Arthur Conan Doyle – “Two From the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes”

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is the last of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story collections. Most of the book is still under copyright, but two of the stories have already passed into the public domain.

“I think that you will find all the main ones in the press reports. I don’t know that I can add anything which will help you. But if there is anything you would wish more light upon—well, I am here to give it.”

“Well, there is just one point.”

“What is it?”

“What were the exact relations between you and Miss Dunbar?”

The Gold King gave a violent start and half rose from his chair. Then his massive calm came back to him.

“I suppose you are within your rights—and maybe doing your duty—in asking such a question, Mr. Holmes.”

“We will agree to suppose so,” said Holmes.

“Then I can assure you that our relations were entirely and always those of an employer towards a young lady whom he never conversed with, or ever saw, save when she was in the company of his children.”

Holmes rose from his chair.

“I am a rather busy man, Mr. Gibson,” said he, “and I have no time or taste for aimless conversations. I wish you good morning.”

 

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John D. MacDonald – “A Bullet For Cinderella” (1955)

John Dann MacDonald (July 24, 1916 – December 28, 1986) was an American writer of novels and short stories, known for his thrillers.

MacDonald was a prolific author of crime and suspense novels, many of them set in his adopted home of Florida. His best-known works include the popular and critically acclaimed Travis McGee series, and his novel The Executioners, which was filmed twice as Cape Fear. (Wikipedia)

Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. (Project Gutenberg)

He told me how he did it. A lot of the gimmicks didn’t make much sense to me. He did all the ordering, handled the bank accounts and deposits. It was a big and profitable operation. He took a little bit here, a little bit there, always in cash. All the time he was doing it he was carrying on the affair with Eloise. He said it took nearly two years to squirrel away almost sixty thousand dollars. The auditors didn’t catch it.

“I couldn’t open a bank account with the money, and I knew better than to put it in a safety-deposit box. I put the money in those old-fashioned jars. The kind with the red rubber washer and the wire that clamps the top on. I’d fill them and bury them. George kept worrying about why we weren’t making more money. I kept lying to him. Eloise was getting more restless all the time and more careless. I was afraid George would find out, and I didn’t know what he’d do. She had me sort of hypnotized. We finally set the date when we were going to run away. Everything was planned. And then they called me up. I was reserve. There wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I told Eloise that when I got out we’d go through with it the way we planned. But now I’m stuck here. And now I don’t want to go through with it. I want to get back there and give the money back to George and tell him the whole thing. I’ve had too much chance to think it over.”

“How do you know she hasn’t taken the money and left?”

“I didn’t tell her where I put it. It’s still there. Nobody can find it.”

 

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G. K. Chesterton – “The Wisdom of Father Brown” (1914)

Father Brown is a fictional character, an amateur sleuth created in the early 1900s by English novelist G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton based the character on Father John O’Connor (1870–1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922.

Unlike the more famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown’s methods tend to be intuitive rather than deductive. He explains his method in “The Secret of Father Brown”: “You see, I had murdered them all myself… I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.” (Wikipedia)

“My name is Brown. Pray excuse me. I’ve come about that business of the MacNabs. I have heard, you often help people out of such troubles. Pray excuse me if I am wrong.”

By this time he had sprawlingly recovered the hat, and made an odd little bobbing bow over it, as if setting everything quite right.

“I hardly understand you,” replied the scientist, with a cold intensity of manner. “I fear you have mistaken the chambers. I am Dr Hood, and my work is almost entirely literary and educational. It is true that I have sometimes been consulted by the police in cases of peculiar difficulty and importance, but—”

“Oh, this is of the greatest importance,” broke in the little man called Brown. “Why, her mother won’t let them get engaged.” And he leaned back in his chair in radiant rationality.

 

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G. K. Chesterton – “The Innocence of Father Brown” (1911)

Father Brown is a fictional character, an amateur sleuth created in the early 1900s by English novelist G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton based the character on Father John O’Connor (1870–1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922.

Unlike the more famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown’s methods tend to be intuitive rather than deductive. He explains his method in “The Secret of Father Brown”: “You see, I had murdered them all myself… I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.” (Wikipedia)

“Everyone here knows that a dead man has been found in the garden, his head cut clean from his body. Dr. Simon, you have examined it. Do you think that to cut a man’s throat like that would need great force? Or, perhaps, only a very sharp knife?”

