The May 13th meeting of the Parallel Case of St. Louis was another great discussion! This month found Rob, Pris, Elaine, Bill, Cheryl, Joe, Brad, Stacey and Nellie welcoming new members Tassy and Paul to the group.
We started the meeting with recaps of current events:
The McKendree collection has been transferred to the St. Louis Public Library, and they are in the process of cataloging the contents of the collection. Bill and Cheryl brought along four more boxes to donate to the collection as well. As soon as we know a timetable for the dedication, we will pass it along to everyone.
Nellie took the lead on coordinating a movie night. It will be a double feature of “The Adventure of SherlockHolmes’ Smarter Brother” and “Without a Clue” and we are asking for $10 per person to cover the cost of renting a room. There is not a definite date set as of yet, but we are looking for an afternoon in late June or July. A survey will be sent out to anyone that might be interested in attending. If you are interested, please email Rob at email@example.com
The Noble Bachelors of St. Louis are sponsoring a Silver Blaze race at Fairmount Racetrack on August 19.
This meeting was dedicated to “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” and if you know much about Sherlock Holmes, you know this is a favorite of many Sherlockians. Rob pointed out that the podcast Trifles has done a nice episode discussing some of the finer points of the story.
Our discussion of the story started off by discussing the sad fact that Watson implies that Helen Stoner had died by the time he published the story, only leaving her a few years of life after her adventure with Sherlock Holmes.
Much of the discussion centered around the larger-than-life villain of Grimsby Roylott. Some people questioned if Helen Stoner’s mother actually died in a train accident, or if Roylott had a hand in her demise, similar to the ‘accident’ that met Baron Gruner’s former wife, and why she would marry the man in the first place. This led to an interesting discussion about the role of women in this society, and especially widows and women with money.
Keeping the focus on Roylott, we analyzed Holmes’ cool demeanor when facing the man. Tassy pointed out Doyle’s masterful use of “show, don’t tell” when telling this story. Roylott is another in a long line of doctors in the canon, and we wondered how Watson would have felt about chronicling all of these evil men of his own profession. Stacey pointed out that doctors were commonly feared by the public during this time, so Doyle was playing to his audience with this villain.
Before we could get to the actual investigation, we all wanted to talk about Roylott’s menagerie of exotic animals. The Stoner girls knew of Roylott’s baboon and cheetah, so we bantered why anyone would want those types of pets. Joe pointed out that cheetahs could be trained to be fairly friendly and were seen as a sign of power, and the cheetah and baboon would certainly discourage any unannounced visitors to Stoke Moran.
Along with the animals, Roylott had the band of gypsies that stayed on his property, and we talked about how gypsies were treated in Victorian society and today. Brad presented his theory on the gypsies that you can read on his blog. We all agreed that Doyle’s use of gypsies in the story made for a great red herring.
Rob also pointed out that Watson started off the story by saying that he wanted to address the widespread rumors of Roylott’s death, and Holmes and Watson were seen by at least one townsperson asking about and heading to Stoke Moran on the day that Roylott died. Are these the rumors that Watson needed to address?
And then it was time to talk about the snake.
It’s impossible to talk about the “The Speckled Band” without addressing that there is no such snake as a swamp adder, a snake kept in a safe would suffocate, that snakes die if they drink milk, snakes can’t hear whistling, and they can’t climb a rope.
Once we got all of that out of the way, Nellie taught us about the differences in hemotoxins that would be found in most adders, and neurotoxins found in cobras, and how each would affect their victims. We also discussed the logistics of Roylott keeping the murderous snakes. Did he have it on hand just waiting to use? Did he order it once Julia Stoner announced her engagement? Was a second snake procured when Helen announced her engagement or was it the same snake from two years prior? If a snake can’t climb a rope or drink milk, did Roylott train a mongoose to retrieve the snake each night? What if there was a second snake in the room with Roylott and that’s what actually killed him?
Once we had exhausted all of our conversations about the murderous snake, we went back to Roylott. We all agreed that the man was a fantastic villain, but was he the best? This led to an extended discussion if Roylott was a better villain than Moriarty. Lots of opinions were shared during this discussion, and it’s safe to say that we didn’t come to a consensus on that question!
Before we wrapped up, Joe shared with us a dark lantern that he had and explained just how it worked, Bill told us about Doyle's play based off of "The Speckled Band," Tassy told us about her new blog, FreeRange Sherlockian, Elaine showed off her copy of Dining with Sherlock Holmes, Stacy recommended The Art of the English Murder, and Rob recommended Arthur and Sherlock.
Our next meeting will be on July 8 to discuss “The Engineer’s Thumb.” If convenient, come at once!