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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet", one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the eleventh of the twelve stories collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story was first published in Strand Magazine in May 1892.

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novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011.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 reinterred 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 honours 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: Nice short story. If you are used to Mr. Doyle style, you can almost infer the solution to this one, with some imagination... The plot is interesting: A banker, Mr. Alexander Holder of Streatham, makes a loan of £50,000 to a socially prominent client, who leaves the Beryl Coronet — one of the most valuable public possessions in existence — as collateral. Holder feels that he must not leave this rare and precious piece of jewellery in his personal safe at the bank, and so he takes it home with him to lock it up there. He is awakened in the night by a noise, enters his dressing room, and is horrified to see his son Arthur with the coronet in his hands, apparently trying to bend it. Holder's niece Mary comes at the sound of all the shouting and, seeing the damaged coronet, faints dead away. Three beryls are missing from it. In a panic, Mr. Holder travels to see Holmes, who agrees to take the case.
The case against Arthur seems rather damning, yet Holmes is not convinced of his guilt. Why has Arthur clammed up? Why is he refusing to give a statement of any kind? How could Arthur have broken the coronet (even Holmes, who has exceptionally strong hands, can't do it) and without making any noise? Could any other people in the household be involved, such as the servants, or Mary? Could some visitor, such as the maid's wooden-legged boyfriend, or Arthur's rakish friend Sir George Burnwell, have something to do with what happened to the coronet? The failure to resolve the case will result in Mr. Holder's dishonour, and a national scandal.
Holmes sets about not only reviewing the details that he learns from Holder, but also by examining the footprints in the snow outside. Eventually, Holmes solves the mystery, and Holder is flabbergasted to find that his niece was in league with a notorious criminal (Sir George Burnwell), although apparently she is unaware of his character. The two of them escape justice; however, Holmes is convinced that they will receive their punishment in due time. Arthur's motive in allowing his father to think he was the thief was because he was in love with his cousin Mary and saw her passing the coronet to a confederate outside the window. (The Coronet was broken when Arthur was struggling to wrench it from Burnwell's grasp).
I recommend this short story to all readers that appreciate a well written mystery story, mainly when it involves Sherlock Holmes clever solutions!

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment!

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