Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Retrospective on "Elementary" by Adam Presswood

As a former journalist, and one who still freelances whenever the opportunity arises, I am
thrilled to have the chance to do this type of writing again.  To be fair, however, I have never blogged.  The type of work that I did in the newspaper business was somewhat more old-school than

I do have to confess, though, that my excitement is somewhat tempered by the fact that I am
about to criticize a program that was once very near and dear to my heart.  Like many of you, I have been a fan of the CBS series Elementary since it first debuted in September of 2012.  The notion of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, or even a modern-day Holmes and Watson team, was certainly not a new one, so CBS was breaking no new ground there.

What was more unique was the concept of making Dr. Joan Watson a live-in sober companion for Holmes, and then letting their relationship grow from there.  Jonny Lee Miller was a perfect choice for the ever eccentric Holmes, and Lucy Liu’s portrayal of Watson provided the perfect counterweight to that eccentricity. 

I was particularly struck by how different this portrayal was from just about everything that had
preceded it.  Traditionally, the character of Watson has always been inferior to that of Holmes, not only in terms of intellect, but also in terms of courage and energy.  Even in the phenomenal portrayals of Watson by David Burke and Edward Hardwicke, both of whom adhered fairly closely to the Watson that Conan Doyle introduced to the world, there was still a very obvious gap between the two men in terms of both intelligence and drive, as there was in the original stories.  Elementary, in my opinion, was the first treatment of Holmes and Watson that placed them on
relatively equal terms. 

As the series developed, I continued to be impressed.  For starters, the show utilized many of the original story titles from Conan Doyle, and worked those themes seamlessly into contemporary storylines.  I also appreciated the fact that most of the cases that Miller and Liu took on as Holmes and Watson were of relatively local interest, rather than national, or even global matters, although
these types of cases were also sprinkled into the mix in just the right quantity from time to time.  Doyle’s writing struck that same balance.

Elementary also found new and exciting ways to incorporate other familiar characters created
by Doyle.  Portraying Holmes as a former consultant to Scotland Yard who had relocated to New York created an easy opening through which to introduce Sean Pertwee as Lestrade, and the way the
writers wove in Rhys Ifans and Natalie Dormer as Mycroft Holmes and Moriarty was brilliant.  Much to my disappointment, the energy and creativity of the writers did not last.  Either that, or they simply lost their ability to introduce new characters and new ideas, and then develop things patiently and thoughtfully, letting the show’s natural momentum and the response of its loyal fan base dictate the storyline from one season to the next.

These last few seasons, I have watched as a host of new and potentially interesting characters
were introduced, only to be yanked from the show just a few episodes later, before they were
ever really able to gain any traction.  Nelson Ellis’s character Shinwell Johnson and Desmond Harrington’s Michael are just two examples.  Even when new characters were allowed to remain longer, they were often given the axe just as they were beginning to get interesting.  Ophelia Lovibond’s portrayal of Kitty Winter falls into this category, at least as far as I am concerned. 

With these characters went their storylines, and any hope that the show might continue to break new ground.  Each time, the script would instead retreat into a safe zone made up of four main characters:
Holmes, Watson, Captain Thomas Gregson, and Detective Marcus Bell.  While Aidan Quinn and Jon Michael Hill deliver stellar performances as Gregson and Bell, that became a formula in need of a good shaking up.  What’s more, the show lost its local flavor to some degree, and it seemed as though every other case had national or international implications.  That’s fine in the right doses, but it can get old fast.

I’m no fair-weather fan.  I never felt betrayed by the show, and never rooted for its demise once it had started to lose my interest.  Instead, I kept watching, hoping the storyline would rediscover the magic it once had. While it occasionally showed signs of doing so, these were mostly small sparks that failed to ignite a fire of any kind.  That’s why the ending to Season 6 was so satisfying for me.

I’m not really a social media guy, so I had no idea if the show had been cancelled, if there would
be a Season 7, or what was going on.  I’m simply not tuned in to the chatter.  However, I didn’t really care one way or the other at the time, as I viewed the situation as a win-win.

If the series was over, then it had gone out as it came in.  While I would have missed the show, I admired the fact that it seemed to be ending as it had begun, with boldness and creativity.  If, on the other hand, another season was in the works, then there was fertile ground upon which to build. 

When I first heard that there would indeed be a Season 7, and that Kitty would be making a return as well, I was thrilled.  I envisioned all sorts of new storylines for Miller and Liu in London, working with Kitty and Scotland Yard, and perhaps even going up against Moriarty a few more times.  None of these things happened, and now it is too late.

Instead of a new and creative storyline, I was treated to merely one episode set in London (with an appearance by Kitty), and then the show returned to New York and to business as usual.  I realize that some viewers might appreciate the introduction of James Frain as Odin Reichenbach, and that many will also view the Reichenbach storyline as breaking new ground.

Unfortunately, I think the notion of a tech billionaire with a God complex has been done to death in television, no matter how it gets dressed up and repackaged.  I also realize that I am a bit of an old soul, and that I don’t relate well to the attention span of today’s television audience.  Nor am I a Hollywood insider.  Maybe there were contractual reasons for all of the things that I have just lamented, or certain routes were simply unavailable to the show due to behind-the-scenes issues that I am unaware of.  Even so, I can’t get away from the feeling that the show has spent the last several seasons wasting its potential.

As I write this, I fully appreciate the fact that the upcoming August 15 episode “Their Final Bow”
will reintroduce the character of Jamie Moriarty in some fashion, and that a lot can happen in just one episode.  Like I said earlier, however, it is simply too late from my point of view.

Elementary has squandered its seventh season (Merely 13 episodes. Remember the good old days, when your favorite program would drop off for the summer and leave you with reruns, to return in the fall with a whole new season of at least 30 episodes?), and the episode on August 15 is, as its name implies, the series finale.  That means the reintroduction of Moriarty, while interesting, is meaningless.

Although, what better concept could there be for a spinoff?  Should I even dare to dream?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

July News and Announcements

We had another packed house for our meeting this month!  And we had plenty of news, discussion and activities to keep everyone busy, so let's get down to it:

First things first: Holmes in the Heartland will be back in 2020!

That's right.  Mark your calendars for another great Sherlockian weekend right here in St. Louis!  On July 24-26, 2020, Holmes in the Heartland: Arch Enemies will have some of the brightest Sherlockian minds, St. Louis highlights, great food, and plenty of fun!  We will be holding our symposium at the Sheraton Westport this year, and a block of rooms will be available for anyone coming to Holmes in the Heartland.

