A Case of Identity

How does a man disappear on his wedding day? It is up to Holmes and Watson to find out.

First published in The Strand Magazine in September 1891, we open with a busy and engaged Holmes, dealing with ‘some ten or twelve’ cases at once. There are comical details of a husband who hurls his false teeth at his wife every meal time and Holmes is seen wearing a ring given to him by King of Bohemia after the Irene Adler case in
A Scandal in Bohemia.

Watson sees a woman hovering by the door of Baker Street before quickly darting in, like a swimmer plunging in from the bank, a phrase nicely used in Sunday’s episode. Holmes is immediately dismissive, classifying it as an affair of the heart. And indeed it is, although a rather unusual one.

Mary Sutherland asks for help in finding her missing fiancé Hosmer Angel. Living with her mother and unsympathetic stepfather, Mary was looking to the marriage to take her away from the family, to grant her her freedom and bring with her income from a deceased uncle in New Zealand with her. Meeting Angel, a shy man with tinted glasses, they embark on a whirlwind romance while her stepfather is away on business. Yet on the day of the wedding Hosmer disappears from the horse drawn cab. A disappearing bridegroom, or a Mayfly Man perhaps…?

Holmes tells Mary to forget about Hosmer and to prepare herself for disappointment. I too was left feeling in a similar way by the end. At the story’s conclusion, with a revelation that essentially boils down to a stepfather seducing his daughter for monetary gain, I felt rather disturbed. Times were different then but once Holmes reveals the true culprit the story had an edge of distaste and underlying menace. I was left surprised at Mary’s naiveté at someone not being able to recognise her own step-father.

On a more positive note I was equally surprised by Holmes’ care towards her. You assume him to be cold and calculating but he is clearly protective of her and sensitive towards her frail position. He prepares her for the worst and in the process spares her from any further embarrassment.

Tomorrow we venture out of London with The Boscombe Valley Mystery

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