Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Source: Wikipedia
Having locked herself in her bedroom, a woman is killed with no trace of her assailant. The only clues are a strange whistling sound and her mysterious dying words - "the speckled band".

The story was later adapted into a stage play (also written by Arthur Conan Doyle), and briefly referenced in the recent BBC Sherlock series. It is one of only a handful of shorts by Conan Doyle that adhere closely to the conventions of the impossible crime genre.

The Adventure of the Speckled Band

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Project Gutenberg. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Date: 1892
Word Count: 10,000 (about 40 pages)


Arthur Conan Doyle was thought to have considered The Adventure of the Speckled Band one of his best Sherlock Holmes stories. It does feature many of the hallmarks of a classic Holmes tale - a panicked client briefly describes the case, is impressed by Holmes' various deductions about them, then whisks Holmes and Watson away to inspect the peculiars.

It is somewhat unique in it's focus on the how of the crime - the lead suspect is clear-cut from the beginning, and it is up to Holmes to explain their methods. The solution itself is fairly simple, though does necessitate contrivances which force several quirks upon the assailant's character.

In many of his stories Conan Doyle gave little credit to the forensic skills of the police, and this is no exception. The ineptitude of the coroner pushes believability slightly past breaking point.

4/10 - One of a few "classic" locked room mysteries from the great writer, but not one of his best solutions.

If you'd like a paperback or official Kindle edition of The Adventure of the Speckled Band the story is available as part of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

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