Ralph Edwards - Fri, 20 Jan 1995
For the first time, in this
tale, the reader finds Sherlock Holmes both ill and deracinated -- staying
in a country house -- which, bachelor establishment though it be, is hardly
his usual milieu. Can that premise be taken as deliberate on the author's
part (in which case, is it successful in providing variety?) or is it an
act of boredom?
Some thoughts and puzzlers from my REIG margin notes........
We are all familiar with
the manner in which Sherlock Holmes drives himself while on a case, disdaining
food and sleep as he focuses his whole being on solving a mystery. Sometimes
this catches up to him in the form of a nervous collapse, and REIG
is the first such instance in which it happens. While all Europe is ringing
with his name for foiling Baron Maupertuis's colossal schemes, Holmes is
simply worn out from his triumph, and badly needs a rest.
Watson, with some difficulty, persuades Holmes to visit an old army buddy of his, Colonel Hayter. Holmes's rest is short-lived, however, because soon after his arrival at the Colonel's place there's a murder at a neighboring house. Despite Watson's best efforts to restrain him, Holmes is off on a scent once more, even though sometimes he acts a little oddly. The neighbor's coachman, William Kirwan, has been shot to death, apparently by a burglar who has been plaguing the area. But the farther Holmes investigates, the more sure he becomes that it's an entirely different situation.
In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will send the Hounds off across the Surrey countryside in quest of...a piece of paper. He has no doubt that the Pack will sniff its way through Greek e's and the tails on g's to find the true solution to the Reigate Puzzle.
Colonel Hayter and Watson
were looking over Hayter's "small armory of Eastern weapons," which evidently
included more than one pistol, when the Colonel announced that he thought
he'd take one of the pistols up to his room when he retired for the night,
in case of burglars. At this point in the history of firearms, Eastern
weapons, particularly pistols, were far inferior to those manufactured
in Europe and America, and often were cast-off, obsolete pieces of weaponry
gained through barter or capture. If the Colonel was so afraid of burglars,
why didn't he arm himself with a better pistol than that? And would he
have cartridges (presuming the pistols were not muzzle-loaders) to fit
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 18 Jan 2001
The Inspector said he had made inquiries, and had learned that William Kirwan had destroyed the envelope which contained the message which led him to his death. Why did he destroy the envelope? Who saw him destroy it? And why did he bring the fatal message with him when he went to the appointed place?
On the night of the supposed burglary, the Cunninghams' dog was chained up on the other side of the house from the point of entry by the "burglar." Was it customary to keep a watchdog chained up at night?
Watson describes the interior of the Cunningham residence as containing "...a stone-flagged passage, with the kitchens branching away from it...." Kitchens? Why did the residence have more than one kitchen? But that wasn't the only odd thing about the house: There was a bowl of oranges in the elder Cunningham's bedchamber. Where did they get oranges in April, in England? And why did Holmes resort to the subterfuge of upsetting the oranges when all he had to do was tell the Inspector where to find the rest of the murder note?
Holmes states that heredity appears in handwriting. He goes so far as to point to the murder note, which contained "traces of heredity shown in the p's and in the tails of the g's." But handwriting is not hereditary; it is learned. Was Holmes's statement valid, or was it merely coincidence that the two handwritings showed similarities?
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 11 Nov 1999
Return to Introducing the 60 Stories
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 18 Jan 2001