Wrapping up ‘The Return…’

I finished reading these stories a few weeks back, and even started writing this post.  Then, I got hit with the one-two punch of the worst kind of lingering cold and a pervasive sense of gloom directly related to online Sherlock fandom and I unplugged a bit to deal with it all.  (My thoughts on Season Four, the finale in particular, may differ substantially from a good portion of fandom and I’m honestly still feeling a little too rundown to dive into any of that now.  Maybe once I can breathe consistently through my nose again and laugh without coughing I’ll be up to it.)  So that’s why this is so late.

Also, vaguely related here and directly regarding this post, researching and writing about serial killers while feverish and heavily medicated leads to some seriously bizarre dreams.  If you define “seriously bizarre” as “creepy, disturbing, and mildly terrifying.”


The four stories I had remaining in The Return of Sherlock Holmes had one very interesting detail in common: murder.  None of these cases were simple burglaries or cases of basic intrigue.  These criminals weren’t just out to befuddle the authorities – they had murder in mind.  In “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” jealousy, obsession, and a woman’s reluctance to just be honest with her husband directly lead to his death, making it essentially a darker version of “The Adventure of the Yellow Face.”  (In case you don’t remember, that story is an earlier example of a woman hiding letters and the reason they freak her out from her husband under the auspices of protecting him from something.)  “The Adventure of the Priory School,” a story that includes my favorite character name ever – Dr. Thorneycraft Huxtable – is a tale of sibling rivalry gone too far that leads to kidnapping and the death of a teacher.  “Abbey Grange”  continues Doyle’s extended literary shaming of abusive and cruel husbands by giving us the justified (as declared by one-man jury John Watson) murder of Lord Treats His Wife Horribly and Throws Liquor Bottles at the Staff-fordshire, Sir Eustace Brackenstall.  Then, in “The Six Napoleons,” we have a man murdered in the course of an apparently pointless and bizarre string of burglaries/serial vandalisms that turn out to be so much more.

This isn’t a trend just in these four stories, though.  Out of the thirteen stories collected in The Return, ten feature a murder either as the inciting incident or part of the climax.  Okay, technically the death in “Priory School” happens before the climax, but that’s generally a solid statement otherwise.  Comparatively, the first two collected volumes – The Adventures and The Memoirs – only contain eight stories combined that fit the “murder mystery” mold.  Of the twelve stories in The Adventures, only four turn on someone’s death.  The Memoirs ration is 4 out of 11.  Either pre-Great Hiatus Holmes took on far more low-key kinds of crime than his post-hiatus self, or Watson chose to write about them far less often.

Does that mean Holmes’ London was just a darker place from 1894 on (the canon date of “The Final Problem”)?  Was Watson more interested in the darker cases after his wife’s presumed death?  (Not getting into the argument of whether canon evidence that Mary Watson is definitely dead exists.  At this point, the assumption is pretty much canon.)  Or was it Doyle’s own wife’s ill health and impending death that cast the darker hue over the universe?  Louisa Doyle died in 1906, a year after the stories were collected in book form and was likely in decline while her husband was writing Holmes’ resurrection.  Tuberculosis isn’t a pleasant or easy way to die, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think this could influence her husband’s writing.

Of course, it could have been a much simpler answer, though: maybe Doyle just had more fun writing about his boys running amuck and solving murder.  Maybe those stories were easier for him to write.  A more external incentive may have existed too.  Doyle may have written murder stories because that’s what people wanted to read.  Murder sells, after all.  Considering Doyle’s decision to bring Holmes back from the dead was in large part financially motivated, that’s probably a good possibility, too.  Doyle was a clever lad, after all.

I guess you can’t really talk about “The Six Napoleons” anymore without mentioning “The Six Thatchers,” at least broadly.  Beyond the obvious feels (referenced in the entry just after the episode), I thought they found an interesting way to twist the canon, but did kind of wish they hadn’t made it such a small part of the overall narrative.  It worked as a handy device, I guess, for packaging the true mystery of the episode; I just kind of wanted it to feature a little more prominently, considering they named the bloody episode after it.  Kind of like how I wished “The Blind Banker” was more like “The Dancing Men” than it is.  Meh.

Honestly, I liked this season, which I know is an unpopular opinion.  I still have a few issues with things, though.  I’ll be capable of talking about them in depth eventually.

So, that’s a wrap on The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the collection that starts with Holmes’ resurrection and ends with Watson’s announcement that the Great Detective has retired and put a moratorium on all future accounts of their stories.  Of course, good old Watson doesn’t listen to his friend, which is how we still have His Last Bow and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes ahead of us.  (And The Valley of Fear, too, but we’ve been there already.)

Unlucky in Love: the Veiled Lodger and The Missing Three-Quarter

Yes, there are brief, mostly spoiler-free thoughts on last night’s “Sherlock” episode below.  But first, I need to blather on a bit about “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” and “The Missing Three-Quarter.”  Because that’s what I do.


What could a vaguely suspicious accidental death and the disappearance of a rugby player have in common?  Yes, they’re both mysteries solved by Sherlock Holmes, but that’s just the start.  What they also have in common is something deeper and a little more poignant – the repercussions (potential or actual) of unfortunate love, something that lies at the center of both “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” and “The Missing Three-Quarter.”

How can love be unfortunate, you might ask?  (In which case, my first response is “Have you ever read any Shakespeare?”)  Love is definitely rife with the potential for complication and those – and it – are rarely if ever within our direct control.  It’s a subject that writers, poets, and lyricists frequently acquaint with madness or pain; it’s also been called blind.  The disastrous turns love can take spell doom for Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Desdemona, and Hamlet and Ophelia, to name a few.  (Also, Jack and Rose, Jack and Ianto, Glen and Maggie…that last one might be too soon, actually.). Love bites; it also bleeds, dies, wounds, scars, and never, ever, runs smooth.  (Yes, I did just quote/paraphrase Def Leppard, Nazareth, and Shakespeare, shamelessly, in one sentence.  Sue me.)

Love definitely hurt and scarred Eugenia Ronder, the eponymous lodger with the veil, and she meets Holmes and Watson when she’s ready to finally tell the story of how.  First, it led her into the arms of a cruel, beastly man who she married with questionable consent; she described it the “evil moment I became his wife.”  Her husband tortured and tormented her for his own sick amusement or whenever she committed some perceived sin that earned her punishment, which usually included being tied down to their bed and beaten with a whip.  In the midst of this hell, Eugenia found a bright spot in Leonardo, the strongman that worked at her husband’s circus.  Briefly, this seemingly angelic creature showed her what love was supposed to be like, which only put her torment at the hands of her husband in sharper contrast.

