A classic Sherlock Holmes that mixes the unusual with the ingenious.
A visibly frightened Helen Stoner asks for help from Holmes and Watson. Living in a large estate with her step-father, two years ago her sister who was due to be married died in mysterious circumstances whilst sleeping in a sealed room. A strange whistle was heard in the night before her sister shouted the words “the speckled band” and died.
Now Helen has to stay in the same room due to renovation work, and fear for her life. Shortly after she leaves with a reassurance from Holmes that he will solve the case, her stepfather, Dr Grimesby Roylott, bursts in. He threatens Holmes and shows off his violent temper and strength by bending the fire’s poker in half before leaving just as abruptly. Holmes shows off his physical strength by bending the poker back in place, displaying just a hint of disappointment that Roylott was not not around to see it.
Holmes and Watson make their way to the family’s estate Stoke Moran and spend the night in Helen’s room. Holmes finds the bed bolted to the floor, a ventilation shaft leading to the room next door and a dummy bell pull by Helen’s pillow. Sitting in the dark, they wait in silence until a strange noise pierces the darkness…
From an early age, this was my favourite Sherlock Holmes story. While there are clues to the eventual outcome littered throughout, the solution to the mystery is a truly terrifying answer and the reasoning behind it is just as unpleasant. Much like in A Case of Identity, this becomes a case of a young woman being prevented from marriage so that her income can be exploited by another member of the family. Except that instead of a broken heart, here there are much more deadlier consequences.
It is certainly a story with a number of odd quirks. When we first see Helen she is clearly distressed yet Holmes persists with deducing her whereabouts and how she arrived. It felt a little cruel, that he was showing off, and I was waiting for Watson to interrupt and take pity on her. Other odd elements are at Stoke Moran where a baboon and cheetah are allowed to roam freely around the grounds. Obviously it becomes clear why once we reach the conclusion but it certainly adds a strange, exotic element to a story set in the English countryside.
Tomorrow is The Case of the Engineer’s Thumb…