In my bid to read the CWA top 100 crime books, I’m obviously going to be touching on some classics that I expect almost everyone has read. The collected Sherlock Holmes short stories are a case in point. I’m guessing most visitors here will have read Holmes and have fond memories of at least the more famous stories.
So what I am going to do is highlight an often overlooked story from each of the volumes, beginning with the Adventures, published in 1892 and written after The Sign of the Four and A Study in Scarlet.
Incredibly, the twelve stories in Adventures were published at the rate of one per month, between July 1891 and June 1892 in The Strand Magazine, before being collected in book form. They include such barnstormers as ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, ‘The Adventure of the Red-Headed League’, and ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’, but I am going to pick a story I think is probably less known.
‘A Case of Identity’ concerns the disappearance of one Mr Hosmer Angel.
Angel was the passionate lover of the typist Miss Mary Sutherland (illustrated by Sidney Paget above), who met him at the local Gasfitters’ Ball. Theirs was a whirlwind romance, and Angel put immense pressure on Miss Sutherland to agree to marry him before her stepfather Mr Windibank can intervene. When she eventually agreed, he vanished on the way to the church, leaving behind him only a broken heart, some typewritten notes, and a memory of his weak voice and dark glasses.
So far: some great names; I love the idea of a Gasfitters’ Ball (a name since adopted for a Sherlockian event in Los Angeles); and a mysterious (although non-fatal) situation. Over to our detectives…
Holmes finds the story of interest, although nothing new:
‘You will find parallel cases, if you consult my index, in Andover in ’77, and there was something of the sort at The Hague last year.’
He has only to prove his theory to solve the mystery. Another feature worth noting: Angel’s notes to Miss Sutherland are Holmes’s only physical clue – is this the first use of analysing typewritten script in detection?
‘A typewriter has really quite as much individuality as a man’s handwriting.’
Once they have found him, Holmes and Watson cannot touch the culprit, although they can give him a scare in a great final confrontation. Miss Sutherland is left with Holmes’ advice: ‘Try to let Mr. Hosmer Angel vanish from your memory, as he has done from your life.’
All told, a story probably worth more as a little slice of Victorian life than as a mystery, but it felt fresh when I read it.
So what do you think of The Adventures? What’s your favourite? Any stories you think should be highlighted? Any you think are overrated?
The full list:
A Scandal in Bohemia
The Adventure of the Red-Headed League
A Case of Identity
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Five Orange Pips
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
The Adventure of the Copper Beeches