At that point, Leonardo and Eugenia hatched a plan to kill Mr. Ronder.  It was a simple and elegant plan, intended to stop her torment and free her from a situation she had few other avenues out of.  If you remember from an earlier post, the law made it ridiculously difficult for a woman to get a divorce in those days.  Their plan even worked, except for one little hiccup – the lion that was to take the fall for Leonardo’s brutal murder of Ronder reacted like a lion would to the smell of fresh blood and turned on Eugenia.  Leonardo, instead of attempting to save his love, ran screaming from the scene.  Love managed to fail Eugenia twice.

The story of Godfrery Stauton, Oxford’s missing three-quarter (it’s apparently a rugby position.  Anything beyond baseball is Greek to me, though) is less violent, but no less grim.  Staunton was a swell kid and a hell of a rugby player, but he had a rich but cheap uncle whose penny-pinching ways kept his nephew perpetually in the poorhouse (figuratively, since those actually existed back then).  This cheapness wasn’t an instrument to teach Staunton humility or out of any disapproval of his lifestyle, but because Lord Mount-James was just a cheap son of a bitch.  At least Staunton could look forward to inheriting all that money his uncle refused to spend when he finally meandered off this mortal coil, right?  Well, that was apparently in question, since Staunton managed to go and fall in love with a girl his uncle would never, ever approve of, then further doomed himself by marrying her.  But he kept all this a secret in the hopes of preserving his claim on the family fortune and ensuring a better life for him and his wife one day.

And that’s exactly how it all would have gone down, if Mrs. Staunton hadn’t gotten sick. She fell victim to an illness that plagued the era, and the underprivileged in particular – tuberculosis.  There was no cure for consumption in 1897, when the story takes place; the medical community had only recently begun to understand TB and wouldn’t have a firm grasp on it or proper treatment until the early 20th Century.  Staunton knew the diagnosis was a death sentence, and he carried this knowledge and the associated burden mostly on his own.  Sure, her father and physician knew, but he couldn’t confide in a single friend, his family, or even a stranger on the street.  He had to suffer through his impending widowhood entirely on his own because of one cheap, prejudiced old man.  When the end finally loomed imminent, he had to disappear (which is how Holmes and Watson become involved) so that he can be with the woman he loves as she dies.  That sounds like a living hell for anyone, especially a young man.

There’s another similarity: how Holmes handled both cases.  Due to their individual sensitive nature in both circumstances, Holmes refrained from involving the police.  Per his usual judgement that sometimes a broader form of justice is more fitting, he let the matter of Ronder’s murder settle with the recent death of Leonardo and Eugenia’s disfigurement.  In young Mister Staunton’s case, there was no actual crime to report.  Exposing the events would have been criminal – in a moral sense – however, and neither Holmes nor Watson felt the need to put the widower through more than he had already suffered.  I mostly agree with one of those decisions, and only slightly disagree with the other.


In other news, I have so many thoughts about last night’s Sherlock season four premier, “The Six Thatchers,”and they are all so full of spoilers, which is why I’m not sharing them here.  Needless to say, I was blown away.  I also kind of want to punch John Watson in the nose, for a few reasons.  And hug Sherlock as well.  Martin Freeman’s performance in that scene was exceptional in its heartbreak.  Mark Gatiss, the bad bad man responsible for writing it, is both a genius and a bastard.  Which trait is dominant, by my reckoning, switches from minute to minute.

I can’t wait for next week.  I’m also terrified by how they might be planning to break us, too.

As a distraction, I plan on posting about an era-appropriate set of unsolved mysteries that caught my attention thanks to (yes, again) a podcast I listened to last week.  I think I plan on finishing up the canon by working my way through the remaining stories in batches based on which collection they were published in as well. So, the four remaining stories from The Return of Sherlock Holmes next week, then what’s left of His Last Bow the next, and maybe break The Casebook up over the two remaining weeks in order to finish up by February 1st.  I am not throwing in the towel.  I can do this!

(And then, maybe after that’s done, I’ll go back and fill in the fiction blanks.  Because otherwise I have all these useless notes mini-outlines and nothing to show for them.)

And now for a little “sub”text

I’m finally writing a post about something that my friend James knows way more about than I do. (Be gentle, JY, if my facts go slightly off the rails here. This is your area of expertise, not mine.)

In “The Bruce-Partington Plans,” Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are tasked by the British government – or at least the manifestation of it that is Mycroft Holmes – to retrieve the stolen plans for a top secret submarine. Did you know, though, that at the time Doyle was creating the fictional version, the British government was working on an actual, real-life one? 
(Okay, you may have known that already. I didn’t, though, and I find it pretty interesting. But, I’ve already demonstrated that I find very odd things interesting.)  

The British Royal Navy began playing with submersible ships with the A-Class submarines which rolled out in 1902, but the idea of submerging a boat for tactical purposes dates back to the US Civil War and ships like the Confederate Navy’s H.L. Hunley. Early attempts had as many failures as successes – the Hunley sank off the coast of Charleston in February of 1864 with all eight of its crew; the A-Class subs tended to have issues with their petrol-based engines and every one of the 13 boats fell victim to some kind of fatal accident in their lifetimes. Failure just led to innovation: Britain rolled out the B, C, and D-Class in short order over the next decade, and finally unveiled the E-1, the first of the E-Class submarines, in November of 1912.   

(Apropos of hardly any of my point: I need to remember to make use of the Hunley if I ever get back to things that aren’t Holmes adjacent.)

There is a lot of speculation that this submarine – or the rumored existence of it – inspired Doyle to have someone steal plans for a highly classified submarine in “The Bruce-Partington Plan.” 

Nothing about the E-1 probably sounds all that revolutionary compared to modern submersible warships. It had a maximum recommended depth of only 100 feet, though some later models managed to hit the 200s. These weren’t exceptionally fast ships by our standards, either: surfaced, it could only manage around seventeen miles per hour; diving, it topped out around nine and a half. While it had four engines – two 800 horsrepower diesel-powered ones that did most of the heavy lifting above water and two six hundred horsepower electric ones for under water – it had a maximum range of somewhere around 3,500 nautical miles. Considering its predecessors were mainly stuck doing coastal missions, though, that was a monstrous leap in distance. For its time? The E-Class were some badass mothers. 

