Ralph Edwards - Fri, 3 Mar 1995
The "resurrection" of Sherlock
Holmes in this tale has led some scholars to compare it with the story
of Easter, others to identify Holmes as a "solar myth". To what degree
does our admiration of Sherlock Holmes depend on his similarity to other
gods and heroes whose stories are deep in our consciousness? And to what
degree does he really resemble them, anyway?
Honey, I'm home! And just in the nick of time, because somebody's discharging air guns in the heart of London..... Some thoughts and questions for our story this week, The Empty House:
For the first and last time
in his life, Dr. John H. Watson had fainted. He recovered with the tingling
aftertaste of a dose of brandy administered by a man he had thought to
be dead...Sherlock Holmes. Yes, Holmes was alive after all; he had not
accompanied Professor Moriarty to the bottom of the Reichenbach Falls.
But his physical appearance indicated to Watson's trained eye that Holmes
had not been leading a healthy lifestyle of late.
The mystery that had London all abuzz was a classic: a locked room, a young man dead from a head wound inflicted by a soft-nosed revolver bullet, but no weapon to be found in the room. Even though a cab stand was a few hundred feet away from the murder scene, no one had heard a shot or seen a gunman.
The young fellow was a member of the British peerage, an easygoing, likeable chap with regular if unexciting habits. There was all manner of speculation: Who killed the Honorable Ronald Adair? Why was Adair murdered? What fearsome weapon could have inflicted such a wound without making a sound? Sherlock Holmes knew the answers, and he also knew that his own head was the next target for an expanding bullet.
In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will send his faithful Pack in search of the second most dangerous man in London, who is armed with a curious weapon made by a blind German mechanic, and who has good reason to hate Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty may be dead, but murderous members of his mob remain free, and they want to avenge their fallen chief. The trail winds through a maze of mews which Watson did not know even existed, and ends in an Empty House which fronts on Baker Street.
In reading Holmes's account
of his narrow escape at Reichenbach Falls, a question crossed my mind:
"How on earth does one reverse one's boots?" After all, boots are made
with the toes pointing one way only, and trying to put one's boots on backwards
would lead to hammertoes in short order. And even if one somehow managed
to cram his or her long-suffering feet backwards into a pair of boots,
wouldn't the resulting tracks reveal that something was...well, afoot?
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 1 Mar 2001
The Hon. Ronald Adair -- not the List Member of that nom, thankfully - had rooms on the first floor (in America, the second floor). Wouldn't he have had to be seated fairly near the window in order to present a target to a sniper at ground level? And where would the sniper hide so as to remain not only unseen but unheard? (Remember, the air-gun made a strange, loud whizzing noise.)
Holmes tells Watson, "'Mycroft had preserved my rooms and my papers exactly as they always had been.'" But weren't those rooms set afire by Moriarty's henchmen in FINA? One would think that the bundles and stacks of paper accumulated by Holmes would have added tinder to the conflagration. And did Mycroft, on an annual salary of £450, pay Mrs. Hudson the rent during his brother's absence from London? Did he pay for restoring the rooms after they had been set afire?
On examining the wax bust after Moran had done his sharpshooting, Holmes notes that the bullet struck "plumb in the middle of the back of the head and smack through the brain." And Mrs. Hudson said the spent projectile flattened itself against the wall and came to rest on the rug. Moran was shooting at an upward angle (again); wouldn't the bullet have exited from the cranium somewhat higher and flattened itself against the ceiling?
And then there's the ultimate fate of "the second most dangerous man in London." Holmes says, "'The bullets alone are enough to put [Moran's] head in a noose.'" How then could Holmes refer to Moran as "'the living Colonel Sebastian Moran'" in ILLU some eight years later?
Anyone who has ever tried to open a window that has been closed for a long time has probably experienced a great deal of noise and effort in doing so. Yet Moran opened the window "softly and noiselessly." Perhaps he had visited the scene previously and oiled the window, but then he would have left prints in the dust that thickly furred it, which would have alerted Holmes when he and Watson approached it closely to look across Baker Street. Further, if the window had that much dust on it, then surely the floor would have been dusty as well. How could the old shikari possibly miss the footprints that Holmes and Watson must have left in that dust?
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 6 Jan 2000
Return to Introducing the 60 Stories
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 1 Mar 2001