Ralph Edwards - Fri, 2 Dec 1994
The author of this
tale manages to present a murder, its investigation, and its solution,
with the revelation that no person mentioned in the tale is the murderer.
Isn't that cheating?
When Holmes fits Silver Blaze's
shoe into the impression on the moor, of course it "exactly fitted." But
I'm curious -- how much variation is there in the size of horse shoes/hooves?
Obviously a Clydesdale is bigger than a Shetland Pony, but generally
speaking aren't horse shoes sort of the same size?
If the rain that night was as torrential as Mrs. Straker, Inspector Gregory and Holmes all observed, then how could Straker have managed to get that vesta lit at all?
Is it possible that Straker's lady friend wasn't a mistress, but was in reality a second wife? Could the trainer be a bigamist?
The maid, Edith Baxter, sure has nerves of steel! Another Hound suggested that the maid was in cahoots with Fitzroy Simpson. I think it's possible. It explains why Edith didn't shriek and run the minute a man with extreme pallor and a nervous manner suddenly "appeared out of the darkness." Myself, I'd be halfway to Winchester before you could say "Wessex Cup!" Eeek!
Finally a comment. The actor who played Colonel Ross (Peter Barkworth) is absolutely my favorite guest star in the entire collection of Granada productions. His interpretation of Ross is first-class!
It's the main event of the
1890 horse racing season. All odds favour the great Silver Blaze, a descendant
of the immortal Sonomy and every bit as successful as his famous ancestor.
The winner receives the coveted Wessex Plate (or Cup) and a cash prize
exceeding £1,000. There are only a few days remaining before the
race, and national excitement and anticipation is at a fever pitch when...Silver
Blaze disappears, the stable boy assigned to stand guard is drugged, and
the horse's trainer is found dead on the moor with his head smashed in
by a heavy weapon.
Despite diligent searching by the local constabulary, including interrogation of the gypsies who wander on the lonely moor, no trace of Silver Blaze beyond his hoofprints near the dead man's body can be found. The horse has simply vanished into thin air. A suspect, a tout named Fitzroy Simpson, has been apprehended for the trainer's murder and the local police believe they have a strong case against him. But Sherlock Holmes says that a clever lawyer could tear their case to tatters, and assures the horse's owner that Silver Blaze will mysteriously reappear in time to run in the Wessex Plate race.
What do a curious surgical knife, the stump of a burnt match, a dog that did nothing in the night-time, and an epidemic of lameness in a herd of sheep have to do with the solution to this bizarre mystery? The Hounds will course hard on the heels of the solution, and on their way will unravel false scents and trails that double back upon themselves.
In a few minutes the Mâitre de Chasse will release the Hounds, who have run swift and true on many a trail, and have not yet been denied their quarry.
Holmes calls him "young Fitzroy
Simpson," but the maid at King's Pyland said Simpson was more likely to
be over thirty than under it. Holmes at this point (1890) was 36. Is Holmes
being condescending, or is over 30 still an age at which Victorians referred
to men as "young?" Did Holmes think of himself as "young?"
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 7 Dec 2000
When Ned Hunter jumped up to set the dog on Fitzroy Simpson, the latter took to his heels in such haste that he apparently lost his cravat. Yet after Hunter had declared his intent to "show you how we serve [touts] in King's Pyland" Simpson was seen leaning through the stable window. As it turns out, he was not putting opium on the curried mutton. In face of Hunter's threat, it would have availed Simpson little to offer a £10 bribe. Why did he linger?
Edith Baxter, the maid, told investigators that when she encountered Fitroy Simpson near the stable, "He took a piece of white paper folded up out of his waistcoat pocket." She subsequently stated that as Simpson was looking through the stable window at Ned Hunter, she noticed "the corner of the little paper packet protruding from his closed hand." Inspector Gregory told Holmes, "[Simpson] says that it was a ten-pound note." But ten-pound notes are not white. And why would Simpson fold a banknote into a little packet? What was the little piece of folded white paper?
It must have been difficult for the stable boy whose turn it was to remain on watch to stay awake or at least reasonably alert all night. Why wasn't a rotating system of watches established among the three stable boys?
When Holmes examined the cataract knife he found traces of blood on it. Yet there is no indication that the penang lawyer carried by Simpson was examined for traces of blood. If Inspector Gregory was as competent as Holmes believed him to be, why was this obvious precaution overlooked, or if it had been taken, why didn't Gregory advise Holmes that there were no traces of blood upon the presumed murder weapon? Also, Gregory supplied Holmes with boots belonging to Straker and Simpson, and Holmes compared both boots with footprints at the scene of the crime. Why didn't Gregory think to do that?
It's quite obvious that Colonel Ross believed Holmes had chiroptera in his carillon. Why, then, did the Colonel decide to scratch Bayard and go with Holmes's assurance that Silver Blaze would run? And if Colonel Ross had been around horses for twenty years as he said, wouldn't he have recognized Silver Blaze by physical characteristics other than the white blaze on the forehead and the mottled off fore-leg?
When the day of the race arrives, Holmes inquires about the betting and Colonel Ross tells him, "'Well, that is the curious part of it. You could have got fifteen to one yesterday, but the price has become shorter and shorter....'" To which Holmes replies, "'Hum! Somebody knows something, that is clear.'" The "something," obviously, was that Silver Blaze was going to appear in time to run in the Wessex Plate.
And who knew that? Holmes, Watson, and Silas Brown, that's who. Did one or more of those three place enough in wagers to drive the odds on Silver Blaze down? Was it Holmes, who stood to win a little on the next race? Was it Watson, whose fondness for the turf cost him half of his wound-pension? Or was it Brown, that "'perfect compound of the bully, coward, and sneak?'"
Finally, I'd like to ask: "Is it possible to nick a horse's tendon subcutaneously with a cataract knife and leave 'absolutely no trace?'"
Rosemary Michaud - Thu, 7 Oct 1999
Return to Introducing the 60 Stories
Brad Keefauver - Thu, 7 Dec 2000