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Tag Archives: 17 Steps

The 17 Steps: Wisteria Lodge

The 17 Steps: Wisteria Lodge

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – Wisteria Lodge (WIST)

There was a face looking in at me through the lower pane. ~ Illustration by Arthur Twidle in The Strand Magazine – September 1908

“Audacity and romance seem to have passed forever from the criminal world,” bemoans Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge,” sounding like a Raffles fan who just watched an episode of “COPS.”

Isn’t this view a bit dreamy for a man who has dealt with very real, very vicious criminals for a decade? Was the criminal world ever romantic outside of fiction?

“Private detectives are a class with whom I have absolutely no sympathy,” states Scott Eccles.

What would a common, conservative citizen of 1892 know of private detectives as a class? Would we expect a fellow like Eccles to encounter on in everyday life?

“You are like my friend, Dr. Watson,” Holmes tells Eccles, “who has a bad habit of telling his stories wrong end foremost.”

Was Holmes speaking of Watson’s written work, or merely his habits in daily conversation? Is the Canon told “wrong end first”?

“Our dinner was tete-a-tete,” Scott Eccles tells of his visit to Garcia.

What was Eccles expecting it to be? Had Garcia led him to believe it was going to be a party? Why was a private meal with one’s host worth remarking about?

“A woman, as usual, was at the bottom of it,” Baynes comments after his admirable display in finding the discarded note.

For all his promise as a detective, does Baynes also display some heavy shortcomings like a prejudice against women?

“You will show these gentlemen out, Mrs. Hudson, and kindly send the boy with this telegram. He is to pay a five-shilling reply.”

Holmes doesn’t hand Mrs. Hudson five shillings to pay for that reply, so where is she getting the money? A standing cash reservoir that Holmes supplies, or would she be expected to use her own money, keep a record, and bill him later?

Walters shivers: “And the look of it–the great staring goggle eyes, and the line of white teeth like a hungry beast. I tell you, sir, I couldn’t move a finger, nor get my breath, till it whisked away and was gone. Out I ran and through the shrubbery, but thank God there was no one there.”

Would Walters have been carrying a gun for his vigil? Why was he so spooked by a dead chicken, when nobody in the area seemed up on voodoo?

“”Yes,” Holmes reports, after a short examination of the grass bed, “a number twelve shoe, I should say.”

How might Holmes have been gauging shoe sizes at the scene of the crime without a measuring device? Did he have a method, or was he just using guesswork specifics to make himself sound more skilled?

“Odds and ends, some pipes, a few novels, two of them in Spanish, an old-fashioned pinfire revolver, and a guitar were among the personal property.”

Was the guitar a particularly Spanish instrument in 1892? Where would one expect to commonly find one in English life of that period?

“But we all have our own systems, Mr. Holmes. You have yours, and maybe I have mine,” Baynes explains once he has captured the mulatto cook.

What methods did Baynes plan to use at this point? He had captured his suspect . . . was he going to use extreme measures on his prisoner?

“For the rest, his house is full of butlers, footmen, maidservants, and the usual overfed, underworked staff of a large English country-house.”

What percentage of the servant class was Holmes referring to here? Did they really have it that easy, or is this Holmes displaying a slight prejudice from his past?

From “Eckermann’s Voodooism and the Negroid Religions” we hear:

“The true voodoo-worshipper attempts nothing of importance without certain sacrifices which are intended to propitiate his unclean gods. In extreme cases these rites take the form of human sacrifices followed by cannibalism. The more usual victims are a white cock, which is plucked in pieces alive, or a black goat, whose throat is cut and body burned.”

Okay, that’s the aloof Victorian view of one man’s religion. What was the cook attempting from his point of view? Did his arcane rites have some purpose in voodoo traditions other than the general appeasement of angry gods?

Based on the scan information we have in this tale, would anyone care to hazard some speculation as to where, exactly, San Pedro was? (And while we’re at it, where did the voodoo-loving cook come from? The “backwoods of San Pedro”? How about New Orleans, serving up Cajun or Creole food? Or Haiti, serving up whatever Haitian specialties there are?)

“Some six months afterwards the Marquess of Montalva and Signor Rulli, his secretary, were both murdered in their rooms at the Hotel Escurial at Madrid.”

Mr. Henderson of High Gable seems to be a low profile sort of guy, with good reason. Wouldn’t people be more likely to wonder about the background and credentials of supposed nobility, than a “Mr. Henderson”? Could someone just waltz into Madrid claiming they were a marquis? Why would Don Murillo make such a move?