“I should say that it could not be done with a knife at all,” said the pale doctor.

“Have you any thought,” resumed Valentin, “of a tool with which it could be done?”

“Speaking within modern probabilities, I really haven’t,” said the doctor, arching his painful brows. “It’s not easy to hack a neck through even clumsily, and this was a very clean cut. It could be done with a battle-axe or an old headsman’s axe, or an old two-handed sword.”

“But, good heavens!” cried the Duchess, almost in hysterics, “there aren’t any two-handed swords and battle-axes round here.”

Valentin was still busy with the paper in front of him. “Tell me,” he said, still writing rapidly, “could it have been done with a long French cavalry sabre?”

 

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “The Valley of Fear” (1915)

The Valley of Fear is the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is loosely based on the Molly Maguires and Pinkerton agent James McParland. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine between September 1914 and May 1915. (Wikipedia)

If his emotions were dulled, his intellectual perceptions were exceedingly active. There was no trace then of the horror which I had myself felt at this curt declaration; but his face showed rather the quiet and interested composure of the chemist who sees the crystals falling into position from his oversaturated solution.

“Remarkable!” said he. “Remarkable!”

“You don’t seem surprised.”

“Interested, Mr. Mac, but hardly surprised. Why should I be surprised? I receive an anonymous communication from a quarter which I know to be important, warning me that danger threatens a certain person. Within an hour I learn that this danger has actually materialized and that the person is dead. I am interested; but, as you observe, I am not surprised.”

 

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” (1905)

The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 13 Sherlock Holmes stories, originally published in 1903-1904, by Arthur Conan Doyle. The stories were published in the Strand Magazine in Great Britain, and Collier’s in the United States. (Wikipedia)

I should be glad if you would sit down in that chair, and tell us very slowly and quietly who you are, and what it is that you want. You mentioned your name, as if I should recognize it, but I assure you that, beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an asthmatic, I know nothing whatever about you.”

Familiar as I was with my friend’s methods, it was not difficult for me to follow his deductions, and to observe the untidiness of attire, the sheaf of legal papers, the watch-charm, and the breathing which had prompted them. Our client, however, stared in amazement.

“Yes, I am all that, Mr. Holmes; and, in addition, I am the most unfortunate man at this moment in London. For heaven’s sake, don’t abandon me, Mr. Holmes! If they come to arrest me before I have finished my story, make them give me time, so that I may tell you the whole truth. I could go to jail happy if I knew that you were working for me outside.”

“Arrest you!” said Holmes. “This is really most grati—most interesting. On what charge do you expect to be arrested?”

“Upon the charge of murdering Mr. Jonas Oldacre, of Lower Norwood.”

 

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Edgar Allan Poe – “Selected Tales”

Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor, and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. (Wikipedia)

“Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—”

“Enough,” he said; “the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.”

“True—true,” I replied; “and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily—but you should use all proper caution. A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps.”

Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row of its fellows that lay upon the mould.

“Drink,” I said, presenting him the wine.

He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.

“I drink,” he said, “to the buried that repose around us.”

“And I to your long life.”

 

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “His Last Bow” (1917)

His Last Bow is a collection of seven previously-published Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. (Wikipedia)

“Perhaps I had best say a few words first,” said the vicar, “and then you can judge if you will listen to the details from Mr. Tregennis, or whether we should not hasten at once to the scene of this mysterious affair. I may explain, then, that our friend here spent last evening in the company of his two brothers, Owen and George, and of his sister Brenda, at their house of Tredannick Wartha, which is near the old stone cross upon the moor. He left them shortly after ten o’clock, playing cards round the dining-room table, in excellent health and spirits. This morning, being an early riser, he walked in that direction before breakfast and was overtaken by the carriage of Dr. Richards, who explained that he had just been sent for on a most urgent call to Tredannick Wartha. Mr. Mortimer Tregennis naturally went with him. When he arrived at Tredannick Wartha he found an extraordinary state of things. His two brothers and his sister were seated round the table exactly as he had left them, the cards still spread in front of them and the candles burned down to their sockets. The sister lay back stone-dead in her chair, while the two brothers sat on each side of her laughing, shouting, and singing, the senses stricken clean out of them. All three of them, the dead woman and the two demented men, retained upon their faces an expression of the utmost horror—a convulsion of terror which was dreadful to look upon. There was no sign of the presence of anyone in the house, except Mrs. Porter, the old cook and housekeeper, who declared that she had slept deeply and heard no sound during the night. Nothing had been stolen or disarranged, and there is absolutely no explanation of what the horror can be which has frightened a woman to death and two strong men out of their senses. There is the situation, Mr. Holmes, in a nutshell, and if you can help us to clear it up you will have done a great work.”