Friday, July 24 will be a tour of the historic central branch of the St. Louis Public Library, a presentation of the St. Louis Sherlock Holmes Research Collection, and dinner at Bailey's Range.

Saturday, July 25 will start off with time to visit many Sherlockian vendors for the symposium.  We will have our day of great speakers on the topic of "Arch Enemies," with a break for lunch and more vendor shopping.  And as usual, you can count on dinner and a night full of fun events!

On Sunday, July 26, we are going to put the "Arch" in "Arch Enemies."  Join us for a tour of the newly remodeled St. Louis Arch, including a trip to the top, film on the construction of the famous landmark, and a tour of the Westward Expansion Museum.  Following that, we will head to historic Laclede's Landing for a farewell lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

Look for more information on this exciting weekend to come soon.  But mark your calendars.  This is a weekend you will not want to miss!

And if that weren't enough fun to look forward to, we have another movie night coming up!  August 3, we will be hosting a Sherlockian Movie Night at the St. Louis Ethical Society (9001 Clayton Rd) starting at 6:00.  Bring your own food and drinks and join us for a double feature of Basil Rathbone's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "They Might be Giants."  There is no admission price, but we will gladly take donations to cover the cost of the room.

Our next meeting will be on September 14, and that month's story will be "The Greek Interpreter."  As well as great camaraderie, discussion, and news, we will also have the new Parallel Case of St. Louis pins debuting at this meeting.  Members at the September meeting will be the first ones to get a chance to purchase the new pin.  The cost is $10 per pin.

The Parallel Case of St. Louis is on all of the major social media platforms.  You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news about the Parallel Case and plenty of other Sherlockian news from around the world.

If you haven't read it yet, check out Stacey's blog post about the family life of Queen Victoria.

Tassy was interviewed on Rob's blog this month.  Lots of good Sherlockian discussion!

The next meeting of the Harpooner's of the Sea Unicorn will be this Friday, July 19 at Pio's restaurant in St. Charles.  This month's meeting will be their titular story, "The Adventure of Black Peter."

The triennial Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota conference will be August 8-11 in Minneapolis Minnesota.  Museum curator (and former Holmes in the Heartland keynote speaker) Tim Johnson has posted some previews of the exhibit online and they look amazing.

The Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium will be October 12 & 13 in Portland, OR, and looks to be a great time.  You can listen to the Baker Street Babes interview with symposium director, Elinor Gray here.

The Kirkwood Theater Guild will be performing "The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays" November 1-10.  We will pick a date for a Parallel Case group outing at our September meeting, so if you'd like to roll into Kirkwood with our band of gypsies, please do!

The Baker Street Irregulars will be hosting a symposium dedicating the BSI Archive at the Lilly Library in Bloomington, IN on November 8-10.

The Disney 1x1 Podcast recently posted an episode covering The Great Mouse Detective.  One of the hosts of this show lives in St. Louis, and had great things to say about hometown boy Vincent Price's role.

The Enola Holmes movie keeps making news with its casting.  In the past month Henry Cavill and Helena Bonham Carter have been cast as Sherlock Holmes and Enola's mother respectively.

Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes 3 has a new director attached to the Christmas 2021 release.  Dexter Fletcher has replaced Guy Ritchie on the film.  Fletcher recently directed Rocketman, and took over the duties of directing Bohemian Rhapsody when that director was released from the project.  In a Sherlockian connection, Dexter Fletcher voiced one of the gargoyles in 2018's Sherlock Gnomes.

Brad Keefauver joined us this month, and recorded a live episode of The Watsonian Weekly, the podcast for the John H. Watson Society.  You can hear many of us talking about hidden criminal empires, movie versions of Watson, and how many times Watson used the word "parallel" here.  If you aren't familiar with the John H. Watson society, take a minute to check out their website and journal.  The Watsonian journal is a really great publication that comes out twice a year.  Anyone who is interested in Sherlockian scholarship, pastiche, or any writing will find something they like between the covers!

After the usual stack of giveaways, including a handmade Sherlockian journal and t shirt from The Game's Afloat conference years back, it was on to quite a discussion of The Resident Patient!  But that's a story for another post...

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Family Life of Queen Victoria by Stacey Bregenzer

Although Queen Victoria never officially appears in the canon, her presence is felt throughout the Sherlock Holmes stories.  Many later adaptations do in fact include an appearance by her imperial majesty, and many Sherlockian gatherings begin with a toast in her honor.  But, as we have been discussing the stories, I have seen hints of her children mentioned.  When an important person gives a valuable public possession as collateral to a bank in The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet, I see hints of Prince Edward, later Edward VII.  He was a famous gambler, who often got himself into sticky situations.  And when a gentlewoman with a famous face kills Charles Augustus Milverton in revenge for her husband, I speculated that this could be one of Queen Victoria’s younger daughters.  Both Princess Beatrice and Princess Louise lost their husbands at young ages and spent much time in London.

Queen Victoria’s family was very famous and beloved.  Her love for Prince Albert and her life-long grief at his passing were legendary.  The Albert Memorial still stands in Kensington Gardens as a testament to this.  And the family set many traditions in place during the Victorian period - some of which are still in place today.  Queen Victoria’s choice of a white wedding dress has inspired brides for the last 150 years.  The German tradition of Christmas trees was brought to England by Prince Albert and made famous by the royal family.  The children were much more present before the public than was standard at the time, and many photos, paintings, and drawings were shared in the media.  And, of course, Queen Victoria’s mourning for Albert set the example for the infamous Victorian mourning practices.

Victoria and Albert had 9 children.  They were much more hands on parents than most of the age.  Albert, in particular, supervised their education and had very high standards for them to reach.  They made sure they had time out of the public eye by taking them to Scotland and the Isle of Wight for what might now be considered a holiday.  Victoria maintained close relationships with her children, and through them, she became the grandmother of Europe.

I have recently been listening to a series on The Other Half podcast called The Mothers of World War 1: The Daughters and Granddaughters of Queen Victoria.  Her children and grandchildren were involved in the Great War on all sides, so it has been referred to as the war between cousins.  This podcast has helped me become more familiar with her children, who all have distinct and interesting personalities.  I want to share a little bit about each of them.

Princess Victoria, Princess Royal- She was fiercely intelligent and very close to her father.  She loved learning and made it hard for her siblings to live up to her example.  She married the German Emperor and left England at 18.  She was Queen Victoria’s best correspondent, exchanging thousands of letters.  She was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II but did not enjoy a good relationship with him.

