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Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' Stories - 3

Updated on May 4, 2015
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Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson in the BBC series, Sherlock
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson in the BBC series, Sherlock | Source

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Published in 1905, The Return of Sherlock Holmes contained thirteen stories, including The Empty House (where Holmes reappears after his "death" at the Reichenbach Falls). Conan Doyle also played around with Holmes' timeline, publishing The Hound of the Baskervilles in between the second and third collections, and setting it before the encounter with the evil Moriarty in The Final Problem. As with all of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures, all the stories first appeared in The Strand Magazine.

The Stories

The stories in the third collection are:

The Adventure of the Empty House 1903

The Adventure of the Norwood Builder 1903

The Adventure of the Dancing Men 1903

The Solitary Cyclist 1903

The Priory School 1904

Black Peter 1904

Charles Augustus Milverton 1904

The Six Napoleons 1904

The Three Students 1904

The Golden Pince-Nez 1904

The Missing Three-Quarter 1904

The Abbey Grange 1904

The Second Stain 1904

The Empty House 1903

When the Honourable Ronald Adair is inexplicably killed inside a locked room, Dr John Watson tries his hand at investigating the murder. Following Holmes' apparent death at the Reichenbach Falls, Watson hopes to use the deductive skills he's picked up from his friend to shed a little light on the case. But without his wily mentor, he is soon left puzzled and no further forward. Luckily, to the incredulity of Watson, the famous detective is set to make a triumphant return to Baker Street. The pair must tread softly however, for Moriarty's men are still out to get Holmes, and he is in constant danger. Can the spirited sleuth hatch a plan to catch the one man who means to finish him for good?

"My dear Watson...I had no idea that you would be so affected."

The Norwood Builder 1903

When a young man suddenly inherits a fortune, he also finds himself on a charge of murder. Running to Sherlock Holmes for help, Holmes allows him to tell his story before the ever-eager Inspector Lestrade arrives to arrest him. Holmes and Watson set out for Norwood and soon uncover a plethora of clues and evidence - all of which incriminate their client.

"What a providential thing that this young man should press his right thumb against the wall in taking his hat from the peg!"

The Dancing Men
The Dancing Men

The Dancing Men 1903

Hilton Cubitt presents a puzzle to Sherlock Holmes when he shows him a series of notes bearing strange, childish figures. Cubitt explains that his wife received these odd hieroglyphs and the bizarre drawings have sent her into a state of shock. Seeing a stranger creeping around outside the house, leaving more symbols, the concerned husband becomes distraught. Holmes and Watson set off for Ridling Thorpe Manor, but will they be in time to prevent a tragedy?

"...it is a singular and dangerous web in which our simple Norfolk squire is entangled."

The Solitary Cyclist 1903

A beautiful young woman arrives at Baker Street with a story of how she was followed down a lonely country lane by a mysterious cyclist. Holmes learns that the woman, Violet Smith, has recently taken up employment as a music teacher after associates of her father got in touch with her. Watson is quickly dispatched to find out more information and hides himself in a clump of bushes beside the road where he can watch the extraordinary goings-on. Holmes, however, is not terribly happy with Watson's efforts and decides to visit the scene himself...

"Too late, Watson, too late!" cried Holmes as I ran panting to his side...

Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle

The Priory School 1904

Dr Thorneycroft Huxtable staggers into the Baker Street residence of Sherlock Homes one morning and promptly collapses on the floor. When the poor man has pulled himself together, he is able to relate to Holmes and Watson the reasons for his agitated state. The only son of the Duke of Holdernesse has been abducted from his bedroom at prep school and no trace can be found of the lad. The intrepid detective agrees that he and Dr Watson should accompany Huxtable back to the school where they soon discover a missing German teacher, a stolen bicycle and some rather strange animal tracks...

"...it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters and gallops."

Black Peter 1904

When a particularly unpleasant old seaman is pinned to a wall with a harpoon through his chest, a bewildered Inspector Hopkins is forced to seek the help of Sherlock Holmes. Along with Dr Watson, they set off to view the crime scene and it soon looks as though the case is all tied up. Holmes, however has other ideas, and continues his investigation to find the real killer...

"It seems to me that you only have one drawback Hopkins, and that is that it is intrinsically impossible."

Lars Mikkelsen as Charles Augustus Magnussen in the BBC's 'Sherlock'
Lars Mikkelsen as Charles Augustus Magnussen in the BBC's 'Sherlock' | Source

Charles Augustus Milverton 1904

When Sherlock Holmes intervenes in a case of blackmail, he invites the odious Charles Augustus Milverton to Baker Street to arrange a financial settlement. The infamous detective soon learns that the incriminating documents held in Milverton's safe will only be given up at considerably more than the woman in question is able to pay. Holmes devises a campaign to discover more about the odious villain, and begins by donning one of his many disguises to set the wheels in motion. There is a surprise in store for Dr Watson however, when Holmes reveals his plans...

"Since it is morally justifiable, I have only to consider the question of personal risk."

