The Crooked Man – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 27 Jan 1995

  • Why did Watson rise to knock out his pipe?
  • How much information could the hat-stand reveal?
  • Why was Watson wearing a coat?
  • What would be the gas or drain problems?
  • Is there significance to linoleum, boot nails, pouch, and dirty boots?
  • Does Holmes say “Elementary” elsewhere in the Canon?
  • Who withheld factors — Holmes or Watson?
  • What did the 11:10 give Watson time for?
  • Would one expect Barclay, Devoy, and Wood to be Irish names?
  • Why was the color-sergeant “formerly”?
  • What does “social friction” suggest?
  • Does “Lachine” (China) have significance?
  • Why a half-hour walk if a coachman available?
  • Why did Barclay sit in the dining room so late?
  • Why did Major Murphy seek Holmes’ services?
  • Does locking the door have significance?
  • Were the screams significant with what followed?
  • Who was to pay Holmes’ fee?
  • How many were permitted to see Nancy or to see Barclay and faint?
  • Does mental shock bring on apoplexy and brain fever?
  • Did the footprints lead away from the house?
  • Does a boxed animal leave footprints?
  • Should Miss Morrison have asked Holmes for secrecy, if possible?
  • What functions does a registration agent serve?
  • How did Simpson happen to be in or get to Aldershot?
  • Did a message get to Neill?
  • Was Wood (like Watson) qualified for a wound pension?
  • What torture would produce such deformities?
  • Of possible encampments, why did Wood choose Aldershot?
  • Did Wood really need his stick?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 19 Apr 1996

The reference to David and Bathsheba at the end of this tale is often cited as evidence of Holmes’ (and his creator’s) knowledge of the Bible. How common in the Sherlockian Canon are incidents and figures that seem to parallel incidents and figures in the Scriptural Canon, and what is their significance?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 11 Jul 1997

Some thoughts to get us started on CROO this weekend…

  • This past week, we were treated to a discussion of whether it’s cold enough for a fire in England in April. The opening words of CROO have Watson cozying up to his hearth in the summertime. Later, Henry Wood, “in spite of the warm weather,” was crouching over his own fire. Is Nancy calling for tea because she’s agitated, or just chilly?!
  • Holmes ventures out in the guise of a registration agent. Under the laws of the time, women could not vote, nor could all men. Who was eligible to be registered, and what sort of questions might a real registration agent have asked Henry’s landlady about Henry?
  • In deducing Teddy’s appearance, Holmes tells Watson that the creature is “not much less than two feet long — probably more if there is any tail.” But don’t most, if not all, climbing animals have tails?
  • In the Barclays’ morning room, Nancy was found insensible on a couch. After she was removed to her room, suffering from (surprise!) “brain fever,” the colonel’s body is placed upon a sofa. Was this the same piece of furniture? The words “couch” and “sofa” are so often used synonymously, but is a distinction being drawn here?
  • Nancy’s choice of volunteer service, the Guild of St. George, is wonderful and true-to-life. So many helping agencies were active in London in those days, and their volunteers provided vital services. Isn’t the Guild a real charitable organization? What intrigues me is that St. George is the patron saint of soldiers, so it’s a nice addition to the other military themes running through this story. St. George is also veddy proper as he’s the patron of England and of the Order of the Garter. In all the canon, the only other person I can think of who undertakes service like this is Elsie Cubitt, who devoted her widowed years to caring for the poor. Why isn’t there more evidence of charitable helpfulness in the canon?

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 25 Sep 1998

Colonel James Barclay was a much-decorated hero of the Sepoy Mutiny, who had risen through the ranks to command the regiment in which he had once served as a private. He married the belle of the regiment, Nancy Devoy, and for thirty years they were the very model of a devoted couple. Colonel Barclay was admired and respected by his fellow officers, who nevertheless noticed that he was prone to occasional bouts of melancholy and had an irrational fear of being apart from his wife and of being alone after dark.

All this came to an abrupt halt when Mrs. Barclay came home one night in a highly agitated state after attending a meeting of a church charity she sponsored. Her husband, learning that she had returned, joined her in the morning-room…and was never seen alive again. The servants heard a terrific argument between the two during which Mrs. Barclay accused her war-hero husband of being a coward and the name “David” was repeatedly mentioned. Suddenly there was a shout, a crash, and screams from the lady which abruptly ended in silence. The servants tried to enter the room but were prevented from doing so because the door was locked from the inside. Finally, the coachman ran outside and found that the French door opening onto the lawn was open. Inside the room, he found Colonel Barclay dead on the floor with blood seeping from a head wound and Mrs. Barclay in a deep faint on the couch.

A strange wooden club with a bone handle lay on the floor next to the Colonel’s body, and Nancy Barclay was suspected of killing her husband with it. Since she remained unconscious, it was impossible to determine what had transpired. A search of the room revealed that the key to the door was inexplicably missing. Questions arose: Who was “David?” Why had Mrs. Barclay suddenly changed from loving wife to murderess? Where was the key? A call was made for the services of Sherlock Holmes.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will unleash the Hounds on the scent of a missing key, a strange creature that had left its footprints on the curtains in the room, and the reasons for which Mrs. Barclay had furiously argued with and then apparently slain her husband. They will find a long trail that begins in Bhurtee, India and ends in the morning-room of Lachine, the Colonel’s villa at Aldershot.

It’s fairly obvious that Colonel Barclay had occasional attacks of remorse for what he did to Henry Wood, and it’s remarkable that only three out of five of his fellow officers noticed it, even though they didn’t recognize it for what it was. But why did Barclay fear being alone, especially in the dark, if he and the rest of the world believed Wood to be dead?

How could the servants not recognize a “singular club of hard carved wood with a bone handle,” particularly after they would have had to dust it nearly every day had it been one of the numerous curiosities in Lachine? That being the case, why didn’t it occur to the police that it may have been brought to the scene by a third party? Would Barclay’s head wound have been consistent with the type that would be made by a wooden club? Why didn’t the police check for traces of blood on the fireplace fender? And why did they conclude that the missing key had nothing to do with the incident and therefore not conclude that there had been a third person present who removed it?

For the animal experts in the Pack: would a mongoose try to eat a canary? Do mongooses have red eyes? And wouldn’t a mongoose kill a cobra, toothless or not, given the opportunity?

Holmes tells Watson, “‘The colonel had been sitting in the dining-room but, hearing that his wife had returned, he joined her in the morning-room. The coachman saw him cross the hall and enter it.'” There is no indication that the Colonel was impeded in his access to the morning-room, as would have been the case had the door been locked. After Holmes and Watson visited Wood, Wood told them, “‘Then Nancy fainted, and I caught up the key of the door from her hand…'” So it is apparent that Mrs. Barclay had locked the door after the Colonel entered and had continued to hold the key all during a protracted argument with her husband, right up to the time it was taken from her unresisting hand. Why would she do that?

As Holmes describes Lachine, the villa occupied by the Barclays, he says that “‘…the west side of it is not more than thirty yards from the highroad.'” The Barclays were in the morning-room when Henry Wood charged across the lawn from the road and entered through the French window. That would put the “morning-room” on the west side of Lachine. Why then was it called a “morning-room?”

For historians familiar with the history of the Sepoy Mutiny: Is it recorded anywhere that the rebellious native Indians took British soldiers captive and kept them alive rather than killing them on the spot or torturing them to death at some later time? And was it the custom of the hill people in the foothills of the Himalayas, north of Darjeeling, to have slaves?

Discover more about The Crooked Man and read the canon.