Prince Edward (Edward VII)- He had a very contentious relationship with his parents.  He could never live up to their expectations.  But he was popular with the English people.  He became quite a playboy and gambler and was a big fan of the American heiresses who were “invading” England at the time.  He fell out with his older sister, due to his marriage to Alexandra of Denmark, whose family had a rivalry with Germany.

Princess Alice- She was extremely kind and a natural peacemaker.  She was usually the only one who could bridge the gap between Edward and the rest of her family.  She was very much into charity work and nursing and was an advocate for women.  As Grand Duchess of Hesse, she founded Alice-Hospital in Darmstadt, Alice Society for Women's Training and Industry, and Alice Women's Guild nursing program.  When her children fell ill with diphtheria, she nursed them herself, catching the illness and dying at 35 with her 4-year-old daughter.

Prince Alfred- He was a prankster and often got into trouble as a child.  He was interested in mechanics, geography, and science, and made toys for the other children.  He joined the Royal Navy at 14 and traveled the world, visiting Australia, Sri Lanka (Ceylon at the time), Malta, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, and Hawaii to name a few.  He has many places in the British colonies named after him.  He became an alcoholic later in life.

Princess Helena- She was a tomboy who loved the outdoors and gardening but was also very good at needlework.  There was a scandal when she had a relationship with one of her father’s German librarians, and there is still speculation about the extent of the relationship.  She spent her life in England, marrying a much older ousted German Prince, and made many of the royal public appearances.  She became a writer and helped write a biography about her father.  She also became involved in nursing, helping found the British Red Cross. 

Princess Louise- She was considered the most beautiful of Victoria’s daughters.  She was an artist, a feminist, a fashionista, and a social butterfly.  But she was famously moody and could make some very unkind remarks.  She married the Duke of Argyll, who is rumored to have been gay, and it was reported that they each had affairs, although they remained close.  Her husband was Governor General of Canada, so she spent many years living in Ottawa, where they were extremely popular.  They founded the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.  Alberta is named after her (her middle name), as is Lake Louise.  She was the only one of her siblings who did not have children.

Prince Arthur- He was the most well-behaved of the children, so he was therefore considered to be Victoria’s favorite.  He treasured his toy soldiers and dreamed of joining the Army from a young age.  He entered the Royal Military Academy at 16 and spent 40 years in the Army.  He also had a stint as Governor General of Canada.  When he retired, he participated in royal appearances.  Although in his late 80s, he rejoined the Army to inspire recruits during World War II.  He died at 91 in 1942.

Prince Leopold- He was the first of Victoria’s descendants to suffer from hemophilia.  Even though he could bleed to death from the slightest injury, he was fearless and defied the restraints his worried mother placed upon him.  He loved music and the Arts and studied at Oxford University.  He was also a chess lover and sponsored tournaments, and he had the opportunity to travel through Europe and Canada.  Despite his disease, he lived to be 30, and was able to marry and have children.  He was a freemason.

Princess Beatrice- She was the youngest and was called Baby most of her life.  She was spoiled by her father and siblings and was very shy.  However, her childhood was bleaker than her siblings, as her father died when she was very young, and her mother went into deep mourning.  She became her mother’s companion and was expected to remain so for her whole life. But she fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg.  When she told her mother, Queen Victoria gave her the silent treatment for 7 full months.  She finally relented but insisted that the couple would have to live with her permanently and she would have to be the priority for Beatrice over her husband.  After her mother’s death, she edited her mother’s hundreds of journals and had them published.

I hope that helps make them a bit clearer in people’s minds.  They are a fascinating family.  If that has piqued your interest, I hope you will check out The Other Half podcast or read more about them.

Sources: The Other Half podcast
Osborne House website
Photos found on Google

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May Meeting: The Crooked Man

Eleven St. Louis Sherlockians met last Saturday to discuss The Crooked Man for the May Meeting of The Parallel Case of St. Louis. 

Lots of Sherlockian news as usual!  So let's get started:

The Noble Bachelors of St. Louis had their 50th anniversary dinner last month, attended by many members of The Parallel Case.  Our very own Nellie was awarded Noble Bachelor of the Year, and the toasts to Holmes, Watson, and The Woman were all given by Parallel Case members.

A kickstarter campaign for wooden Sherlockian figures is going on now, and they look fabulous!

Another kickstarter campaign is going on for "The Irregular Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," a collection of new Sherlockian stories written for a younger audience.  Parallel Case members Peter and Rob both have stories in the book.

We discussed the Sherlockian email exchange between 16 different scions and groups. 

Lots of books were sold at the meeting to benefit the St. Louis Sherlock Holmes Research Collection.

A new Facebook group, 221 Be Here, has been formed after online harassment issues surfaced with a longtime Sherlockian.

The next Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn meeting will be this Friday.

Elementary returns for its final season on May 23, with a villain named Odin Reichenbach, and the return of Kitty Winter.

The Norwegian Explorers conference will be August 8-11.

A new Nicholas Meyer book will be released this October, "The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols."

The Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium will be held in Portland, OR on October 12 & 13.

The Kirkwood Theater Guild will be performing "The Game's Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays" November 1-10.

The BSI Archive Conference will be held in Bloomington, IN on November 8-10.

Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, X-Men: Phoenix Rising) has been cast as Sherlock Holmes in the upcoming Enola Holmes film.

Joe recently went down to southern Illinois to interview Bill Cochran for the BSI History Project.

And now, on to The Crooked Man!

Holmes calls on Watson at home one summer night after Mrs. Watson had gone to bed.  The group had lots of questions about Holmes' motives in these first few pages. 

  • Why did Holmes arrive so late, was he avoiding Mrs. Watson?  
  • What was the purpose of Holmes staying the night at Watson's home if they were going to leave so late in the morning?  
  • Did Watson need to be a witness in this matter?  Holmes has gotten information without witnesses plenty of times (BERY, TWIS, SILV, etc.)  And if he did, why not use Major Murphy, the man that brought Holmes in on this case?

We also get to see some of Holmes' quick deductions in these first pages.  Holmes tells Watson that he's still smoking the Arcadia mixture, he's showing his military habits by keeping a handkerchief in his sleeve, no one is currently staying with him, a workman has been in the house, Watson has been busy in practice.  Oh, and that his writing is meretricious.  Heather pointed out that right after this we get to hear one of the few times that Holmes says, "Elementary."

Elaine posed some questions about Watson's servants.  How many did he have?  The Canon says servants - plural, so at least two.  What roles would the Watsons have employed?  Where did they live?

