Following the relative levity of the last story in my reading challenge, “The Adventure Of The Speckled Band” is a darker Holmes story.
Holmes’s client in this story is Helen Stoner, a woman whose twin sister died in mysterious circumstances two years earlier. The main suspect of the case is the women’s stepfather Dr Grimsbey Roylott who has sufficient motive. But with Miss Stoner’s life now in peril, the clock is ticking for Holmes to investigate how a person can be murdered in a room that is locked and shuttered from the inside.
This story from “The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes” uses the device that has become popular, especially for people who watch television series like “Jonathan Creek” – how can a person be murdered when the room is inaccessible? Without wishing to give the game away, Conan Doyle is clever by bringing the alleged perpetrator into plain sight in the character of Grimsbey Roylott. Not only does the character of Helen Stoner give sufficient motive for the crime of the murder of her twin sister and the threat to her own life, Conan Doyle introduces Roylott in person as a nasty piece of work who threatens to do harm to our two heroes.
This story back tracks along the Holmes timeline as it is set in the early days of Sherlock and Watson’s working relationship, certainly prior to the events of “The Sign Of Four” with Watson being a happy bachelor.
Unlike the majority of the stories that I have read so far, we actually witness Holmes carry out some investigative work – firstly “off stage” as he provides further background behind the motive for the crime and in person as he detects the eventual means. With Holmes carrying out his investigation during the course of the story, there is no need for the author to have him show off his powers of detection through demonstration.
In what may be a first for the Holmes stories, our hero puts himself very much in harm’s way as he keeps vigil in Miss Stoner’s room as he seeks to spring his trap on Roylott AND discover how Stoner’s sister was murdered.
All in all, this is a very clever story with a very literal twist in the tale… or should that be tail (as you will no doubt discover by the end of the story).
For fans of “Sherlock”, there is an equivalent to this story which features in Series Two’s “A Scandal In Belgravia” with reference being made to the case of “the speckled blonde”, a case that also features on John’s blog.
If you are following this reading challenge, the next Holmes story to be featured will be “The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb”.