The Problem of Thor Bridge – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 15 Jul 1994

  • Were safety deposit boxes available?
  • Can you suggest solutions to the Phillimore and Alicia cases?
  • In what language is Isadora masculine?
  • How large was the matchbox?
  • Have remarkable worms since become known to science?
  • Was rationing his output beneficial to Watson’s royalties?
  • Isn’t wild weather stimulating?
  • Had Watson always roomed on an upper floor?
  • Why did Holmes consider the Family Herald an excellent periodical?
  • Were egg timers available?
  • In what ways might Watson have changed the identity and background of Gibson to provide privacy?
  • What would an effective governess have done about a pesky fly?
  • At what age is a woman past her prime?
  • Would a mistress consent to a half-mile walk requested by her employer?
  • What were the historic English states?
  • Why didn’t Holmes ask Bates for his opinion of Miss Dunbar?
  • Did the American market for the Canon require a comparison to a prominent American?
  • Why did Gibson refer to a surgeon rather than a doctor or physician?
  • How does a woman demonstrate her tropical nature?
  • Was Holmes prejudiced against the rich?
  • Shouldn’t Holmes have known the problems of bureaucracy and getting a pass?
  • How many “wonder women” are in the Canon?
  • Must it have been a moonlit night?
  • What constitutes a first-class carriage?
  • Was Maria standing when she shot herself?
  • Did Miss Dunbar return to her work as a governess?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 22 Sep 1995

Neil Gibson is probably the richest of all Holmes’ clients. Is it significant — either to the plot of Thor Bridge or to the readers of The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes in general — that he is an American?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 27 Mar 1998

One woman lies dead, another is in jail, and a grumpy American millionaire may be able to provide some clues. We move to The Problem of Thor Bridge. My questions and comments:

  • Isn’t Grace Dunbar just another Violet? There’s absolutely nothing distinctive about her.
  • Why is Bates, that disgruntled sneak, such a credible witness?
  • Who is a better judge of Neil Gibson’s personality — Grace or Sherlock Holmes?
  • Wouldn’t the string float? Or, at least, wouldn’t it be visible just under the surface of the shallow lake for a time, until it became really waterlogged?
  • The chipped parapet on Thor Bridge captured Holmes’ attention. “It took some violence to do that…Yes, it was a hard knock” the detective said, striking the stonework with his cane. The chip is reminiscent of one of the numerous legends told of the Norse god of the sky, Thor, for whom the bridge was named. As the story goes, the giant Hrungnir showed up at a banquet in Asgard, home of the gods. Hrungnir bellowed that he would destroy the gods and carry off Thor’s wife, Sif. Thor hated giants anyway, but this was simply too much; he brandished his mighty hammer, “Mjollnir,” and challenged Hrungnir to a duel. Hrungnir pulled out his own weapon, a huge whetstone, which he hurled at the god. With a single blow, Thor’s hammer shattered the whetstone into many pieces. Some of the airborne chunks killed the giant. One fragment, a chip, flew toward Thor and embedded itself in his forehead, remaining there. I leave the velocity and trajectory calculations to mathematicians. For myself, I can’t help but wonder if it’s possible that the chip from the bridge parapet flew through the air and lodged itself in Maria’s hair or clothing.

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 28 May 1999

Sherlock Holmes was expecting a visit from Mr. J. Neil Gibson, a former United States Senator and the world’s wealthiest man. Mr. Gibson’s wife had been found shot to death at the Gibsons’ palatial estate in Hampshire. The family’s governess, Miss Grace Dunbar, was being held in connection with the killing. Mr. Gibson was seeking Holmes’ help in proving Miss Dunbar innocent.

While Holmes was filling Watson in on some of the details of the case, there was an unexpected visitor in the form of Mr. Marlow Bates, the manager of Mr. Gibson’s estate. Mr. Bates, obviously frightened by the prospect of his employer’s imminent visit to 221B, hurriedly related that Mr. Gibson had been most cruel towards his late wife, and then ran out of the room before Mr. Gibson’s arrival. Shortly thereafter the formidable Mr. Gibson arrived, and after some angry disputation with Holmes, Gibson confessed that he had intentions toward Miss Dunbar that were less than honourable.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will sound his hunting horn and set the Hounds on the trail of a complicated relationship and a “murder” that is not as cut-and-dried as it seems. He hopes that the Pack will be able to rescue Miss Dunbar from the intrigue surrounding yet another dysfunctional household.

I never read this story without reflecting on how little some things change over time. Mr. J. Neil Gibson might be any one of several contemporary men of wealth and influence. Holmes’ remark, “Some of you rich men have to be taught that all the world cannot be bribed into condoning your offenses” is as true today as it was a hundred years ago.

Watson says of the notes on unchronicled cases kept in the fabled dispatch-box, “Some, and not the least interesting, were complete failures, and as such will hardly bear narrating, since no final explanation is forthcoming.” In view of the fact that Watson published such cases as FIVE and YELL, which could be called “failures”, why did he withhold these others from the public? After making the above observation, Watson proceeds to tell us about three other “failures.” Was Doyle laying the groundwork for possible future stories as he did in the opening paragraph of FINA, in which Watson mentions NAVA?

Holmes mocks Watson by saying, “I am getting into your involved habit, Watson, of telling a story backward.” What story did Watson relate backward? And Holmes describes Gibson as “the greatest financial power in the world.” More power than the Bank of England or the United States Treasury? How can a man, however wealthy, “make or break” a community, a city, or a nation?

Was the injection of the persona of Mr. Marlow Bates really necessary to this story? What real purpose does he serve in setting the stage that a few more facts about J. Neil Gibson’s character brought out in Holmes’ prolegomenous monologue to Watson would not have provided equally well? Bates rushes in, blurts out a brief statement to the effect that Gibson is a ba-a-a-d man, and rushes out again. Unlike his counterpart John Mason in SHOS, Marlow Bates is never to be seen more in this adventure. Was Bates a red herring, drawn in front of the reader to generate a sense of pity for Mrs. Gibson (who proves to be not very likable in the final analysis)?

It seems to me that Miss Dunbar’s note, “I will be at Thor Bridge at nine o’clock” can only be a response to a request that she be at that place, at that hour. She didn’t write, for example, “Meet me at Thor Bridge at nine o’clock.” Is the actual wording of her note capable of any interpretation other than that it was a response, not a request?

Finally, what “permits” were necessary for someone to visit a prisoner?