The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes Essay
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes” is a collection of twelve short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published in 1927, three years before his death. They are the last stories recounting the adventures of the brilliant, enigmatic detective, Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr, Watson. Extremely popular in Victorian and Edwardian England, these crime mysteries have remained popular throughout successive generations and Sherlock Holmes himself is perhaps the most famous of all fictional detectives.
In total, Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty- six short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, beginning in 1887 with his short story, “A Study in Scarlet”. He went on to write: “The Sign of Four”, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”, “The Valley of Fear” and “His Last Bow”.
Desperate to concentrate on more serious work, Conan Doyle had attempted to “kill off” Holmes in “The Final Problem”, but had revived him in 1904 with “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” and again in “The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes”, so great was the Victorian public’s desire to read more stories about Holmes with his cold, scientific approach to crime solving. The setting is Victorian England, primarily Victorian London and Holmes’s address of 221B Baker Street. The dialogue is formal, as Holmes mixes with the upper strata of society.
The descriptions are vivid and detailed, often using metaphor or simile: “A red-veined nose jutted out like a vulture’s head and two fierce grey eyes glared at me from under tufted brows” (The Blanched Soldier) The first story is that of “The Illustrious Client”. Baron Adelbert Gruner was a “cunning devil”, who was planning to marry Violet De Merville, daughter of General De Merville. The illustrious client asks for Holmes to help prevent the marriage taking place. In his attempt to do so, he suffers a “monstrous attack” by Gruner.
But, in the end, the handsome Gruner is horrendously disfigured and the truth of his wickedness disclosed. Watson’s account of the attack is particularly harrowing: “The vitriol was eating into it everywhere and dripping from the ears and chin… The features, which I had admired a few minutes before were now like some beautiful painting over which the artist had passed a wet foul sponge. ” The passage vividly and grotesquely describes the transformation from “beauty” to “monster”.
Gruner becomes physically the monster he is mentally. In “The Blanched Soldier”, James Dodd employs Holmes to find the whereabouts of his friend and former comrade, Godfrey Emsworth, with whom he had served in the Boer War. It is Holmes, and not Watson who, for once, tells the story of how by analysis and deduction, he locates the soldier: “That process,” said I [Holmes] “starts upon the supposition that when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then what remains, however improbable, must be the truth”
Hence, the ghostly face at the window is actually the real Emsworth, protected by his parents, because of his suspected leprosy, which fortunately turns out to be only “pseudo-leprosy” or ichtbyosis. It is suggested that fear alone may have produced the white blotches – his mental state had altered his physical state. It is the above “process” that defines Sherlock Holmes’s method of detection by deduction and is the forerunner of today’s forensic science.
The method of deduction stems directly from Doyle’s own experiences as a student under surgeon who employed similar techniques for diagnosis. So, Sherlock Holmes is the main protagonist in this, at times disturbing, selection of stories. He is the clear- headed, analytical detective; interested only in the cold facts of the case, however minor they seem. Hence, he wanted to know what newspaper was being read by the little man in the house in the grounds of Tetbury Old Park. He is always remarkably observant and objective. Watson, his friend, is very different and a more sympathetic character.
But all the characters are believable, colourful and interesting within the settings of the stories. Unfortunately, the stories were difficult to actually become interested in, due to the slow start, which did not inspire me to continue reading. Initially I found the formal style of writing and the language somewhat difficult. Also, some are rather too grisly, but this obviously appealed to the Victorian mentality willing to be thrilled by the very worst crimes and intrigues. Undoubtedly, they are great crime mysteries and I did enjoy them.
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