Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Study in Scarlet & The Sign of The Four (Macmillan Collector's Library) Hardcover – Unabridged, August 23, 2016 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Author), David Stuart Davies (Afterword) (Macmillan Collector's Library)

This book contains two novellas from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “A Study in Scarlet” and “The Valley of Fear”. These and others came from the prolific pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There were many movies that adapted these stories. They are examples of “the locked room mystery”.

“A Study in Scarlet” begins when John H. Watson M.D. is looking for reasonable lodgings. So too Sherlock Holmes (described as cold blooded in outlook). A letter requests help from Holmes. Drebber was found dead in an empty house, no wound on the body, but blood in the room. Holmes & Watson inspect the scene; Holmes explains his deductions. An advertisement is placed in the “Found” column of a newspaper. Detective Gregson visited Holmes to explain how he solved the murder. Lestrade arrives to tell of another murder: Stangerson, Drebber’s secretary ! Gregson’s suspect could not have done it. Holmes shows his brilliance by his surprise introduction of the murderer! Part 2 tells about the events that preceded these murders. Chapter 7 explains Holmes’ actions in reasoning backwards. This story introduced Sherlock Holmes to an audience that never tired of these stories. Note the dialogue followed by explanatory comments. More modern stories use mostly dialogue to carry the story along and bring out the facts. The solution occurs in the last chapters. The use of an exotic American locale was a way to add interest. Background descriptions are sparse. It tells why a man can have a “florid face”, a medical fact.

“The Valley of Fear” begins when Inspector MacDonald arrives with news of the horrible murder of Mr. Douglas of Birlstone Manor House, which is isolated by a forty foot moat. Douglas came from golden California a wealthy man. A shotgun blast destroyed his face, only a brand on his arm identified him. Holmes talks to the people involved, he knows some are lying. He is able to solve this killing. This leads to Part 2, a fictionalized story of the anthracite coal wars in 1870s Pennsylvania. Violence during a long strike was answered with violence by the miners. A Pinkerton agent infiltrated the miner’s union, gained their confidence, and began collecting evidence. [No mention of any agent provocateurs to create crimes.] This miner’s group was called the “Mollie Maguires” [but they never used this phrase]. This group was caught in the act, convicted, and hanged. During another recession the mine owner was dismissed from his position and later died a suicide. [This story is little known, a good history book will educate you.]

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