Monday, November 8, 2021

On "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

lo-fi & lovely

On "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" [BOSC] from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


The Strand Magazine (UK) October 1891
The Strand Magazine (US) November 1891
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Coll.) October 1892

::: NOTES :::

It's a short-sheeted bed of a tale to a certain extent, this BOSC. Let's unpack that sentiment. This isn't on account of an abbreviated cast, we have plenty there, including Mrs. Watson and Lestrade, who shows a certain side of himself in scolding Holmes for giving hope to the hopeless. “I am ashamed of you, Holmes,” said Lestrade with dignity after a few minutes’ silence. “Why should you raise up hopes which you are bound to disappoint? I am not over-tender of heart, but I call it cruel.” And then there are the concerned parties beyond Alice, the hopeless maiden... namely two old assholes who get what they have coming and James, a dummy kid.

Perhaps the shortness I feel is due to a lack of fleshing-out of these characters? Well, not in Lestrade as I just noted. Holmes does his usual deductive flex, this time in regards to Watson's shaving and then waxes philosophically on circumstantial evidence: “It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different." We even get an allusion to his Upon the Distinction Between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos monograph for the 1st time in Adventures. (Mentioned prior in A Study in Scarlett.) All others get enough treatment.

A thought is that we're just a bit more fleshing-out there, and the addition of a couple rag-tag characters within an 'Australian section' on par with the American sections of A Study in Scarlett and Valley of Death--away from this being a fifth Doyle Holmes novel. Perhaps it's that. Just as likely or more-so, it's that the finger points quickly away from the obvious and incarcerated, and to no one in particular. There is no two jockeying for the finger--and it scans like a dropped ball in the endzone. Never is it mentioned that a son is unlikely to kill his father. This is true, isn't it? Asking for a friend--me--who has an 11-year-old son.

The settings are great, tho. ::: very ::: vintage 221b and Holmes fieldwork where the hound in him takes over, as he crawls around in the muck and the yuck of the English countryside, where thankfully it hasn't rained. I like how vivid the opening scene is too, sans being wordy, where Watson and Mrs. W speak briefly and knowingly and even reference the canon some. Big fan of meta, here. & here's a chance to mention the dialog writ large, and it's well-worth it to do so, because it's some of the best in said canon. Crisp with information yet full of legitimate conversational tones. Plenty of winks and nods, too.

I shook my head. “Many men have been hanged on far slighter evidence,” I remarked. 

“So they have. And many men have been wrongfully hanged.” 

“What is the young man’s own account of the matter?” 

“It is, I am afraid, not very encouraging to his supporters, though there are one or two points in it which are suggestive. You will find it here, and may read it for yourself.”

The good doctor's narrative skills are at their zenith and well, I find myself wanting this stretched into a novel more and more. I've yielded that for here, the characters were drawn well enough but there seems so much more meat on all their bones--particularly the good-hearted dummy from bad seed and his cocktail waitress lady friend, could be a tale told more fully. And more from the Aussie section that never happened, the hot-blooded and reckless Ballarat Gang. Led by Black Jack of Ballarat. The dying man said something of a rat in his son's arms.

... The culprit is--” “Mr. John Turner,” cried the hotel waiter, opening the door of our sitting-room, and ushering in a visitor.

“You didn’t know this dead man, McCarthy. He was a devil incarnate. I tell you that. God keep you out of the clutches of such a man as he. His grip has been upon me these twenty years, and he has blasted my life. I’ll tell you first how I came to be in his power. ...

“Farewell, then,” said the old man solemnly. “Your own deathbeds, when they come, will be the easier for the thought of the peace which you have given to mine.” Tottering and shaking in all his giant frame, he stumbled slowly from the room."

'Always leave them wanting more,' is at times the wisdom of those who see the well run dry. Here though it may be mandated more by the confines of The Strand's pages and editorial whims/wants. The problem is the problem and it is aborted as noted but still leads to a rather grand solution and seemingly happy ending. The dummy makes good or at least lands a lovely (to Watson's horndog eyes) wife. As to his barmaid--well, that's another and AGAIN could-be, grander tale. I spoke previously as to justice itself portraying the protagonist in Holmesian tales*, and here, it wills out. But not just that--evil dies--and with the need of only minimal murder. Beyond even that, tho... evil is erased because it is never learned of by the characters who remain. 

REMINDER to please check out I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, An infotaining spot for Sherlockian Scholarship. (As well as one used in some of my own research.)

SETTING: 1.5/2 
PLOT: 1/2 


I'd like to take a moment to remind you kind Gentlepersons that I write these thoughts under the assumption of you having read these adventures. They are readily available everywhere, including for free at Project Gutenberg.