but much shorter than Gilchrist, who is quite tall, being a hurdler and a long-jumper.
Holmes has now deduced almost everything — all but Bannister’s rôle in this business.
The next morning, the day of the exam, Holmes surprises Dr. Watson by showing him a third, identical, blob of clay. Holmes now knows everything. He confronts Bannister with the evidence. Bannister will not own up to anything, and insists that there was no-one in Soames’s office while he was there. Holmes, however, sends for Gilchrist, and proceeds to lay out his results.
The cheater was someone who knew the exam proofs were there. This could only be Gilchrist because the proofs’ whereabouts had been kept secret, and Gilchrist was the only one tall enough to have been able to look in through Soames’s window to see them there. Holmes has also identified the blobs as the special clay found in the long-jump pit, which is where the third one came from, further implicating Gilchrist. Gilchrist does not help his own position very much by reproaching Bannister for his apparent treachery. Bannister was indeed the one who covered for Gilchrist. He felt that he had to, for old times’ sake: Bannister was once Gilchrist’s father’s butler.
Other clues point to the solution:
The scratch on the desk was caused by Gilchrist’s spiked jumping shoes as he grabbed them in his haste; the scratch naturally pointed towards the bedroom, where he ran and hid;
Bannister had sat several chairs away to hide Gilchrist’s gloves, left on that chair;
Bannister was the one who let Gilchrist out of the now-locked room once Soames had left.
For his part, Gilchrist credits Bannister with convincing him not to profit from his misdeed, and presents Soames with a letter stating his wish not to sit the exam, but accept an offer in South Africa for the Rhodesian Police.
Excellent plot, I recommend this book to all readers that appreciate a very well written mystery.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 13 stories in the cycle collected as The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: In this story, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard brings Holmes a seemingly trivial problem about a man who shatters plaster busts of Napoleon. One was shattered in Morse Hudson’s shop, and two others, sold by Hudson to a Dr. Barnicot, were smashed after the doctor’s house and branch office had been burgled. Nothing else was taken. In the former case, the bust was taken outside before being broken.
Holmes knows that Lestrade’s theory about a Napoleon-hating lunatic must be wrong. The busts in question all came from the same mould. Why is he breaking them?
The next day, Lestrade calls Holmes to a house where there has been yet another bust-shattering, but there has also been a murder. Mr. Horace Harker found the dead man on his doorstep after investigating a noise. His Napoleon bust was also taken by a burglar entering through a window. It, too, was from the same mould. Also, a photograph of a rather apish-looking man is found in the dead man’s pocket.
The fragments of Harker's bust are in the front garden of an empty house up the street. Obviously the burglar wanted to see what he was doing, for there is a streetlamp here, whereas the bust could have been broken at another empty house nearer Harker’s, but it had been dark there.
Holmes tells Lestrade to tell Harker, a journalist for the Central Press Syndicate, that he is convinced that the culprit is a lunatic. Holmes knows that this is not true, but it is expedient to use the press to convince the culprit that this is what the investigators believe.
Holmes interviews the two shopkeepers who sold the busts and finds out whom they were sold to, and where they were made, Gelder & Co. A couple of his informants also recognize the apish man in the picture. They know him as Beppo, an Italian immigrant. He even worked in the shop where the first bust was broken, having left his job there only two days earlier.
Holmes goes to Gelder & Co. and finds out that the busts were part of a batch of six, but other than that, the manager can think of no reason why they should be special, or why anyone would want to destroy them. He recognizes Beppo’s picture, and describes him as a rascal. He was imprisoned for a street-fight stabbing a year earlier, but has likely been released now. He once worked at Gelder & Co., but has not been back. His cousin still works there. Holmes begs the manager not to talk to the cousin about Beppo.
That evening, Lestrade brings news that the dead man has been identified as Pietro Venucci, a Mafioso. Lestrade believes that Venucci was sent to kill Beppo, but wound up dead himself. Why is the Mafia after Beppo?
After sending an express message, Holmes invites Dr. Watson and Lestrade to join him outside a house in Chiswick where apparently Holmes is expecting another bust-breaking. Lestrade by now is exasperated with Holmes’s preoccupation with the busts, but comes. They are not disappointed. Beppo shows up, enters the house, and comes back out of the window minutes later with a Napoleon bust, which he proceeds to shatter. He then examines the pieces, quite unaware that Holmes and Lestrade are sneaking up behind him. They pounce, and Beppo is arrested. He will not talk, however.