 

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “The Sign of the Four” (1890)

The Sign of the Four (1890), also called The Sign of Four, is the second novel featuring Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle wrote four novels and 56 stories starring the fictional detective. (Wikipedia)

“A singular case,” remarked Holmes.

“I have not yet described to you the most singular part. About six years ago-to be exact, upon the 4th of May, 1882-an advertisement appeared in the Times asking for the address of Miss Mary Morstan and stating that it would be to her advantage to come forward. There was no name or address appended. I had at that time just entered the family of Mrs. Cecil Forrester in the capacity of governess. By her advice I published my address in the advertisement column. The same day there arrived through the post a small card-board box addressed to me, which I found to contain a very large and lustrous pearl. No word of writing was enclosed. Since then every year upon the same date there has always appeared a similar box, containing a similar pearl, without any clue as to the sender. They have been pronounced by an expert to be of a rare variety and of considerable value. You can see for yourselves that they are very handsome.” She opened a flat box as she spoke, and showed me six of the finest pearls that I had ever seen.

“Your statement is most interesting,” said Sherlock Holmes. “Has anything else occurred to you?”

“Yes, and no later than to-day. That is why I have come to you. This morning I received this letter, which you will perhaps read for yourself.”

“Thank you,” said Holmes. “The envelope too, please. Postmark, London, S.W. Date, July 7. Hum! Man’s thumb-mark on corner,-probably postman. Best quality paper. Envelopes at sixpence a packet. Particular man in his stationery. No address. ‘Be at the third pillar from the left outside the Lyceum Theatre to-night at seven o’clock. If you are distrustful, bring two friends. You are a wronged woman, and shall have justice. Do not bring police. If you do, all will be in vain. Your unknown friend.’ Well, really, this is a very pretty little mystery. What do you intend to do, Miss Morstan?”

“That is exactly what I want to ask you.”

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Arthur Conan Doyle – “A Study In Scarlet” (1887)

A Study in Scarlet is a detective mystery novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, introducing his new characters, “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes and his friend and chronicler, Dr. John Watson, who later became two of the most famous characters in literature.

Conan Doyle wrote the story in 1886, and it was published the following year. The book’s title derives from a speech given by Holmes to Doctor Watson on the nature of his work, in which he describes the story’s murder investigation as his “study in scarlet”: “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.” (A “study” is a preliminary drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished piece.) (Wikipedia)

“How in the world did you deduce that?” I asked.

“Deduce what?” said he, petulantly.

“Why, that he was a retired sergeant of Marines.”

“I have no time for trifles,” he answered, brusquely; then with a smile, “Excuse my rudeness. You broke the thread of my thoughts; but perhaps it is as well. So you actually were not able to see that that man was a sergeant of Marines?”

“No, indeed.”

“It was easier to know it than to explain why I knew it. If you were asked to prove that two and two made four, you might find some difficulty, and yet you are quite sure of the fact. Even across the street I could see a great blue anchor tattooed on the back of the fellow’s hand. That smacked of the sea. He had a military carriage, however, and regulation side whiskers. There we have the marine. He was a man with some amount of self-importance and a certain air of command. You must have observed the way in which he held his head and swung his cane. A steady, respectable, middle-aged man, too, on the face of him-all facts which led me to believe that he had been a sergeant.”

“Wonderful!” I ejaculated.

“Commonplace,” said Holmes, though I thought from his expression that he was pleased at my evident surprise and admiration.

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