Holmes brings Watson up to speed on the Barclay murder investigation, telling him that the man and his wife had an argument that night behind a locked door, and ends with ominous words: "He was never seen alive again."

After Holmes had questioned the servants, the maid remembered hearing Mrs. Barclay say the name "David" twice.  No one in the house was named David.  Heather observed that maybe the Barclays' servants weren't as worried as they said to the police. Maybe this all started out with them trying to get some juicy gossip on the masters.

No one was able to question Mrs. Barclay about the previous night's events because she had brain fever.  Rob pointed out that it's always brain fever!  Nellie thought that the fainting spell could have been induced by Mrs. Barclay's corset, which led to some nice talk of the Enola Holmes books, where most of us learned about the terrors of Victorian corsets.

After investigating the crime scene, Holmes decided that a third person was in the room with Colonel and Mrs. Barclay and came in through the window.  Holmes found prints of a man who came from the nearby road and ran across the lawn to the house.

And this mystery man had a small animal with him.  Holmes describes a small four footed mammal to Watson.
Watson: It's a dog.
Holmes: It ran up the curtain.
Watson: A monkey.
Holmes: No, nothing I'm familiar with and it's carnivorous.

Holmes questioned Mrs. Barclay's friend, Miss Morrison, who had been with out with her before the deadly argument.  He is able to get out of her that they were returning home when a crooked man carrying a box saw Mrs. Barclay and exclaimed, "My God, it's Nancy!"  Mrs. Barclay said, "I thought you had been dead thirty years," to the man and then sent Miss Morrison on while she talked with the man.  When Mrs. Barclay met back up with Miss Morrison, she was very angry and begged her friend not to say anything about this meeting to anyone.  Michael wondered if this is the same Annie Morrison from our last story, The Reigate Squires.

Holmes tracked the man down.  He was Henry Wood who had been in London for five days.  He had a small furry animal in his box, had been performing in soldiers' bars, and paid for his lodgings in rupees.

While Holmes went off to collect Watson, he left Henry Wood's apartment under surveillance by Simpson of the Baker Street Irregulars.  Rob noted that this is only one of three stories where the famed Irregulars appear, and it is the only short story in the entire Canon where these boys are mentioned.

This led to a description of the phrase "Street Arabs" used to describe the Baker Street Irregulars.  Joe and Michael discussed the term "Arab," as referring to the nomadic nature of the people.  So applying the word "Street" before it would have been a fair description for the time, even if it sounds off-putting to our present-day ears.

When Holmes and Watson arrive at Wood's apartment, he is huddled in front of a fire although it is summer.  This led to a discussion on why Wood would be sitting there. Srini proposed that Wood was used to much warmer climates after having spent years in India and Afghanistan.  Adam thought that Wood would have been using the heat from the fire to help the chronic pain from his twisted body.

Wood tells Holmes and Watson that "It was providence that killed [Barclay]," and then told his story of being betrayed into the hands of the Indian Army by Barclay.  We discussed the problems with this story.  First of all, it is only Wood's account, with nothing to back it up.  Secondly, Barclay did not know that help was on the way, so his treachery not only doomed Wood, but the rest of his troop, himself, AND the woman he loved.  Why would he do such a thing?

Nellie pointed out that Barclay's actions would warrant a court martial, at least.

Wood was kept prisoner for years and then escaped "North to Afghanistan."  He then moved on to Punjab and eventually back to London.  Srini produced a map and showed the group that going north from Bhurta (which is probably the city of Kampur) does NOT put you in Afghanistan.  Wood's travel narrative doesn't hold up here.

After Wood saw Mrs. Barclay in London, he followed her home.  From the road, he saw the couple fighting, rushed in, and at the sight of him, Colonel Barclay died, hitting his head on the fireplace fender on the way down.  Michael described a fireplace fender for us, relating it to the piece of a car with the same name.

Wood then told Holmes and Watson about his pet, Teddy, which Watson recognizes on sight as a mongoose.  We wondered why Watson would be able to identify the animal on sight, but not when he and Holmes were discussing the creature earlier.

This led to Elaine quoting Peggy Perdue's essay about this story in About Sixty, stating that the story "Rikki Tikki Tavi" came out around the time that chronologists have placed this story, so many English would be aware of the animal.  Rob noted that Sherman the birdstuffer from SIGN had a pet mongoose named Slow-worm that Holmes and Watson didn't seem to remember when talking about the mongoose in this story.  Kristen commiserated with Wood, wondering just how hard it would have been to catch a mongoose after everything that had gone on in that room and how agitated Wood would have been.

Major Murphy happens to be walking by Wood's apartment at this moment, and Holmes tells him that Barclay died of apoplexy and the problem is solved.  Srini, a doctor himself, noted that it would be very rare to die of apoplexy so quickly.

We all wondered what happened to Mrs. Barclay and Henry Wood after the story ended.  Did Mrs. Barclay stay in the house?  Did Wood apply for his military pension?  We will never know.

Watson asked what "David" had to do with all of this, and Holmes refers him to the books of Samuel in the bible.  We discussed how likely it would be that Holmes and Mrs. Barclay would be familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba, being at it was a somewhat obscure story.  Joe speculated that Mrs. Barclay was already involved with church activities with the Guild of St. George, so it could be presumed that she would have more of a religious leaning than the average woman.  Nellie pointed out that Victorian upper and middle women had a lot of time during the day to read, and much of this reading time could have been devoted to biblical readings. 

Rob cited Leslie Klinger's Sherlock Holmes Reference Library, saying that Holmes' saying the story would have been found in "the first or second of Samuel" proved that Holmes would not be a Roman Catholic, because he would have referred to those books as "the first or second of Kings."  Christopher made the connection that David's first born son from his affair with Bathsheba died as an infant and the Barclays had no children of their own.

Branching off of this discussion, Michael filled us in on the Guild of St. George.  We will close this month's post with his write-up.  Our next meeting will be on July 13 to discuss The Resident Patient.  Come at once if convenient!

The Guild of St. George
Real or Fictional?

In CROO, Nancy Barclay went to a charity event in Aldershot. Holmes tells Watson that Mrs.
Barclay “had interested herself very much in the establishment of the Guild of St. George, which
was formed in connection with the Watt Street Chapel for the purpose of supplying the poor with
cast-off clothing.”

Jack Tracy’s Encyclopedia Sherlockiana has a listing for The Guild of St. George with an
asterisk, indicating Tracy’s conclusion that it is a fictitious entity. Tracy was mistaken. The
Guild of St. George is real.