The mystery is at last laid bare after Holmes offers £10 to the owner of the last existing bust, making him sign a document transferring all rights and ownership of the bust to Holmes. After the seller has left, Holmes smashes the bust and among the plaster shards is a gem, the black pearl of the Borgias. Holmes was aware of the case of its disappearance from the beginning. Suspicion had fallen on the owner’s maid, whose name was Lucretia Venucci – the dead man’s sister. Beppo somehow got the pearl from Pietro Venucci, and hid it inside a still-soft plaster bust at the factory where he worked, moments before his arrest for the street-fight stabbing.
After serving his one-year sentence, he sought to retrieve the hidden pearl. He found out from his cousin who bought the busts, and through his own efforts and confederates’, even found out who the end buyers were. He then proceeded to seek the busts out, smashing them one by one to find the pearl.
Although he appears in later published works, this is one of Lestrade's last appearances within the canon. After this he is only mentioned by Holmes or Watson, in "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" and "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" as a working member of the Yard.
I recommend this book to all readers who appreciate a well written mystery story, mainly for those who love Sherlock Holmes.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is one of 13 stories in the cycle collected as The Return of Sherlock Holmes and was published in 1904.


About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: I consider this one of the best short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. In this story, Holmes is hired by the débutante Lady Eva Blackwell to retrieve compromising letters from a blackmailer: Milverton, who causes Holmes more revulsion than any of the 50-odd murderers in his career. Milverton is "the king of blackmailers" and he makes his living out of blackmail. He demands £7,000 (about £700,000 in 2010) for the letters, which would cause a scandal that would end Lady Eva's marriage engagement. Holmes offers £2,000, all Lady Eva can pay, but Milverton insists on £7,000. It is worth £2,000 to him to make an example of Lady Eva. Holmes resolves to recover the letters by whatever means necessary, as Milverton has placed himself outside the bounds of morality.
Holmes visits Milverton's Hampstead house, disguised as a plumber, in order to learn the plan of the house and Milverton's daily routine. He cultivates the acquaintance of Milverton's housemaid and even becomes engaged to marry her. This rather shocks Watson, but Holmes assures him that he has a hated rival who will step in when the plumber disappears. Holmes has learned where Milverton keeps his blackmail papers (a safe in his study), and plans to burgle Milverton's house that night. Watson comes along.
They break into the study, and Holmes opens the safe. But just then Milverton, who should be in bed asleep, enters the study. Holmes and Watson hide behind a curtain, while Milverton has a midnight meeting with a supposed maidservant offering to sell letters that would compromise her mistress.
The woman is actually one of Milverton's former victims, whose broken-hearted husband died when she wouldn't pay Milverton and he revealed her secret. Now she avenges her husband by shooting Milverton to death, then stamps on his face.
Watson instinctively begins to rush out and stop the shooting, but Holmes restrains him. Holmes understands, and Watson instantly realises, "that it was no affair of ours; that justice had overtaken a villain..." The woman runs away, and Milverton's household is roused by the shots. But Holmes takes the time to dump all of Milverton's blackmail papers on the fire in the fireplace, despite the risk of being discovered and caught.
Then Holmes and Watson escape through the garden and over the wall. Watson has to kick himself free from a pursuer who has grabbed his leg.
The next morning, Inspector Lestrade calls at Baker Street to ask for Holmes' help in investigating Milverton's murder, which he ascribes to the two burglars seen escaping over the garden wall. He has a description of one of them: "a middle-aged, strongly built man-square jaw, thick neck, moustache..." Holmes calls that vague. "Why, it might be a description of Watson!" he says, which amuses Lestrade. But Holmes refuses Lestrade's request: "my sympathies are with the criminals, and I will not handle the case."
Later, Holmes recognises the face of the woman who killed Milverton. He shows Watson her photograph displayed in a shop-window among those of other celebrities. Watson recognizes the name of her famous husband, but Holmes signals silence with a finger to his lips.
I recommend this book to all readers who appreciate a well written mystery story, mainly for those who love Sherlock Holmes.