E-Class subs performed admirably for Her Royal Highness’ Navy during World War I, primarily seeing battle in the Baltic, the North Sea, and the Turkish theater, though some served – and then were scuttled – off the Russian coast. The Germans made wider, and more notorious, use of subs during the First World War, of course (does the Lusitania sound familiar?), but the rest of us weren’t far behind the curve there. World War II would see an increase in submarine warfare, as well as a broadening of its boundaries and its users, but those strategies began being tested more than twenty years earlier. 

So, how much evidence is there that Doyle based the Bruce-Partington sub on the E-1? Well, there’s good old coincidence, and if Leroy Jethro Gibbs (random NCIS reference) has taught me nothing else, it’s that there’s probably no such thing as coincidence. Doyle published his fictionalized theft in 1908, just four years before the E-1 was launched and three years before construction began. The plans had to have been in existence by then. It’s not beyond possibility that Doyle heard about the ship’s future existence from one well-placed acquaintance or another and that it laid the groundwork for his imagination to run a bit amuck. Holmes and Watson had retrieved their fair share of national secrets by then, so giving them another opportunity to save the day and prevent nationwide scandal seems almost obvious. 

This story also features one the cleverest bits of deduction I think Doyle ever wrote (and possibly the least possible plot point as well, though I’m not going to wait for a metro train to park outside my window so I can push a body out onto the roof and see if it’ll stay there), but I don’t want to go too far into it and spoil it for you (oops? Ignore the previous parenthetical). Needless to say, there’s a reason so many people enjoy this story, and why it made it into the number two slot on Doyle’s own list of his favorite Holmes and Watson adventures (he apparently made two of these lists in his lifetime, and “Bruce-Partington” made it onto the second one; it wasn’t written yet when he made his first).   

If this all sounds familiar, and you’re only a fan of BBC’s “Sherlock,” this would be the case Mycroft keeps trying to give Sherlock but gets pushed off onto John repeatedly in that ever important subplot to “The Great Game.” That episode packed so many fantastic canon references in, it’s almost hard to keep track, but that one featured very prominently.   

Now, let’s all sit back and see if James reads me up one side and down the other for my military knowledge/research, shall we? 

The Sign of the Three – Numerology in Sherlock Holmes

Yeah, I know, the book’s called The Sign of the Four.  I’m making use of the twist Moffat and Gattiss made for season three of “Sherlock.”  Let’s just pretend for a second that I’m being clever and not riding on the coattails of someone else’s wordplay.

I noticed something when I was looking at my list of stories to read in preparation for this week’s discussion of “The Three Students”: Doyle titled a lot of things “The Three” something or other.  He also used numbers in titles of other stories – The Sign of Four, “The Five Orange Pips,” “The Second Stain,” and “The Six Napoleons” – but the number three shows up in the titles of, and as part of the plot in, four different stories.  (You may argue that four isn’t a lot, but just work with me here, okay?  Four out of 60 is possibly statistically significant.  Maybe.  Somewhere.  Anyway…)

This could be discounted as just whim or it being Doyle’s lucky number, except that the number three is kind of big in various forms of spiritualism and in many religions.  And, as we know, spiritualism was of major importance to Doyle, particularly later in his life.

Doyle the Spiritualist

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first became involved in spiritualism in around 1887.  That’s the year he wrote a letter to the journal Light to “come out” as a spiritualist the first time.  He attended several séances also in 1887, helped found the Hampshire Society for Psychical Research two years later, and became a member of the London chapter in 1893.  He didn’t hard-core join the movement, though, until World War I and the influence of the Doyle nanny, who claimed to have psychic abilities.  It was during this period, helped along by the loss of close friends in the War, that he started believing in ghosts and the ability to commune with the spirits of the deceased.  The deaths of one of his sons, two brothers-in-law, and another family member only increased his interest.

(Some like to claim that Kingsley Doyle’s death in 1918 drove his father deeper into spiritualism, but Doyle published his first war-time treatise on the topic two years earlier, debunking that assumption.  The loss didn’t make him a spiritualist – it just pushed him further into the practice.)

He wrote several texts on the subject, both fictional – a Professor Challenger novella titled The Land of Mist – and non-fictional, such as his book on the Cottingley Fairies photos and one called The Vital Message on general Spiritualist topics.  His quest for proof of life after death led him to associate with men like Harry Houdini, William Thomas Stead, and Harry Price.  Over the course of his investigations, he managed to get taken in by faked photos of fairies (see the Cottingley photos mentioned above) and fake psychics like the Zancigs.   By all accounts, he was a man on a desperate mission to prove that those we lose are never, ever really gone.  Considering he buried a wife and a son, other family members, and numerous friends thanks to a bloody war, who could really blame him for his quest?

While there’s nothing specifically that points to Doyle having a direct interest in numerology, it is an interesting coincidence.  The stories in question – “The Three Gables,” “The Three Students,” “The Missing Three-Quarter,” and “The Three Garridebs” – were all written after 1900, placing them well after Doyle’s initial dive into spiritualism.  So it’s possible he was thinking of the significance of the number when he wrote those stories.  It’s also possible he just liked the number.  Doyle wasn’t known for doing a lot of planning of any of his writing.  (Doyle was a true pantser; I’m sure he would’ve found NaNoWriMo a very intriguing concept.)

The Number Three

What’s so special about the number three, then?  It depends on who you ask.  In baseball, three strikes and you’re out and three outs end an inning; there’s a three-point shot in basketball and a field goal is worth three points in football, too.  People like to count to three before doing things – just ask Murtaugh and Riggs of “Lethal Weapon” fame.  Mathematically, 3 is how you round down pi.  It’s also the first odd prime number and the first number attributed to a shape (the triangle).  It’s a lucky number to the Chinese and it is said that the third time’s the charm, right?

But it goes deeper than that.  Three plays a significant role in many religions.  Christianity revolves around the holy trinity – The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Wicca follows the Rule of Three: whatever you put out in the world, for good or ill, will be returned to you threefold (so always make sure to put out good energy, of course).  In Greek mythology, the Titan, Cronus, had three sons that represent the rulers of Olympus/Heaven, the Ocean, and the Underworld/Hell.  A lot of religions have triple deities as well: Hindus (the Trimurti and the Tridevi), Buddists (the Three Jewels of Buddhism), Wicca (the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone), and the aforementioned Christian Holy Trinity.  And hey, we all know that three’s company, right?  Just ask Jack Tripper.

