The Red Circle – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 22 Apr 1994

  • What other cases did Holmes try not to accept?
  • Are pertinacity and cunning sexual traits?
  • What did “and all complete” include?
  • Was five pounds a week excessively high?
  • Why did Gennaro promise a long stay?
  • Was it usual for doors to be both locked and barred?
  • Was all the pacing consistent with but one cigarette-end?
  • Do cigars and pipes take half a match?
  • Did the code mentioned suggest a stupid recipient?
  • Was the attack on Mr. Warren a logical development?
  • Were Morton, Waylight, and Castalotte intended as puns?
  • Did the distant tinkle suggest the house’s history?
  • Did clearing a space in the box room alert Emilia to danger?
  • Did Emilia have lunch and dinner that day?
  • Does writing differ by sex?
  • Was the code message changed by Watson for dramatic effect?
  • Who did Gennaro think Gregson was?
  • Is there significance in the use of knives and not guns?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 4 Oct 1996

The impossibility of the cipher in this story (because the Italian alphabet isn’t exactly the same as the English one) has drawn remark and speculation from Sherlockian scholars for decades. Do such authorial blunders, of which there are examples in many other cases as well, increase or decrease the reader’s affection for the stories of Sherlock Holmes?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 2 Jan 1998

The Adventure of the Red Circle. Who better to clean up the splatters than Mr. Sherlock Holmes? That soap Emilia ordered could really come in handy. My questions and comments as you turn the pages:

  • “The smallest point may be the most essential.” What do you think is the most essential small point in this case?
  • England is the refuge of the Luccas. It also was a haven in several other canonical accounts, including SCAN, FIVE, and VALL. Why did endangered people seek safety in England?
  • How come Leverton, the Pinkerton man, wasn’t thrilled down to his toes to meet Sherlock Holmes? Why, he doesn’t even seem to know who Holmes is!
  • Gorgiano’s had a powerful international organization behind him, and he died in a one-on-one encounter with an opponent — two things he has in common with Moriarty. Do the comparisons end there? What are some of the other similarities (and certainly there are differences) between these two villains?
  • The Red Circle gives us a fond backward glance at a number of stories we’ve recently read. Like HOUN, this week’s story included candlelight signals from a window. We saw the “journeys end” greeting, a Shakespearean misquote, in EMPT. A walking stick was struck on the pavement, as one was in REDH. REDC was broken into Parts One and Two, just like WIST. There was an American angle, as we’ve seen in DANC, SCAN, NOBL, FIVE, STUD, YELL, and others. The Pinkerton Agency was on the job, an echo of VALL. There were advertisements in the agony columns, similar to SIGN, ENGR, and NOBL. There was an intriguing reference to an unchronicled case, like in MUSG, FIVE, SIXN, BLAC, and several other stories. A mirror was used to spy on somebody, as one was in COPP. The pencil lead, to which our attention was carefully directed, struck a chord with fans of the four Violets. There were tangled threads, recalling the tangles we saw in STUD, HOUN, and WIST. A thumbprint was mentioned, which reminds us of NORW. So many canonical refrains were repeated in REDC that some readers may dismiss it as redundant. Or, you might consider it to be a collection: The Greatest Hits of Sherlock Holmes!

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 5 Mar 1999

Mrs. Warren, a landlady, was worried by a new tenant who paid double rent so that he could stay in his rooms without emerging, and who paced ceaselessly from morning to night. She took her concerns to Sherlock Holmes, who said there was nothing to it, and that her fears were groundless. But Mrs. Warren insisted there was something amiss, and Holmes agreed reluctantly to keep tabs on the situation.

The case of the recluse lodger took a dramatic turn when Mrs. Warren’s husband was abducted by two–or–three unknown assailants, bundled into a cab, and then unceremoniously dumped on Hampstead Heath after two hours. Although there was nothing in all this to connect the incident to the mysterious boarder, Mrs. Warren was sure that he was at the root of it and told Holmes that she would evict the boarder before the day was out. Holmes convinced her to be a little more patient and contrived a way in which he and Watson could get a look at the boarder.

What followed was a sequence of mysterious signals sent by the medium of passing a candle back–and–forth across a window of a tenement across the road from Mrs. Warren’s house; bloody footprints on the floor of the rooms whence the signals had originated; and the discovery of an enormous man, stabbed in the throat and dead as a doornail, in an inner room. In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will swing the Hounds to the line on the track of this tale of an Italian secret society, unholy “love,” murderous plots, and vengeance.

Reflect for a moment, if you will, on your own mental image of “Black Gorgiano.” Got a picture? A giant of a man, dark complexion, with a black beard and moustache, and a fiercely forbidding aspect about him, right? Well…not quite. I feel a little disappointed every time I remind myself that Gorgiano was clean-shaven and that the “good guy,” Emilio Lucca, was the one with a dark beard and moustache. But then, who could have imagined that the best of men, Dr. John H. Watson, was wearing a white hat? So much for stereotypes.

Was Mrs. Warren justified in being perturbed when her lodger lived up to the terms of his rental agreement and didn’t emerge for ten days? Was she hypertensive when it came to her lodger’s pacing the floor from morning to late at night? Should a normal, prudent person be alarmed by such actions?

Why didn’t Holmes try to locate the driver of the cab into which Mr. Warren was so rudely bundled? And how could Mr. Warren’s assailants mistake him, an older man, for their quarry? How did they discover that they had the wrong person without removing the coat they had thrown over his head, and if they removed it, how did it happen that Mr. Warren didn’t get a look at one or both of them? Further, how did the assailants know the address at which their quarry was supposedly staying? If they did, why didn’t they get inside on some pretext and abduct him rather than lurk outside, cab at the ready, waiting for him to emerge? And wasn’t it odd that for ten days nobody but the mysterious lodger noticed a couple of foreign-looking strangers lurking about with a cab at hand?

There has been much previous discussion of the fact that the Italian alphabet differs from the English version in that it contains fewer letters. Much has been made also about the length of time required to laboriously wave a candle back and forth in front of a window to form a word, repeat it twice, form another word, and repeat that once plus four letters. The signaler couldn’t move the candle too rapidly because the draft would cause it to go out. But I would ask why Gennaro Lucca, a native of Italy, would signal his wife Emilia, also a native Italian, in Italian but using the English alphabet, particularly at a time of great stress?

Some odds and ends: Why did Watson have to light Gregson’s lantern? Why was Gorgiano carrying a black kid glove at a time when he might need both hands free? How did Holmes know that his signal to Emilia Lucca would be obeyed; that there was no prearranged password to show that the danger had passed? Why was it necessary for the four men to return to Emilia’s room to hear her narrative, and why did it take them a half-hour to cross the street to do so?

Discover more about The Red Circle and read the canon.