The Guild of St. George is a real charity, founded in 1871 by John Ruskin, an author, artist,
university professor, social commentator, and polymath. Ruskin established the Guild as a
utopian society with the goal of making ordinary working people and rural people in England
happier, through education in arts, beauty, and goodness, and by raising people from abject
poverty. In 1889, when Baring-Gould dates CROO, and in 1893 when it was first published, the
Guild of St. George was expanding. It is quite consistent with its mission to have a clothing drive
for the poor.

There is also a connection between the Guild’s founder John Ruskin and Arthur Conan Doyle
(“ACD”). Ruskin’s book The King of the Golden River, published in 1850, was illustrated by
Richard Doyle, a prominent commercial artist. Said Richard Doyle was known to ACD as
“Uncle Dickie,” for he was an older brother of ACD’s father Charles. That book was a very
popular children’s book, and has been reprinted many times. Several copies are available in our
local library today. ACD, born in 1859, most surely read it as a child. With the connection
between Ruskin and Dickie Doyle, the popularity that book, and the prominence of John Ruskin,
there is a high likelihood that the literary agent ACD was familiar with the Guild of St. George.

The Guild still exists and operates in the UK as a small educational charity trust.

Take that, Jack Tracy!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Collecting by Joe Eckrich, BSI

My name is Joe and I am a collector.  I’ve been a collector most of my life.  In my youth I collected stamps, coins and baseball cards, among other nefarious items.  My collecting interests have changed a number of times over the past 72 years, but some of the things I still collect are baseball memorabilia, including signed baseballs and photographs, celebrity autographs and books.  Among my book collections are author collections (Vincent Starrett, Michael Harrison, Christopher Morley) and subject collections (Jack the Ripper, Dickens’ Edwin Drood and film and television).  I have also collected various mystery and detective authors.  Of course, my main collecting interest is Sherlock Holmes.

I did not start out to collect Sherlock Holmes.  I had been reading mystery and detective fiction since grade school and in about seventh grade began periodically checking out The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Doubleday one volume) from my local public library.  I also began watching the Rathbone/Bruce films on television.  I was hooked on Sherlock Holmes but apart from a copy of the Canon (eventually) I had no other books on the subject.  Fast forward to the mid-1970’s and the re-birth created by Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.  I was not a young husband and father working for the federal government visiting bookstores whenever I could.

One of the first books I found was a remainder copy of Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street and it was a life changer but not the way you might think.  I actually wasn’t that enthralled by the book but in Appendix II in the back I found a goldmine.  At this time I was unaware of the BSI or local scions; I didn’t realize there were books written about Sherlock Holmes.  Appendix II was titled “The Bibliographical Holmes: A Selective Compilation” and contained a listing of books in the Higher Criticism as well as parodies and pastiches.  It opened up a new world.  However I didn’t immediately go searching for those items.  This was pre-internet and I was unfamiliar with other than local dealers.

Because of Meyer’s book and interest it engendered, there was a spate of new books being published by authors such as Michael Harrison and Michael Hardwick.  I began simply by purchasing some of these new books as I found them.  It was also about this time that I learned about a local scion, The Noble Bachelors, and joined.  As far as my involvement in Sherlockian activities, the rest is history, but I was still not really a Sherlock Holmes collector.  I did eventually manage to learn of some far flung dealers selling Sherlockiana and began picking up a few important volumes when I could afford them.  My primary interest was in obtaining the material which was not readily available.  One of my earliest joys was Seventeen Steps to 221B edited by James Edward Holroyd, a collection of essays by British Holmesians.  A few other items from this period were My Dear Holmes by Gavin Brend, Holmes and Watson by S. C. Roberts and Sherlock Holmes Commentary by D. Martin Dakin.

As you can see I had what amounted to a “Sherlock Holmes shelf” but I was not yet a Sherlock Holmes collector.  Then in the late 1980’s a momentous event occurred.  I’m still not sure if it was a blessing or a bane.  A local Sherlockian and BSI, Dr. Bart Simms, was moving from a house to an apartment and had decided to sell his rather voluminous Sherlock Holmes collection.  He made the announcement at a meeting of my group, The Parallel Case of St. Louis, and offered to sell it to any local Sherlockian interested and he set a price which, while extremely generous, was a great deal of money to me at the time.  However, I finally made the fateful decision to purchase the collection and we worked out a short time payment plan.  The day finally arrived and a friend and I made numerous trips to his house one Saturday to pick up the books and other items.  Now I had a collection and I was definitely a Sherlock Holmes collector.  It also turned me into a Sherlockian dealer.  Since some of the items in the collection were duplicates, I set about selling them to help pay for the collection.  I find that I am still selling some thirty years later but that is another story.

By this time I was well up on Sherlockian activity, had attended BSI dinners and knew John Bennett Shaw and others.  One of the first things I decided after obtaining this collection was that I had a duty to add to it and I set out to do that.  Somewhere along the line I decided to become a completest and made a grand effort in that direction.  I eventually determined that it was impossible and far too expensive.  I ended up with a great many items that really didn’t hold my interest, such as pastiches, comic books, children’s books and a large number of periphery items.  When I finally came to my senses I made the decision to concentrate on the “higher criticism” or “writings on the writings”.  Oh I do have pastiches and parodies in my collection, but they are one I enjoy such as the Solar Pons books and what I consider to be the better pastiches.  I have a few foreign editions, particularly if I like the cover or dust jacket and I have some comics such as Classic Illustrated, as well as books on Sherlockian film and other related subjects but my prime interest is in the critical works.

Partly as a result of Bart’s collection, I have developed a fairly decent Arthur Conan Doyle collection, including a wide range of his fiction and non-fiction, biographies and books about Doyle. On my own I developed a love of Vincent Starrett’s work, particularly his books on books and book collecting, so I have a large number of his works, including some very limited items.  I met Michael Harrison when he was visiting the US and even hosted him overnight in my apartment and I became fascinated with his writings, so I have a an almost complete Harrison collection.  I also collect Christopher Morley but more sporadically, primarily his books of essays, although I have a number of his novels also.

In 1993 I remarried and, in order to clear some debts prior to taking the plunge, I sold some of my collection.  Of course I then set out to replace the lost items and have managed to obtain most of what I lost.  Such is the way of collectors.  Somewhere along the line most collectors face two problems, money and space.  Both can limit your collection, if you let them.  However, with the philosophy that you can never have enough books, there always seems to be room for one more, even if you end up with piles on the floor because eventually you do run out of wall space for bookcases.  I even have bookcases in a walk-in closet.  Money, or lack of it, can be a bigger problem there are ways around that also, such as choosing books over food or inexpensive motels over four star establishments.  It is all about setting priorities.