We see in three dimensions.  In some branches of mysticism, three represents The Triad – the beginning, the middle, and the end; birth, life, and death; past, present, and future.  The moon has three phases as well.  If you look to movies and television, we’ve got the Three Musketeers, the three witches that deliver the prophesy to Macbeth, and innumerable trios of heroes from Harry, Ron, and Hermione to The Doctor, Amy, and Rory.  “Charmed” is all about a family of witches who reach ultimate power when the three Halliwell sisters invoke the Power of Three.  Three is the sort of natural number we just find ourselves drawn to, apparently, and it’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder if we’re drawn to it because of its relation to religion and myth, or if it became so prevalent there because the people writing down said myths were drawn to it themselves.

Holmesian Threes

Technically, we’ve only gotten to two of the four listed stories, so I won’t dwell too long on this subject, but it is relevant, I think, to mention how the number plays a part in the two stories I have read.  The three eponymous gables refer to the house the poor old widow lives in that someone has such desperate interest to buy that they’re ready to purchase everything in it as well as the structure.  Of course, the gables themselves and the house in particular actually have nothing to do with why the buyer is interested.  She’s just after the manuscript in the widow’s son’s trunks.   In “The Three Students,” the number shows up a few times: the professor’s bedroom window has three panes; the Greek text to be translated at the exam is three pages long; and there are three students who live above the professor’s rooms.  One of those students is, of course, the almost-dirty cheat responsible for the quasi break-in.

Let’s not even forget that there are three Openshaws – the uncle, the father, and then eventually the son – that die before the killers disappear (likely to die at sea) in “The Five Orange Pips.”  I just thought of that.


If I really wanted to belabor the whole numerology point, I’d go into the relevance of the other numbers used in the canon – four and five in particular, since the numbers in both those stories play such a big part in the plot – but I’m not much of an expert on the topic.  And I admit, I’m one of those people drawn to the natural harmony of three, too.  Besides, it would mean adding a fourth header, and stopping at three seems very fitting.

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” or “When I meet Thomas Jefferson Imma compel him to include women in the sequel.”


(Sorry, it’s an involuntary reaction to hearing that lyric.)

It’s no surprise to anyone reading this, I’m assuming, that the Victorians had some weird thoughts and practices in regards to women, especially single women.  We were delicate flowers who couldn’t handle a slightly uncomfortable truth (“A Case of Identity“), were not expected to be as devious as our male counterparts or in any way their equal (“A Scandal in Bohemia“),were property whose worth was determined by our marriageability or our perceived purity (“The Noble Bachelor“), and were easy targets for blackmailers (“Charles Augustus Milverton“).  This was an era when women had to fight to own anything of their own, could be utterly destroyed by a poor marriage or a hint of scandal, and had nearly no one fighting for them.  I mean, married women didn’t even truly get the right to really own property in any real sense until The Married Women’s Property Act of 1882, for God’s sake.

The mystery at the heart of “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” revolves exactly around those antiquated ideas of a woman’s worth and autonomy, taking James Windibank’s plot to trap his step-daughter in a fictional engagement in “The Noble Bachelor” to keep his hands on her inheritance to an all new low.  What Mr. Carruthers and Mr. Woodley plan to do to Violet Smith is potentially the worst thing any Holmes villain has ever planned to do to another human being, and that includes the several of them responsible for murder.

Yes, there is something worse than murder.

Violet comes to Holmes and Watson not necessarily because of the odd business arrangement she’s found herself in – reminiscent of every odd business arrangement ever presented in a Holmes story, ever – but because someone has been following her on her weekly bike rides to the train station to spend her weekends back in London.   She doesn’t consider the job offer or its connection to a dead relative in South Africa to be strange enough to worry about, but the creepy cyclist is weird enough to engage Holmes and Watson over.  And, really, it is super weird and creepy, but so is the rest.

See, Carruthers and Woodley found Violet and her mother through an ad in the newspaper.  According to them, they had known Violet’s uncle, her father’s brother, who recently died penniless in South Africa.  His last dying wish had been for his friends to find his sister-in-law and niece and ensure they’re taken care of.  To this end, Carruthers offers Violet a job teaching his daughter piano – and basically being a live-in governess – for a hundred pounds a year.  That’s about double the going rate, by the way.  The arrangement includes the ability to spend weekends at home, which is why she heads off to the station every Saturday on her bike, and rides back to Carruthers’ home the same way every Monday.

And is followed each way by a creepy bearded dude on a bike.

While Carruthers is nothing short of a gentleman to Violet, his friend Woodley is not.  He is a bully and a prick who gets grabby with Violet and whose actions definitely imply he thinks he is within his rights to force himself upon her, either through just his company or physically.  People that know him freely call him a blackguard for good reason.  Carruthers disapproves of this behavior, so he throws his friend out of his house, and Woodley is smart enough to stay away, but that doesn’t mean Violet has any less reason to be concerned about what the bastard might be up to.

Holmes takes the whole affair pretty seriously (despite not wanting to be bothered early on), but Watson initially misses the seriousness of the scenario.  I’d love to say that his initial cavalier attitude towards a woman being stalked by a man is unheard of in the present day and just another Victorian point of view we left far behind, but we hear the opposite on the news too often to dismiss it as such.  Stalking is a highly under investigated crime, especially when the ones being stalked are women.  But that’s another rant for another time.  Holmes does at least eventually see the potential for danger and arranges to try to catch the creep in the act after Violet has to discontinue her working relationship with Mr. Carruthers.  (She found his marriage offer to be a little inappropriate, especially since she was already engaged to someone else.)  Unfortunately, Violet plans to leave on an earlier train and is already heading out – and caught by her pursuers – by the time Watson and Holmes arrive.

And that is when we find out the evil scheme at the heart of this mystery.  We discover that Carruthers is the stalker (though he had pure intentions, he swears), that he and Woodley planned to coerce Violet into marrying one of them to get their hands on the money she inherited from her supposedly penniless uncle, and that Woodley “won” the right to be the bridegroom in a game of cards.  They also discover that Woodley’s taken up with a disgraced and defrocked vicar who helps him perform a shotgun wedding very much against Violet’s will.  I’m fairly sure the wedding night would have gone the exact same way if Holmes, Watson, and Carruthers hadn’t intervened.  It’s probably pretty true that Violet might not have survived much past the actual collection of said inheritance, actually, and that her life would have been pretty much hell until then, too.

