A case of blackmail turns deadly in The Adventure of Charles Augutus Milverton

Sherlock goes head to head with Charles Augustus Milverton, master blackmailer.

Sherlock is hired by Lady Eva Blackwell to retrieve some compromising letters. They are in the possession of Charles Augustus Milverton, a blackmailer who causes Holmes more revulsion than any of the other criminals he has encountered in his career. Milverton is “the king of blackmailers” and demands £7,000 for the letters, which could end Lady Eva’s marriage engagement. After a meeting between the two at Baker Street, Holmes is authorised to offer £2,000 for their return, all that Lady Eva can afford. Yet Milverton insists on the full £7,000 and Sherlock resolves to recover the letters by whatever means necessary.

Whereas Professor Moriarty elicits respect from Holmes, with Milverton there is nothing but repulsion. Milverton is a master manipulator and uses his knowledge of people’s secrets to his own advantage. There is little actual deduction for Holmes to do, instead he asks Watson to help in a case of burglary and to retrieve the letters for Lady Eva. There seemed to be a boyish delight from them both as they break the law when they embark on their evening trip to Appledore, donning masks and soft shoes to crack Milverton’s safe.

As for the story’s violent conclusion, Watson hides from us the identity of the killer, claiming to recognise them as a leading figure in society, was I the only left wondering what really happened? Perhaps the recent adaptation puts ideas in our heads, but what if Sherlock was the one who pulled the trigger and Watson covers for his friend?

Tomorrow it is The Adventure of the Six Napoleons

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