I once listened to a talk about collectors vs. hoarders as related to Sherlockians.  I believe there are real and important differences.  I collect for a number of reasons.  I enjoy reading the material and for years the only way to do so was to own the material or know someone close by from you could borrow it.  Most libraries did not contain the items.  It is somewhat easier now with collections at places like U. of MN which has put much of their material on line.  I like the ability to go into my library and pick up a volume at random to enjoy again or to research an item that came up as a scion meeting or in some other reading material.  I like the idea of preserving the material for future Sherlockians.  And, I admit, I just like knowing I have it.  There is much joy in collecting.  One of the biggest joys, at least for me, is searching out and finding obscure items.

The internet has made finding items easier but it has also adversely affected one of the joys of collecting.  As a result of the internet many small, and large, bookstores have disappeared.  Half the fun is searching through a bookstore and handling the books and suddenly coming across the item of your dreams.  Another joy is to find something for which you weren’t even looking, maybe didn’t even know existed. The hunt is a big part of collecting.  During my career, I traveled quite a bit and I always tried to find a bookstore or two in whatever city I happened to be in.  It made the trips much more interesting.

I know today that the number of collectors among Sherlockians is dwindling and that’s okay.  Material is more readily available, but I do think most if not all Sherlockians should have a small collection of important books readily available.  I was going to include a list of important titles but the Shaw 100 is readily available and, more recently, the Sherlock Holmes Almanac contains several lists of important books.  I also believe that all Sherlockians, collectors or not, should at least be aware of the men and women who came before and the important works they produced.  Everyone should be familiar with the works of Blakeney, Brend, Bell, Brend, Montgomery, Grazebook, A. Carson Simpson, Harrison, Holroyd and Edgar W. Smith and Vincent Starrett among many others.  These and others have given me and other knowledgeable Sherlockians countless hours of enjoyment and enlightenment and should not be forgotten by newer Sherlockians.

My collecting has had its ups and downs but I am a happier person because I am a collector and because I can and do enjoy the material any time I choose.

Editor's Note: Joe also has quite a large Sherlockian autograph collection as well.  Here are a few pictures I took when I visited his collection earlier this year.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

March Meeting Recap: The Reigate Squires

Eleven of our esteemed members gathered on March 9th to discuss “The Adventure of the Reigate Squires” (or Reigate Puzzle, if you happen to have been around when the story was published in America in 1893). Rob Nunn was out of town, so the meeting was led by Tassy Hayden.

We once again debated over Holmes and Watson, as the film won four Razzies: Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Spin-Off. It should be noted that Will Ferrel was nominated for Worst Actor but lost to Donald Trump.

The conversation around lapel pins continues. Kristen has done some research, and there are many online outlets that can produce pins, and some that will help with designs. The next step is to choose whether we would like enamel or brushed metal. Joe brought up the point that members who have the previous design might like to have a new pin, and we discussed the possibility of a design contest.

Announcements continued with reminders of several upcoming Holmesian conferences as well as meetings of nearby Scions. The annual Noble Bachelors Dinner (and the Scion’s 50th anniversary) will be held on April 20th at the Lemp Mansion, and invitations will go out soon.

Finally, The Parallel Case is now on Instagram, username @parallelcaseofstlouis.

Next, we turned our attention to the story. We start with Watson retrieving Holmes from a hotel in Lyons, where he is convalescing after over-exerting himself for over two months of investigation into the Netherland-Sumatra Company, a case which has brought him international fame. Watson decides that Baker Street is not peaceful enough for Holmes’s recuperation, so the two travel to Reigate, in the Surrey countryside about 22 miles from London, to spend time with Watson’s bachelor friend, Colonel Hayter.

But mystery and adventure always seems to find our heroes, and on the night of their arrival, they hear of a curious burglary at the home of one of the two richest estates in the area. An odd assortment of objects was taken. The next morning, local Inspector Forrester arrives to ask for Holmes’s help. It appears that the other large estate, that of the Cunninghams, was targeted for burglary, and that a young coachman was killed by the fleeing criminal. Both of the men in the household, father and son, arrived on the scene shortly after the murder, and a torn piece of paper was found in the fist of the victim, which appears to solicit an appointment.

Holmes takes great interest in the paper clue, and travels to the Cunningham estate to investigate. He returns and collects Watson, Hayter, and the Inspector for a tour of the house. What follows is a display of Holmesian genius showcasing his acting and deduction as well as his skill at handling haughty criminals. He finds the rest of the torn note in the pocket of the son’s robe during a distraction he created, but is immediately set upon by the Cunningham men. Holmes demands that the men, who certainly appear guilty based on their violent actions, be arrested for murder.

Holmes then separates from the group again, and they reassemble, with the addition of Mr. Acton, the head of the other large estate, back at Hayter’s house. Holmes then lays out several clues, including the absence of footprints of a fleeing criminal, the absence of powder burns on the body, and, of course, an analysis of the fragment of the note from the dead man’s hand. Mr. Acton confirms a motive for the Cunninghams’ attempted burglary of his home, as they are involved in a land dispute, and Holmes concludes that the coachman saw his employers in their attempt, leading him to attempt blackmail and the Cunningham son to lure and kill him.

Many exclamations over Holmes’s brilliance, ingenuity, and acting ability resound, and Holmes and Watson plan to return to London the next day.

The solution to this mystery, more than any other, hinges on the analysis of handwriting. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had an interest in graphology, and communicated with Alexander Cargill, a noted graphologist, shortly before the story was published. Cargill postulated that one could ascertain the age and relative state of health of the writer by the penmanship. Our author gave himself a challenge, writing in 1893, “I would like now to give Holmes a torn slip of a document and see how far he could reconstruct both it and the writer of it.”

We discussed the phenomenon of Sherlock Holmes fans asking Conan Doyle for help with mysteries and court cases. He was famously involved in the George Edalji case, which involved animal mutilation and the conviction of an Indian lawyer based on questionable handwriting evidence (in 1903). Mr Edalji was eventually released from incarceration, but was not pardoned, meaning that he could not practice law. He contacted Conan Doyle in 1906, who reviewed the case and began to write articles and give lectures and likely played a large part in a new inquiry into the case and the resulting pardon. This story is discussed in Arthur and George by Julian Barnes. (Also recommended, if one has interest in Conan Doyle’s work on real life cases, was The True Crime Files of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)

ACD included this story on a list of his twelve favorites, stating that “on the whole, Holmes himself shows perhaps the most ingenuity.” Elaine summarized the About Sixty essay by Ashley D. Polasek, who wrote that this story has a bit of all the best characteristics of other stories. In “The Reigate Squires,” we see several types of forensic analysis (footprint, powder, and handwriting), compelling clues (unconventional burglaries), an illustration of the caring relationship between Holmes and Watson, Holmes’s acting, and an action packed, told-in-the-moment denouement.