Here’s the sad thing: the laws and philosophies of the era this story was written about?  Would have entirely allowed the overall concept of what Woodley and Carruthers planned.  Even if parliament gave women a right to own property in 1882 (but only in England, Wales, and Ireland; the law didn’t apply in Scotland and it only applied in Northern Ireland once the split happened), the easiest way to get your hands on an unsuspecting heiress’ money was tricking her into marrying you.  Lie your way to the altar.  Coerce someone into agreeing.  Or force her to do it if all else fails.  We can only assume someone tried the last option at least once for Doyle to come up with the idea for this plot.  I’m not saying he lacked the imagination to come up with the idea on his own, but reality does frequently inspire art, after all.  I mean, look at how many episodes of the various Law and Order franchises had disclaimers about their similarity to true events?  Hell, Dragnet started every episode with “These stories are true.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”  I’m just saying, there’s precedent for mysteries to be based on real events and for this slimy scheme to have at least been attempted.

Given his thoughts on women’s marriage rights (we’ll ignore his thoughts on suffrage for now), I can see why Doyle would choose to make these types of men his criminals.  Which isn’t to say he set out to deliver a message with this particular story, but it certainly touches on one of those issues he felt passionately enough about to lend his pen to publicly.  This was about six years before he published “Divorce Law Reform” after all, so maybe it was his way of decrying something fictionally he’d address otherwise later.  A dry run, if you will.

There are a lot of things I can get irate over and then, in the next breath, hand-wave off as “it’s how it was; it was horrible and stupid and inhumane, but historical hindsight is always 20/20.”  But Woodley (and Carruthers, whether he had a change of heart or not) did something that was inexcusable in any time.  No civilized society could find a reason to consider forcing a woman into matrimony at gunpoint with the help of a scuzzball vicar just to access a fortune she doesn’t know she has as acceptable.  The fact that doing so with false promises and no gun was less unacceptable is an unfortunate blemish on the Victorian legacy.

The good news is, Holmes and Watson stopped the unimaginable from happening, Violet married her betrothed, and inherited a nice chunk of change to boot.  So even stories with potential rapey undertones can eventually have a happy ending.

“The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez” or “When the who has nothing to do with the why.”

If you talk to a member of law enforcement and ask them which cases are the hardest to solve, you might be surprised by the answer.  It’s not likely going to be a specific class of crime that they bemoan – not your murders, robberies, cons, auto thefts, etc.  What they’ll probably tell you is that the most difficult cases to close are usually the seemingly random ones.  That’s because motive goes a long way toward implicating a criminal.

Sure, if you ask Gil Grissom of “CSI: Las Vegas” fame, he’ll tell you that the why isn’t important, but he’s speaking purely from a forensic investigator’s point of view.  Plus, you know, he’s fictional.  When the physical evidence is all you focus on, the why can be an afterthought.  But when you’re looking at a crime from a broader perspective, what motivates the criminal is always just as helpful for identifying the perpetrator as the how.  And that is what makes random crime such a pain in the investigator’s ass.

This is especially true in a world – like, say, the Victorian Era, for example – where DNA, extensive fiber analysis, and cellphone records and cell tower data don’t exist.

Holmes and Watson undertake a seemingly motive-less murder in “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez,” a story that revolves around the death of a mild-mannered personal secretary found dead in his employer’s study.  Willoughby Smith – which I think is a glorious name for a mild-mannered secretary – has no enemies, no hobbies worth mentioning (he apparently has his work and nothing else going for him), and not a single bad habit to his credit, unless you count his fondness for the same Egyptian cigarettes his employer, Professor Coram, chain-smokes.  Willoughby is, in fact, such a boring gentleman that when he wasn’t busily taking the professor’s dictation, he was pulling references for the next day’s work.  This is why Willoughby is cast, in my brain, as Rupert Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  But without the cool, irresponsible magic-using rebellious phase and tawdry affair with the computer sciences teacher.

What I’m saying here is, nobody had a reason to want Willoughby dead.  He’s not interesting enough for anyone to want dead.

(I kind of want a story where Willoughby is only playing at the mild-mannered secretary thing because he’s really a spy.  Maybe even a foreign spy.  And definitely played by Anthony Stewart Head utilizing portions of his Rupert Giles wardrobe/aesthetic.  Especially the glasses.  Sorry, I think I may have gone slightly off track there.  Also, I don’t know why I say “I kind of want” when what I should be doing is making notes for something in the Charlotte-verse.  Anyway.)

(Have I apologized yet for these random tangents that tend to pop up?  I really feel like I should.  Sorry.)

Also not helping make the case all that clear or simple is the paucity of helpful physical evidence.  There is only one set of incoming tracks coming into the house.  The hallways are floored in such a way that they don’t really take footprints well.  The killer seemingly leaves nothing of themselves behind at all except for a pair of glasses found in the victim’s hand, and his dying declaration – “The professor – it was she.”  The glasses in question here are the aforementioned golden pince-nez.  (If you’re unfamiliar with the term, those are glasses that do not have sturdy earpieces but are held in place by a nose clip and may have ear hooks attached to the frames by a chain.)  Holmes spends about five minutes with the glasses and provides a pretty specific description of the wearer – female, well-dressed, of good bearing, with a wide nose and close-set eyes who has probably been to the optometrist twice in the last year and bears a few physical signs of someone with poor eyesight and a strong eyeglass prescription.

If Inspector Hopkins were left to figure this case out alone, it would probably still be unsolved 122 years later because the lack of motive actively stymied the Inspector’s processing of the information.  Holmes of course sees things others don’t and, through his usual combination of attention to detail and ability to logically analyze all possible explanations for a thing, manages to suss out the location of the killer.  Which, by the way, is tucked in behind the bookshelf in the professor’s own bedroom.  Before you ask: no, the professor wasn’t involved.  It was just in is best interests not to let the cops find the killer.

Can I just say, secret compartments and rooms in houses seem to be really popular things in Victorian England.  That’s the second story in a row where someone’s had a hidden cubby hole to hide themselves or someone else, and I’m kind of jealous.

Once the killer, the mysterious Anna, is revealed, along with the professor’s secret Russian origins and Nihilist Party background, the why of the crime becomes clear.  But without the presence of displaced cigarette ashes, a pair of abandoned glasses, a sickly man’s increased appetite, and the identical nature of two hallways, there would be nothing that could ever point to this one Russian woman as the wielder of the sealing-wax knife that killed poor, dead Willoughby.  Not even Holmes saw anything suspicious enough about the Professor to make him curious as to his background, after all.

