Short Story Review: The Adventures of the Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of The Engineer’s Thumb is the ninth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary

An injured man finds his way to Dr Watson’s surgery.  His thumb has been cut off.  Dr Watson, as he is treating him, asks how the rather strange injury came about.  When the man, Mr Hatherley, replies, he suggests they go and speak to Sherlock Holmes.  They soon learn that Mr Hatherley was engaged by a strange man to go and fix a hydraulic stamping machine somewhere in the middle of the English countryside.  He is to be paid well for his efforts, but things are not quite right.  Why is the commission top secret?  And why does a woman try to persuade him to leave as soon as he arrives?  Sherlock Holmes after hearing the bizarre story, naturally takes the case to find out these answers and more.

Favourite Quote

Sherlock Holmes was, as I expected, lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown, reading the agony column of The Times and smoking his before-breakfast pipe, which was composed of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantelpiece.

Review

Another riveting Sherlock Holmes mystery.  This is another one that I couldn’t quite crack, though there are plenty of clues along the way.

There is a lot more drama in this story that the other ones I have so far read, in my opinion.  And reading of the close call Mr Hatherley has whilst he is at the isolated house raises the tension a lot.  It’s also a little more gory than the other short stories thanks to the passage where Dr Watson is treating the damaged hand of Mr Hatherley.

A great story, and a interesting read.

Rating

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Short Story Review: The Adventure of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of The Speckled Band in the eighth short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary

Helen Stoner goes to visit Sherlock Holmes as she fears her life is in danger.  She believes her stepfather, Dr Roylott might try to kill her, as her sister died in strange circumstances two years previously, shortly before she was to be married.  Now Helen is to be married, she is scared of suffering the same fate. Since her sister’s death, her final words, spoken in terror, have haunted Helen, “The speckled band!”  But she has not been able to work out what they mean.  The question is, can Sherlock Holmes, before Dr Roylott is able to do away with his remaining step-daughter?

Favourite Quote

I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his professional investigations, and in admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis with which he unravelled the problems which were submitted to him.

Review

This was a great little mystery and so very imaginative.  There are so many clues and red herrings littered throughout the story that you find it difficult to pinpoint the truth of the matter, until of course, everything falls neatly into place.

The Adventure of The Speckled Band is one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  It has everything a late Victorian story should; exotic wild animals that are free to roam, a suspect band of gypsies who keep company with the guilty party, and a damsel in distress at the mercy of her strange and greedy stepfather.  Fabulous stuff!  It kept me guessing until the very end.

Rating

4.5 / 5

Short Story Review: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle is the seventh short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary

Christmas has just passed when Dr Watson goes to Baker Street to see Sherlock Holmes.  On his arrival he finds his friend thinking over a battered hat brought to him by a commissionaire named Peterson.  It came into his possession when Peterson witnessed a scuffle in the street; the victim dropped both his hat and his Christmas goose.  He has brought them to Sherlock Holmes so that they might be returned to their owner as Peterson has no clue as to work out his identity for the man fled after the attack.

However, Holmes thinks it unlikely that the owner will be found, and sends Peterson home to cook the goose, but the man returns and produces the blue carbuncle, claiming that it was found inside the bird.  Naturally, Holmes realises that there is a larger mystery here and sets off to discover what it is.

Favourite Quote

“One of those little incidents which will happen when you have four million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles.  Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without being criminal.” 

Review

This was an intriguing and engaging short story, and in terms of enjoyment, sits around the middle of the stories I’ve read so far from The Adventures of the Sherlock Holmes.  It just so happened that I reached this story in the collection in time for my Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge, which was a stroke of luck.

Sherlock’s analysis of the hat is interesting.  Here we hear him discussing such things as phrenology and how much the hat owner’s wife loves her husband.

This is a great Christmas read with a good message.  It’s nice to see that Sherlock Holmes, who often appears cold and aloof, can be compassionate and merciful.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

Short Story Review: The Man with the Twisted Lip by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Man with the Twisted Lip is the sixth short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Holmes discovers Dr. Watson in the black shadows of a smoke-filled opium den in the basement of the very house where Holmes is investigating his latest murder case! But of course the good doctor is only there to hunt down the drug-addicted husband of his wife’s dear, but distraught, friend. Sound confusing? For all but The Great Detective, it probably is. And we haven’t even talked about the murder yet!