The Six Napoleons

Inspector Lestrade calls in at 221b Baker Street one evening and mentions his current case - which he believes points towards someone with strong feelings against Napoleon Bonaparte. Sherlock Holmes isn't very interested - until Lestrade refers to the burglaries. It seems that someone has broken into a Doctor's house, stolen a bust of Napoleon and smashed the item to pieces. Events take a more sinister turn the following morning when Holmes and Watson are called to the home of a journalist. A burglar who escaped through an open window, is found dead on the front steps of the house...

"The affair seems absurdly trifling, and yet I dare call nothing trivial when I reflect that some of my most classic cases have had the least promising commencement."

The Three Students 1904

While the great detective is working on a research project in a university town, college lecturer Hilton Soames comes to Holmes for advice. The distressed tutor believes that important exam papers have been tampered with and as the exam in question is to be set the following day, he is unsure what to do. Holmes asks to see the lecturer's room and discovers a small amount of wood-chips and a black putty-like substance which leads him to form several conclusions. After questioning two students and one of the College servants, he leaves the worried lecturer to ruminate on his evidence, promising to return the next morning...

"It is only a suggestion," said Holmes suavely. "I frankly admit that I am unable to prove it..."

The Golden Pince-Nez 1904

One stormy night in November, Holmes and Watson have an unexpected visitor - detective Stanley Hopkins needs the help of the scholarly sleuth and his erstwhile assistant in what has become known in the newspapers as the Yoxley case. Willoughby Smith, the young secretary to an ageing professor, is found dead in his employer's study, and with no apparent motive, the only clue to his death seems to be a golden pince-nez clutched in the corpse's hand. The following morning, Holmes and Watson go with Hopkins to Yoxley Old Place, where they begin to piece together the sequence of events...

"It is possible that I am utterly mistaken. The cigarettes will show me..."

The Missing Three-Quarter 1904

When a rugby team's star player goes missing on the eve of an important match, the team skipper seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes. At the missing player's room, the remnant of a telegram is found which gives Holmes enough of a clue to work out where the man might have gone. This, along with a receipt for thirteen guineas from a Cambridge doctor, lead Holmes and Watson on a country chase...

"He will be clever if he can drive where I cannot follow him..."

The Abbey Grange 1904

One cold and frosty morning, Dr Watson is awakened by Holmes and urged to join him on a trip to Kent, where a heinous crime has been committed. A note from Detective Stanley Hopkins gives no clue as the nature of the offence, but the dynamic duo soon learn of the murder of Sir Eustace Brackenstall: after disturbing a burglary, his wife is beaten and tied to a chair, and her husband clubbed to death with a poker. Hopkins suspects a gang of thieves from Lewisham and to begin with Holmes is not inclined to disagree. However, the mention of three wine glasses used by the gang, lead him to think there might be a flaw in Hopkins' theory...

"Every instinct I possess cries out against it. It's wrong - it's all wrong - I'll swear that it's wrong."

The Second Stain 1904

When European Secretary Trelawney Hope and British Premier Lord Bellinger turn up at Baker Street one autumn morning, Holmes and Watson know that a grave matter is at stake. An important letter, held for the last six days in Trelawney Hope's despatch box, and kept with him virtually day and night, has gone missing. Holmes quickly plans his strategy - to visit the three most likely recipients of the stolen letter with the intention of buying it back. Unfortunately, one of the suspects, international secret agent Eduardo Lucas, gives Holmes a little more to consider when the man is found fatally stabbed that same night...

"The situation is desperate, but not hopeless..."

Conclusions

Most of the stories in this collection are excellent, but one or two are clearly not up to Conan Doyle's usual standard. Since 'killing off' his detective hero at the end of the previous collection, it's probably fair to say that ACD had had enough of Holmes and wanted to move on in his literary career. His historical novels (including The White Company and The Great Shadow) were considered by his many fans (and by Conan Doyle himself) as his best work. The public however, had other ideas, and the pressure to revive Holmes soon got the better of him.

Stories such as The Missing Three-Quarter and The Three Students seem to point to a lack of motivation and/or imagination in ACD's writing and this may be another reason why he had wanted to get rid of his most famous creation. The other stories however, are all very good, particularly The Empty House, The Priory School and The Abbey Grange and I think these make this collection well worth reading.

Do you think Arthur Conan Doyle was right to bring back Sherlock Holmes, or should he have quit while he was ahead?

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    • FatBoyThin profile image
      Author

      Colin Garrow 2 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks Akriti - glad you enjoyed it. There's another Sherlock Holmes Hub about ready to publish - watch this space. Thanks for reading.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      Loved this post. I am such a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes

    • FatBoyThin profile image
      Author

      Colin Garrow 2 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Hi Gene, yes, I think it would have been a loss to detective fiction if ACD hadn't given us that classic 'rebirth' of Sherlock Holmes. Thanks for reading and for your comments, much appreciated.

    • gposchman profile image

      Gene Poschman 2 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Conan Doyle was tired of Sherlock Holmes, fortunately for us, the Strand wasn't and they made the author an offer he could not refuse. Considering the stories that came after the "Final Problem" Conan Doyle was still on top of his game. As always, a great Hub.

      Gene Poschman