I realize this case pretty much supports Grissom’s previously mentioned credo.  But!  It takes the exceptional brain of Sherlock Holmes in order for that to happen.  The, unfortunately, fictional exceptional brain.  Which isn’t to say that brilliant investigators don’t exist, or that other, real-life investigators couldn’t have potentially discovered the hidden compartment behind the bookshelf and found poor Anna.  What I am saying, though, is that the case likely wouldn’t have been solved so quickly or so easily without the involvement of Sherlock Holmes, super sleuth.

Honestly, where else but a Sherlock Holmes story would a Russian discontent accidentally murder someone not at all involved with Russia, communism, or espionage, and hide in her husband’s bedroom to wait out the cops?  Poor Willoughby.  He could’ve been a spy…


I’m going to tattle on myself for a second here: I really thought, based on Willoughby’s dying declaration and the description of the glasses, that the Professor was going to be revealed as a woman hiding in an elaborate disguise.  My pet theory dissolved entirely, though, when Watson described Professor Coram’s face as “aquiline.”  I liked my theory, damn it…

“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” or A Study in Justice

So, two things happened to inspire the topic of this week’s post.  First off, I found I had absolutely nothing to say about the story.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  It’s a perfectly great story.  It just didn’t spark any immediate topics for discussion in my brain.  Secondly, I finally gave in to my desperate need to find an excuse to discuss the character of Odo from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”  Those two mostly unrelated things collided, thankfully in a way that at least gave me a way to bash out a thousand or so words.  I’ll still likely expound in a deeper and more meaningful way on why I think Odo is so very clearly a futuristic alien version of Sherlock Holmes (and not so much the small town sheriff trying to hold this crazy wild west cattle town together, which is the metaphor the writers were going for), but that will be later.  Today, I want to talk about how justice and innocence are addressed in the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder” and the DS9 episode “Things Past.”

“Norwood Builder” isn’t the first time Holmes and Watson have to disprove the guilt of someone Lestrade (or some other Yardie) is certain committed a crime.  It is, though, the first time Holmes himself questions the innocence of his client.  The evidence is stacked impressively against young John MacFarlane – he was the last person to see the deceased alive according to a witness, his walking stick is the apparent murder weapon, and there are no additional footprints in or out of the crime scene.  There’s no evidence of another person ever entering the room where it happened.  Oh, and there’s the small matter of the victim having signed a will leaving all he possessed to Mr. MacFarlane the night he died.  Means, motive, and opportunity, when added to the physical evidence, just screams “slam dunk conviction,” really.  Even Holmes and his keen eye and methodical brain can’t manage to find any speck to contradict the official theory, either, unlike in “The Boscombe Valley Mystery.”  For the first time, Holmes is forced to consider that he may be working for a criminal – or at least someone he can’t prove innocent of the crime.

“Unless we succeed in establishing an alternative theory, this man is lost.  You can hardly find flaw in the case which can now be presented against him, and all further investigation has served to strengthen it…I fear, my dear fellow, that our case will end ingloriously by Lestrade hanging our client, which will certainly be a triumph for Scotland Yard.”

– Sherlock Holmes, “Adventure of the Norwood Builder”

And yet, there are aspects of the case that bug Holmes enough to convince him there’s something more going on.  Things that bug him enough that he’s not willing to give up the investigation or merely accept MacFarlane’s guilt.  That’s because Holmes doesn’t stop at the easy conclusion – he digs back farther, looks deeper, and considers aspects and avenues that men like Lestrade never consider relevant or worthy of further inspection.  That doesn’t make Lestrade a bad cop; it just makes him a lousy investigator.  Not his fault, though.  Holmes’ technique is very much a rarity in Victorian-era police work.

“Things Past” comes at a point when DS9 is well into the Dominion War arc, but the majority of this episode’s narrative takes place several years earlier, during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor.  Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), Elim Garak (Andrew Robinson), Odo (Rene Auberjonois), and Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) wind up transported into the bodies of four Bajoran workers on the at-the-time Cardassian-controlled space station Terok Nor (later Deep Space Nine).  The three men are revealed to be living out the final days of individuals soon to be tried and convicted for attempting to assassinate the station’s commander, Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo).  “Tried and convicted” here is a pretty questionable term, as the Cardassian legal system doesn’t exactly believe in the concept of innocence or a defendant’s right to dispute the charges or, really, anything we would recognize as a legal system.  If you’re arrested by the Cardassians, odds are you’re going to also be executed by them.

Unless you’re Miles O’Brien, but that’s a different story for an earlier episode.

Through the course of the episode, we discover that Odo knows an awful lot about a case that happened (we’re told) before he became the station’s constable.  He explains that away as his having access to the security logs, and his seemingly doomed compatriots initially believe that.  Eventually, though, we find out that it wasn’t his predecessor, Thrax, responsible for the shoddy investigation and the resulting executions, but Odo himself.  While evidence enough existed to convict the men (as in the story above), they were innocent, something Odo discovered later and could have found out sooner, if he’d dug a little deeper.  Three men died because Odo hadn’t learned the difference between law and justice.

I was too busy, too concerned with maintaining order and the rule of law.  I thought of myself as the outsider, a shapeshifter that cared for nothing but justice.  It never occurred to me that I could fail.  But I did.  And I never wanted anyone to know the truth…that seven years ago, I allowed three innocent men to die.

– Odo, “Things Past,” Season 5, Episode 8

And that may be the most basic difference between Odo and Holmes in these two examples.  Odo hasn’t learned the lesson that Holmes has instinctively known since the beginning: that there is no real justice without the truth.  Holmes doesn’t serve the law.  He doesn’t even really serve justice.  He serves the truth, and that’s what he searches for in every case he takes on.  That is what keeps him digging despite the mountain of evidence about to bury his client, and ultimately allows him to discount the most damning of it when it’s found.

“And yet, it may be premature to abandon the case.  After all, important fresh evidence is a two-edged thing, and may possibly cut in a very different direction to that which Lestrade imagines.”

– Sherlock Holmes, “Adventure of the Norwood Builder”

He knows, despite all of it, that MacFarlane is innocent and he refuses to let an innocent man hang for a crime he didn’t commit; or, in this case, that was never committed in the first place.

