On "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" [SPEC]
from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
::: PUBLICATION HISTORY :::
The Strand Magazine (UK) February 1892
The Strand (US) March 1892
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Coll.) October 1892
::: NOTES & GRADING :::
Baboons, cheetahs, and snakes, OH MY! Plus, everyone is knocked up... Mrs. Hudson, Holmes, and then Watson (no, not like that). We then meet Helen Stoner, the client. A debutante of sorts, living with her quite mad step-father--the latest heir of a decaying old family. A poor little pre-maturely grey-haired rich girl, of sorts with lines that don't make me like nor pity her such as, "No servant would stay with us" and "we were little likely to see anyone of our own age and position." Plus, she shares how her hush-money had hushed her step-dad's severe mistreatment of a blacksmith just one-week prior.
& then on the heels of her, comes he. Dr. Grimesby Roylott himself and he arrives inside of one of my ::: very ::: favorite Holmesian scenes. “I know you, you scoundrel! I have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the meddler.” My friend smiled. “Holmes, the busybody!” His smile broadened. “Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!”
... “I will go when I have had my say. Don’t you dare to meddle with my affairs. I know that Miss Stoner has been here. I traced her! I am a dangerous man to fall foul of! See here.” He stepped swiftly forward, seized the poker, and bent it into a curve with his huge brown hands." ... “He seems a very amiable person,” said Holmes, laughing. “I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him that my grip was not much more feeble than his own.” As he spoke he picked up the steel poker and, with a sudden effort, straightened it out again."
But where is the mystery? It's really more of a Gothic tale of horror. A Howdunit, much more than a Whodunit. A quite top-loaded one at that, with all you really need to know happening all at once, right away. Plop! A somewhat imbalanced plot, then and that's where I tuck-in the investigation which bleeds over-into the solution via the problem. The said investigation is virtually non-existent. There is no deduction, just Holmes and Watson sitting in a dark room, waiting. Waiting and each spooked af whilst doing-so. The investigation of the room and its adjoining ones in the manor is interesting though. Or at least well-written. But also full of suspensions of disbelief.
The rest is just a 30-year-old brat telling our dynamic duo a story and Holmes deducing her mode of transportation in coming to see them. That's harsh. It's been raining all day and that sometimes puts me in a tick of a snit.
So you're saying this all leads to a snake that is most likely actually some sort of legged lizard, and trained by a saucer of milk? OK. Really, I'm OK with these oddities in my Sherlockian universe. Note that I didn't even mention the crop-in-a-goose issue within my Blue Carbuncle review. I do adore the Siegfried and Roy-ishness of a cheetah prowling the grounds. Plus a damn baboon will rip your damn face off. Nothing says evil quite like that! Speaking of evil: The mother of these twins--am I the only one who assumes they were killed by Dr. Grimesby Roylott eight years prior? To me, that's made just as clear as the bad doctor having offed Helen's twin.
Roylott. I actually love this character and would love a pastiche or two fleshing him out. He can quite be a Professor Challenger type nemesis as opposed to Moriarty simply playing dark side Holmes. An overt comic book villain. Therefore, characters are quite nice here, although many are off-screen so to speak. The mom, the other twin, AND BEFORE I FORGET AGAIN, why did she scream "Speckled band?" It would have made matters a good tick easier for all involved if she'd simply yelled "Holy fuck, a snake bit me!" But she maybe lit that candle after and by then it had slithered/walked back up the dummy bell cord. Perhaps its pattern was somewhat iridescent. I'm more than fine not trying to make the "Swamp Adder" any real sort of creature here.
The settings are decent, a sleepy 221b doesn't get a whole lotta love but the room in which we wait is definitely given its creepy due, as well as the doc's. A thought from left-field... was Holmes needed in this story at all? Worthy of note is this is Doyle's literal number one favorite Sherlock adventure. Perhaps this is how he chose to see his creation. In further perhaps, perhaps that's why he was so longing to kill him off. Can a creator not fully grok his own creation's merit? Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret. I'll wrap it up on the solution--which was again never in doubt but was also kinda fun and action-packed. The poetic justice of which was overt but well-done.
FINAL GRADE: 5.5/10
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 as well as Wikisource, where you can listen to it read, as well.
Also, please bear in mind that this post is part of a series in which I'm working through every case in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. For other entries in this series, use the Search Kaplowitz Media. function to the right of your screen and plug in either particular adventures contained within that collection, or The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Finally, please do check out I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere and Interesting Though Elementary, a pair of Sherlockian spots elsewhere on the internet that I highly recommend and at times use in my own research. I've also taken a liking to having David Clarke read to me on LibriVox.
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::: very :::