As a group, we bemoaned the absence of a film adaptation, noting Holmes’s theatrics, the mental gymnastics involved, and the physical altercation with the Cunninghams seem like they would provide quite a lot of dramatic interest.

Our next meeting will be on May 11th at 1 pm, and we will be discussing The Adventure of the Crooked Man.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

February Meeting: The Musgrave Ritual

We may have gotten snowed out last month, but we made up for it at our rescheduled meeting this month!

With it being tax season, our group was bumped down to the small meeting room, and we were at capacity for sure!  17 old and new Sherlockians got cozy to talk about a lot of news and the minutiae of one of Holmes' early cases, the Musgrave Ritual.

Joe brought everyone up to speed on the events from this year's BSI Weekend.  He also pointed out that the latest issue of the Baker Street Journal had obituaries for a few St. Louis Sherlockians. 

We discussed the Will Ferrell Holmes and Watson movie.  Although the critics hated it, some of Parallel Case members liked it.  Some of us agreed with the critics. 

Tassy introduced everyone to a new group, Doyle's Rotary Coffin

Netflix has a new show in development based off of Holmes' unofficial force, the Baker Street Irregulars.

The Enola Holmes movie now has a screenwriter and director.

A new coin with the likeness of Sherlock Holmes on one side was released in England.  (One of our members may have bought one off of ebay before we were done with the meeting today, but we won't name names...)

One of our members, Michelle, was on a recent episode of the Three Patch Podcast.

Mattias Bostrom recently launched the Talking About Sherlock podcast.

Another new podcast that started last month is The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes Podcast.

If you aren't seeing updates from The Parallel Case of St. Louis in your Facebook feed, please visit our Facebook Page and make sure that you are following us.

Many Sherlockian groups are planning to start sharing their newsletters, blog and website posts, and any other news through a new email exchange.  It is scheduled to start in March.

If you are interested in Sherlockian discussions in your email, The Hounds of the Internet listserv might be something you'd like to try out.

The annual Noble Bachelors dinner will be on April 20 this year.

The next Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn meeting will be on February 15 at Pio’s.

Holmes, Doyle & Friends VI will take place in Dayton, OH on March 29 & 30.  Speakers include Susan Bailey, Shannon Neihart Carlisle, Robert S. Katz, BSI, Ann Margaret Lewis, Jeffrey Marks, Scott Monty, BSI, Regina Stinson, BSI, & Vincent W. Wright.

221B Con will take place in Atlanta, GA on April 5-7.  The programming list is extensive, but some of their presenters include Nancy Springer & Lyndsay Faye.

The Norwegian Explorers Conference will take place at the University of Minnesota on August 8-11.  Speakers include Marcus Geisser, B.S.I., Cheryll Fong, Regina Stinson, B.S.I., Peter Calamai, B.S.I., Shannon Carlisle, Dan Payton, Bill Mason, B.S.I., Jeffrey Hatcher, B.S.I., Alan Rettig and Ross Davies, B.S.I.

The Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium will take place in Portland, OR on October 12 & 13.

The Baker Street Irregulars will dedicate their library collection at the Lilly Library in Bloomington, IN on November 8-10.

Joe showed the group some of the old Parallel Case of St. Louis pins, and we decided that it's time to have a new pin commissioned for our group.  Details to come.

We talked about meeting on the off-months from meetings for social outings like movie nights and game nights.  Nellie is going to look into hosting another movie night this summer.

We had more than our usual amount of giveaways this month.  Rob brought his usual stack and Tassy contributed after Marie Kondo-ing her book collection.  We are happy to report that everything found a new and loving home!

And if the giveaways weren't enough to appease folks, Rob and Michael had plenty of books on hand to sell.  Rob presented some of the books that were duplicates from the St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection at the St. Louis Public Library.  Proceeds from these sales will go towards purchasing new items for the collection.  Michael is helping the widow of Sherlockian Barry Hapner move his Sherlockian book collection to new homes.  If you are interested in seeing just what these two have available for sale, please contact them personally or email The Parallel Case of St. Louis and we can put you in touch with them.


And then, it was finally time for The Musgrave Ritual Discussion!

Rob passed out maps he found on Ross Davies' website and Randy shared a few pages from Canonical Crime Scenes

The story starts off with Watson describing Holmes' housekeeping habits: "He was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow lodger to distraction."

Watson continues to tell us that Holmes kept his cigars in the coal scuttle (which led to a discussion on how bad they would taste!), tobacco in the toe of a Persian slipper, and unanswered correspondence transfixed with a jack knife into the very center of his wooden mantelpiece.

Their chambers "were always full of chemicals and criminal relics which had a way of wandering into unlikely positions, and turning up in the butter-dish or in even less desirable places." (What relics and what places are less desirable than food dishes?)

These few sentences have influenced so many interpretations of 221B over the years, from Gillette to Ferrell.

Holmes would also "sit in an armchair with his hair trigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic VR done in bullet pocks."

We had quite the discussion about this statement and how plausible it would be.  Randy and Tassy talked about what Boxer cartridges actually were.  It was pointed out that 1887 would have been the queen's golden jubilee, so perhaps Holmes was caught up in all of the hoopla.  Nellie shared her expertise by comparing Holmes' bullets to their modern day counterparts.  We also debated if it would be probable for him to write VR in the wall, or if his bullets would have just caused the plaster to explode from the wall and create a cloud of dust in the room.

Watson then turns his descriptive pen upon himself when he tells us that "The rough and tumble work in Afghanistan coming on the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has made me rather more lax than benefits a medical man."

We see this in action in other stories where Watson is quick to hand over his patients to the doctor next door, and this may have led to why Watson has left practice once or twice throughout the Canon.  We all agreed that any doctor who would describe himself as "lax" wasn't necessarily one we'd rush right out to consult.

We hear all about Holmes' stacks of papers that are never to be touched and how he tends to them once every two years.  Heather labeled Holmes as a hoarder, and we talked about the fire hazard that all of the papers would've been, especially with an active fireplace, chemical experiments, and gunfire going off.  Rob posited that maybe it wasn't Moriarty after all that set fire to Holmes' rooms in a later story.