Odo learns all that in time, but his early interactions with justice are clumsy at best.  He is a natural observer, which makes him (eventually) a damned good investigator.  But he has the same problem Dr. Pulaski attributes to Data in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode “Elementary, Dear Data”: he can’t draw real conclusions from the assembled facts (yet) because he’s lacking the instinct and human(oid) experience required to make real use of the information.  It’s seven years later that he looks at himself (disguised in his mind as Thrax) and can say, “Your job is to find the truth, not obtain convictions.”  His past self didn’t understand there is a difference.

And, honestly, in the Cardassian courts, there isn’t much of one, anyway.

We live in a time where wrongful convictions are the meet food that feed nightly newscasts and dozens of podcasts.  Now, more than ever, we are keenly interested in and aware of how much it truly costs to send innocent men and women away for things they did not do.  The justice system in this country is being scrutinized like never before and no matter what side you fall on in regards to any of the big-name cases currently sharing the spotlight, I think it’s safe to say that we’d all rather truth and justice prevailed over convictions any day.

Maybe we still have a few things to learn from Sherlock Holmes after all.

“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone,” or, “Who Tells Your Story?”

(Yes, I fully realize I used that in part for a previous entry, but that one wasn’t Sherlock-related so it doesn’t count.  Plus?  It fits.)

Back in week two, I covered point of view (POV) while talking about “The Musgrave Ritual” and “The Gloria Scott.”  POV is a pretty important thing when you’re talking about a series told by a specific first-person narrator for 90% of its run.  That’s the kind of detail that starts to feel like an expectation.  When you read the Sherlock Holmes stories, you expect to hear them told in John Watson’s voice.  To suss out the story threaded through Watson’s perceptions and recollections.

So it’s weird and maybe a little bit jarring, then, to open a story and see the following staring up at you from the top of the page:

It was pleasant to Dr. Watson to find himself once more in the untidy room of the first floor in Baker Street which had been the starting-point of so many remarkable adventures.

It’s not even the slightly awkward sentence structure that’s so jarring.  Watson should never be a “he;” we’ve been conditioned by three short story collections and four novels up to this point to expect him as the “I” at the beginning of every tale.  By the time we reach “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone,” we can’t really believe any other possible way exists.

And then we’re proven wrong.

Point of view is one of the most important decisions a writer makes when beginning a project.  Who tells the story sets the tone for absolutely everything and provides a lot of the rules and boundaries your story will fit within from the first letter to the last.  (I say this should be decided at the beginning because deciding it at the end and having to rewrite the whole thing in a new POV is a bitch that I’m pretty sure I’ve already whined about.  More than once.  To everyone who knows me.  For the record?  I still found third-person pronouns hiding in my 4th round of edits.). The choice of narrator also determines a lot about the style and delivery of the piece.

It’s also why “Mazarin Stone” bugs me so much.

(Yes, I realize a lot of things have bugged me lately.  I’m a woman of many moods, most of them irritated, obviously.)

It’s a good story, don’t get me wrong.  Reading it right after “Empty House” was kind of amusing, since it makes it seem like having a wax dummy set up in the bow window to tempt air gun-toting snipers is just a “thing” around Baker Street.  To borrow the joke from season six of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – “Someone’s trying to shoot Holmes with an air gun.  It must be Tuesday.”  The plot revolves less around the threat of imminent death than the recovery of yet another one of the crown jewels.  I think we’ve watched Holmes find and return about three of those by now – the Beryl Coronet, the Blue Carbuncle, and now the Mazarin Stone.  It makes you wonder how good the security is around the Royal Family and their related holdings if precious stones, salacious letters from foreign rulers, and important treaties go missing so often.  But, if they didn’t, I guess Holmes and Watson wouldn’t have anything to do.  (Watson apparently already has nothing to do, but I’ll get to that later.)

The thieves this time around are a cold-blooded count with a penchant for big game hunting (Holmes potentially fitting that description, apparently) and his boxer right-hand man.  I’m getting the impression, between this story and “The Three Gables” that professional boxers in England did a lot of side business as ruffians-for-hire.  Sam Merton, the one in this story, is a far less sympathetic creature than Steve Dixie, but it still makes you wonder if this was standard secondary employment for pugilists of the era.  Neither Mr. Merton or Count Sylvius appreciate Holmes’ interference in their little enterprise, thus the current threats against his life.  Both, of course, end up outwitted by the wily detective.  This is a Sherlock Holmes story – he always outwits (nearly) everyone.

Here’s the part that bugs me:  remember back in the discussion of “The Three Gables,” when I basically said we were missing all the “Sherlock” in our Sherlock Holmes?  Somehow, in taking the pen out of Watson’s hand in “Mazarin Stone,” Doyle essentially removed the good doctor from the story.  We see him in the beginning long enough for Holmes to unload all the usual exposition, then at the end when he needs an excuse to show off.  For the rest of the story, though, Watson is dismissed to play fetch the cops while Holmes plays cat and mouse with the crooks.  This feels like an absolutely horrible use of Watson, who has always before been more of a partner to Holmes.  Here, he’s relegated to little more than a valet.  It’s almost as if Doyle didn’t know what to do with his narrator when he wasn’t actually narrating.

This dismissal of Watson, the treatment of him as an unnecessary tag-a-long who plays little part in Holmes’ actual success, is something early stage and movie adaptations ran amuck with.  He was often left out entirely – leaving Holmes to solve everything brilliantly on his own – or made into a bumbling buffoon of a sidekick only existing to make Holmes look smarter or give the audience something to laugh at.  Seeing his creator shove him aside this way just reminds me of that poor treatment, and makes me even more grateful for the more modern representations of our beloved doctor.

I’ve already come out as a Watsonite.  The annoyance there should be no surprise at all by now.

So, why would Doyle decide to use third person suddenly?  This is the second time he does.  (The first instance, in “His Last Bow” is…well, kind of necessary.  Spoilers.). Maybe he enjoyed the narrative distance her achieved with It in the previous story and felt like doing so again.  Maybe by the time he got to The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes he’d gotten kind of bored with Watson and sick of his voice and needed a break.  Or maybe he did it on a dare.  Who knows.  I mean, I once wrote 4,000 words about Rory Williams meeting Jack Harkness during Rory’s time as a Roman Nestene duplicate just because of a Facebook meme and a dare from a friend.  Writers write things for all sorts of reasons.  Even if sometimes they’re wrong.

Not like this is the first time I’ve disagreed with one of Doyle’s choices.  Probably not the last either.  We’ve still got plenty of canon to get through, after all.