“If you look it up you will find that the San Pedro colours are green and white,” Miss Burnet explains.

Wouldn’t the colours of a country whose dictator deserved an obsessive quest for vengeance be just the thing they wouldn’t be wanting to use? Or did these colors come into use after dictator Don Murillo was gone?

Miss Burnet explains, “I was confined to my room, terrorized by the most horrible threats, cruelly ill-used to break my spirit–see this stab on my shoulder and the bruises from end to end of my arms.”

Burnet was seriously abused, to be sure. But what sort of abuse leaves bruises all along her arms, end to end? Would grabbing alone do such damage?

“Knowing that he would return there, Garcia, who is the son of the former highest dignitary in San Pedro, was waiting with two trusty companions of humble station, all three fired with the same reasons for revenge.”

So if Garcia picked up his cook in his travels, why was the cook so fired up about revenge on Don Murillo? Did he really have any part in this aside from cooking?

The Seventeen Steps originally appeared on the Hounds of the Internet e-list from September 2000 to October 2001 and later on the Sherlock Peoria blog.

Brad Keefauver, the 41st Garrideb, is the author of The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock and the Ladies, and The Armchair Baskerville Tour. Former publisher of The Holmes & Watson ReportThe Dangling Prussian, and a whole lot of obscure, collectable little things on our boy Sherlock. Keefauver is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars and the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes.

The 17 Steps: The Boscombe Valley Mystery

The 17 Steps: The Boscombe Valley Mystery

  Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Boscombe Valley Mystery (BOSC) DID THIS MAN EVER RECOVER FROM AFGHANISTAN? “You have been looking a little pale lately,” the good Mrs. Watson tells her husband at the beginning of BOSC. “I think that the change would do you good.” Holmes’s own… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Illustrious Client

The 17 Steps: The Illustrious Client

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Illustrious Client (ILLU) THE EVER-PERSISTENT WATSON “‘It can’t hurt now,’ was Mr. Sherlock Holmes’s comment when, for the tenth time in as many years.” What was it about this case that had Watson asking to publish it on an annual basis? Did he find… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Abbey Grange

The 17 Steps: The Abbey Grange

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Abbey Grange (ABBE) THE LIGHTING SITUATION IN 1897 Watson writes, of Holmes’s first appearance: “The candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping face …” Why a candle? Gaslights and oil lamps were available weren’t they? If Holmes was waking Watson so he’d get… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Solitary Cyclist

The 17 Steps: The Solitary Cyclist

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Solitary Cyclist (SOLI) PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS — OR NOT “For this reason I will now lay before the reader the facts connected with Miss Violet Smith, the solitary cyclist of Charlington, and the curious sequel of our investigation, which culminated in unexpected tragedy.” Once… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: Thor Bridge

The 17 Steps: Thor Bridge

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Problem of Thor Bridge (THOR) THE LEGENDARY TREASURE BOX “Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch-box with my name, John H. Watson, M.D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Cardboard Box

The 17 Steps: The Cardboard Box

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Cardboard Box (CARD) AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT “Ring for our boots and tell them to order a cab. I’ll be back in a moment when I have changed my dressing-gown and filled my cigar-case.” Now, we know Holmes’s boots aren’t going… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: Charles Augustus Milverton

The 17 Steps: Charles Augustus Milverton

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – Charles Augustus Milverton (CHAS)   SHERLOCK HOLMES LOSES CONTROL “As Holmes turned up the lamp the light fell upon a card on the table. He glanced at it, and then, with an ejaculation of disgust, threw it on the floor.” Perhaps the most telling example… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Naval Treaty

The 17 Steps: The Naval Treaty

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Naval Treaty (NAVA) WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONA … ER, STUDENT? Of Percy Phelps, Watson writes: “He was a very brilliant boy and carried away every prize which the school had to offer, finishing his exploits by winning a scholarship which sent him… Continue Reading

The 17 Steps: The Man With the Twisted Lip

The 17 Steps: The Man With the Twisted Lip

Seventeen thoughts for further ponderance of the case at hand – The Man with the Twisted Lip (TWIS) WATSON’S LONDON GOSSIP COLUMN “Isa Whitney, brother of the late Elias Whitney, D. D., Principal of the Theological College of St. George’s, was much addicted to opium,” this tale begins. While the Hounds have often discussed Watson’s protecting… Continue Reading