Favourite Quote

“…but it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all.”

Review

The Man with the Twisted Lip was an engaging little puzzle, though perhaps the most interesting part of it was the insight into opium use and drug dens during the Victorian period.

This instalment felt more of a meandering mystery than the other stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes so far.  We start in one place, with one mystery and end up somewhere else entirely, but it is entertaining to read how the story moves along.  An entertaining opening with a great twist at the end.

And, I solved the mystery before the reveal, which I am always pleased about.  Out of the six short stories I have read from this collection to date, this one ranks in the top half of the ratings table.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Short Story Review: The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Five Orange Pips is the fifth short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

A tale of mystery, scandal and murder that may have been committed by the Ku Klux Klan in London. Who else but Sherlock Holmes can solve these series of deaths?

Favourite Quote

“There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen.”

Review

I’ve been looking back over my reviews of the short stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes so far, and I believe that I am rating them more harshly than I tend to usually rate what I read.  I wonder if that is because I have greater expectations of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, and what I do enjoy I really love, creating a starker contrast?  Just a thought…

This is another middle-of-the-road story from the collection.  The mystery was interesting and complex, but the ending was a little flat as there is no satisfactory conclusion to the story.  But perhaps that makes this instalment appear closer to real life which is hardly ever so neatly wrapped and tidied come the end.  It might also serve as a reminder that although Sherlock Holmes is a genius, he is still only human.

Also, I must say that I thought it was rather strange of Sherlock to explain to Mr Openshaw (the man that came to Baker Street with the case) just how much mortal danger he was in and then simply allow him to walk off into the night, alone and unprotected.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Short Story Review: The Boscome Valley Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Boscombe Valley Mystery is the fourth short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Lestrade summons Holmes to a community in Herefordshire, where a local land owner has been murdered outdoors. The deceased’s estranged son is strongly implicated. Holmes quickly determines that a mysterious third man may be responsible for the crime, unraveling a thread involving a secret criminal past, thwarted love, and blackmail.

Favourite Quote

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

Review

I enjoyed this Sherlock Holmes mystery more than the last one.  Again, I worked out the identity of the real criminal though not the reason behind it.

What I really liked about this story was the search and analysis of the crime scene by Sherlock Holmes.

In these last few short stories we have begun to see the softer, more compassionate side to Sherlock Holmes, when often he is presented as being cold, aloof and overly analytical.  And this reminds me of another quote that stood out:

“God help us!” said Holmes after a long silence.  “Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a case of this that I do not think of Baxter’s words, and say, “There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.”

I’m looking forward to reading the next mystery in the series, The Five Orange Pips.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

Short Story Review: A Case of Identity by Arthur Conan Doyle

A Case of Identity is the third short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Miss Mary Sutherland, angry and beside herself with feelings of loss, asks Sherlock Holmes to solve the sudden, mysterious disappearance of a shy and attentive man she has grown to love upon the very day they were to be married.

Favourite Quote

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”

Review

Great storytelling, even if this story was a little predictable – or should I say easier to solve, than some of the other Sherlock Holmes mysteries?  The scheme involved wasn’t very nice at all and I found myself feeling sorry for Mary Sutherland one moment and wondering how she could have fallen for it the next.  So, a bit of a mixed bag, this one.

One of the high points of the story though was the conversation between Holmes and Watson where Sherlock, in the role of “master consulting detective” informs Watson his “pupil”, that he is getting better at the craft of the consulting detective.  He congratulates him with, “‘Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along wonderfully.  You have done very well indeed”, before he goes on to say, even if he failed to notice everything that was important about the case.  Smashing stuff!

Also, on a side note, I do enjoy coming across some of the more unusual names of the period.  In the last story, The Red-headed League, there was a “Jabez”.  In A Case of Identity, there is a “Hosmer”.

Rating

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