Speaking of writing things on a dare…I may have just dared myself to write a Charlotte-verse story for this week from a previously unseen POV.  I’d tell you which, but where would be the fun in that?

John Watson, The World’s Second Consulting Detective

(Author’s Note: This is a silly little story that took a week and a half to write, because I got halfway through before realizing it was depressing as hell and not at all the story I wanted to tell. So, I scrapped it all and started over.   

Watson would not give up and wither just because Holmes died. Because John Watson is a survivor, damn it. Just ask the bullet in his shoulder. Or leg. Or wherever Doyle put it this week.)

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“The Empty House,” or, “What’d I miss (besides your left hook)?”

So, let’s play pretend for a second:

You have spent the past three years desperately mourning the loss of your best friend. The circumstances around his death were sudden and tragic; heroic, even. There was never a body recovered, so closure was always an iffy thing anyway, and what is closure, really? You’ve been doing SUCH a good job of dealing with his death that you’ve been obsessively following any and all even slightly interesting crimes reported in the paper and just recently found yourself hanging around outside a crime scene. Oh, and let’s not forget that during these three years, you’ve also lost your spouse, further eradicating what little support system you had even further.   
You’ve probably found yourself bargaining with God once or twice in the intervening time – “Please don’t let him really be dead.”  “I would do anything if he just isn’t dead.”  “There’s no body, that means he isn’t really dead, right?” But it’s been three years, and that’s a lot of time to hold out hope in the face of unsurmountable evidence. Part of you has probably just managed to accept the truth and started to maybe, finally, consider moving on. 

And then it happens: one night, you find yourself staring at the face of your old friend as he stands in the middle of your office. He looks a little thinner, a little paler, a little worse for wear than when you last saw him, but he’s just.right.there. He’s not even a hallucination.  He’s real.  Your prayers have been answered! He was never really dead to begin with, you see. It’s all been a complex ruse in order to draw out some enemies that would’ve made it impossible for him to live safely in London – and for anyone else to live safely around him. In that moment, when faced with the reality of the situation, do you: 

  1. Rush over and hug your friend, just relieved to have him back; 
  2. Faint, because the sight of him is so shocking it overwhelms you; or
  3. Punch him in his lying face and demand to know why the f**k he left you to suffer through the loss of him for THREE GODDAMNED YEARS without a word. 

If you picked option 2, you’re canon John Watson. If you picked option 3, you’re Martin Freeman’s version, as well as being a logical, rational human being properly reacting to someone putting you through hell. I don’t know who option 1 is. A far more forgiving person than me, that’s for sure. 
Yes, today we’re talking about “The Empty House,” and that means talking about the return of Sherlock Holmes and the absolutely insanely quick absolution Watson provides him for the whole Reichenbach deception. (Hey, that sounds like a really good title *files it away for later*) If “The Final Problem” was Doyle’s way of exorcising the Holmes Demon from his life, “Empty House” is the invitation to let Hell stroll right back in. Like most deals with the Devil, there was a monetary consideration behind Holmes’ resurrection; Sherlock Holmes always has been highly profitable, and Doyle found himself needing the financial boost his blasted creation brought. (The Hound of the Baskervilles was reportedly written because Doyle needed to put a bit more money into Undershaw, the home he was living in at the time.)   
Watson, and the reader, learn that Holmes realized how much easier it would be for him to bring down the rest of Moriarty’s lieutenants if they thought him  dead. Of course, he screwed up that plan almost as soon as he launched it – Colonel Sebastian Moran, Moriarty’s most deadly compatriot, saw Holmes scale the falls and hide out in a little overhang and tried to flatten him with a few boulders. But that’s beside the point! Holmes still spent a few years hiding out in Tibet and roaming around while waiting for his chance to slip in and take Moran down, thus fully ending Moriarty’s scheming. When opportunity arises, he goes right to his good friend, his trusty biographer, his ever-patient partner, and Watson leaps right back into the game without a moment’s hesitation in order to catch Moran and save the day. 

And that’s my problem with this story. Watson forgives Holmes far too easily relative to the trauma caused. I mean, I get it – there is instant, endless relief in the realization that this person is alive and (one of) the worst moment(s) of his life is/are over. But when that passes, I can’t imagine just swallowing the anger and betrayal that would follow, especially considering that at some point in those three years, Watson also lost his wife. That is a hell of a one-two punch to a man who frequently, over the course of the stories, points out the fragile state his experience in the war left him in. I know I spent a portion of a post two weeks ago disagreeing with the “Watson lost his mind and started hallucinating Holmes was still with him” theory, but that’s not because I think it impossible that the doctor had some very rough times. Grief, as I can attest, messes you up. Grief compounded by a fresh wave of mourning when you’re still working through the first one? Can knock the ground from beneath your feet. That Watson didn’t lose his mind is probably a testament to his strength of character (or a writer uninterested in exploring how broken his character really could/should be). But Holmes is never really made, in the canon, to face the very real damage he did to their friendship.   
That bugs me.   

I fully realize I’ve expressed that sentiment, or a similar one, two posts in a row now.  It’s not my fault Holmes keeps finding himself on my shit list.   

This is (partly) why I love the BBC Sherlock episode “The Empty Hearse.”  Freeman’s Watson doesn’t let Sherlock off the hook. He Option 3’s him at least three times in the first 20 minutes of the episode. Deservedly! Sherlock is forced to accept that there are actual consequences to his actions, and one of those is the loss of trust and devotion from Watson. He has to work at regaining that. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Jude Law’s Watson reacts in the new Guy Ritchie-verse “Holmes”, whenever it is we finally get that. I will be highly disappointed if there isn’t at least one punch thrown. It’s not as if that relationship isn’t already fraught with random, deserved violence.   

Just as an aside – I’m not a naturally violent person. I’ve never thrown a real punch myself, even if I am frequently heard saying that “so-and-so needs a punch in the nose.” I’m also often offering to kick someone for someone else, but I’ve never actually followed through. I can just see that certain actions are probably worthy of mildly violent response. Like faking your death and not telling the person closest to you in the world and leaving them to mourn you, horribly, for THREE FREAKING YEARS. That? Punch-worthy. 

Do you know what else I always think about whenever I read “The Empty House”? What could Watson have done with himself if Holmes had really been dead? What kind of adventures could a Watson, packed full of Holmesian knowledge and left adrift by a pair of horrible losses, find for himself? Maybe I’ll give that a go this week, instead of dabbling in the Charlotte-verse…