Watson is hounding Holmes to clean up his papers.  Holmes distracts Watson by sharing a story that started with, "Before my biographer had come to glorify me..."  Holmes has a very different view of Watson's writing when he's getting out of cleaning the apartment....

Holmes lists some of his early cases including the Tarleton murders, Vamberry the wine merchant, the old Russian woman, the aluminium crutch, and Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife.  We spent a few minutes kicking around ideas of what these stories could be as well as discussing some of the writings that Leslie Klinger listed in the Sherlock Holmes Reference Library about Holmes' early years.

While Holmes is musing about his early days, he pulls out a crumpled piece of paper, and old brass key, a peg of wood with a ball of string attached and three rusty disks of metal, telling Watson that these were the remnants of the Musgrave Ritual, of which Watsonhad heratd him mention more than once.

Holmes was living on Montague Street at the time when Reginald Musgrave, a college acquaintance from four years ago, brought this case to him.

Holmes described his station at college by saying that "A good deal of talk about myself and my methods" had taken place.  Rob thought that this was very different from Holmes saying that he had no friends during his retelling of The Gloria Scott.  Randy, Adam and Heather joined in, saying that maybe Holmes was a topic of discussion.  Instead of being talked TO, he was talked ABOUT.

Musgrave was a scion of one of the very oldest families in the kingdom and had always been interested in Holmes' methods.  His was a cadet branch, and Elaine enlightened everyone on just what that term meant.

Many of us noticed that Musgrave lived in his manor house alone, but employed:
8 maids
1 butler
1 cook
2 footmen
1 boy
Complete garden staff
Complete stable staff

Out of all of these employees, Brunton the butler was Musgrave's concern.  He had been there for twenty years, was a former schoolmaster and overqualified for the position.  He was a bit of a Don Juan.  He had just become engaged to a maid, Rachel Howells, but dumped her for the daughter of the game keeper, leading Rachel to come down with "a touch of brain fever."

It's always brain fever!

One night, Musgrave couldn't sleep and saw a light coming from the library.  He picked a battle ax off the wall.

Let's stop right there.  We had some thoughts on this.  Musgrave was described as being thin, with languid courtly manners, and a bit of a dandy.  And this little guy picks up a battle ax to defend his home.

Michael pointed out the symbolism of this weapon.  It was used by the royal cavalry during the British civil war, and the same type of weapon was used to behead Charles I by a man named Richard Brandon.  Are these just coincidences, or is there some allusion going on here?

Anyway, Musgrave finds Brunton going through the family papers, particularly an old family document called The Musgrave Ritual, a set of questions that had been passed down through the family for years.  Musgrave fires him for snooping.  Brunton begs to not be disgraced and asks for one month's time until he can quit.  Musgrave give the man a week's time and is told to use whatever excuse he chooses.

Three days later, Bruton has disappeared and Rachel Howells is shrieking with laughter at his disappearance.  His bed was not slept in, all of his belongings were still there, but all of the doors and windows were still locked.  There was not a trace of him anywhere.

Rachel soon disappeared, leaving only footprints that led to the deep lake on the property.  It had been drug, and the only thing that was found was a bag that held rusted metal, several pebbles and pieces of glass.

Holmes asked to see the paper that had the Musgrave Ritual on it, which Nellie and Kristen acted out for us.  Nellie then noted that parts of this were used by T.S. Eliot for "Murder in the Cathedral."

We noted that all of us were using different versions of the Canon, so some of us had eight stanzas to the ritual, while others only had seven.  Klinger goes into the history of this discrepancy in his Sherlock Holmes Reference Library title.

Peter, Randy and Nellie discussed the age of trees and if it was plausible for oaks and elms to grow for so many years.

We talked about if something had been around for centuries, and prominently mentioned an oak and an elm tree, both of which were on the property, wouldn't that have been a hint to someone in this family along the way?  Maybe that's why Holmes tells Musgrave, "Your butler... had a clearer insight than ten generations of his masters."  Which is just a nicer way of saying your butler is smarter than your whole family.  This might be why Holmes didn't have friends in college.

Holmes and Musgrave to to Hurlstone Manor, where all of this has taken place.  Holmes notices a large oak in front of the house and learns that a large elm was struck by lightning.  He asks Musgrave the height of it, and Musgrave remembers that Brunton had recently asked him about the same tree.

Holmes measures the shadow from the oak and finds his starting point, just two inches from a spot where Brunton had made in the ground.

And here's where we started talking about math.

We discussed just how tall oaks and elms can grow, their circumferences, girth, diameter, etc.  Admittedly, most of us were a trifle rusty on our geometry.  But a lot of us took issue with the fact that this ritual would still work hundreds of years after it had been written due to the fact that these trees would still have grown.  Even if they had topped out, they would still gain an inch or so in height each year.  Compounded over centuries, this would have been enough to throw the whole starting point off.

Whether the starting point would have been true or not, Holmes steps out the ritual, eventually finding himself in a cellar where a space had been cleared away over a heavy flagstone.  On it lay Brunton's scarf.  

The contables were called in, and the flagstone was removed to find Brunton's dead body in a chamber next to an old chest that held rusted metal disks.

Holmes deduces that Brunton and Rachel opened the chamber and he went in.  Either she trapped him in there or the supports gave way, sealing his fate.  Was it homicide or an accident?  There were plenty of opinions all around the table for either option.

It was wondered how long it would've taken Brunton to die in the enclosure.  After some quick calculations (more math!), Dr. Tassy figured that Brunton had about two hours in the chamber before he died.

Musgrave looks closer at the metal disks and realizes that they are coins from the time of Charles I.  Holmes then looks at the bag's contents and sees that the twisted metal was the ancient crown of the kings of England!

The crown remained at Hurlstone Manor, but Rachel got away.

Rob, Mary, Michael, Kristen and Nellie all debated if the crown would have really stayed there with lots of historical discussion and conjecture.

New member Michelle wondered if Hurlstone Manor was the only place that the crown was after Charles I.  This would have influenced some of the historical timing of this case.

Michael offered that Holmes did track down Rachel.  And for the price of half of her bounty, he allowed her to get away.  This would have been why Holmes always had enough money in the early days.

Nellie pointed out that if a man had left a woman to die in the chamber, he would have definitely been held accountable at the story's end.

As always, we had lots of questions, thoughts and opinions on our story of the month.  Another great discussion time!


Our next meeting is just one month away, on March 9, to discuss The Reigate Puzzle.  Come at once if convenient!