The Empty House – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 3 Mar 1995

  • Was “society” so compact as to be dismayed?
  • What parts of the case were suppressed?
  • Why was the ten-year restriction imposed?
  • Does “indifferent success” mean total failure?
  • Did Watson report other “locked room” cases?
  • Had Watson always driven on his rounds?
  • Why would a cataract trip last so long?
  • Does a cautions player win £420 in a single sitting?
  • Are there problems with the second (our third) floor location?
  • What are possible implications of the smoky fire?
  • How do rifle and revolver bullets differ?
  • Would an inquest report draw spectators?
  • Who was the plain-clothes detective?
  • Was Adair’s arithmetic so poor he needed currency to count with?
  • Could Holmes expect Watson not to know his neighboring bookseller?
  • Why would Holmes use brandy on an unconscious Watson?
  • Why did Holmes have an unhealthy appearance?
  • Who provided the dinner and where?
  • Was Moriarty’s scream caused by pain or terror?
  • What danger was there for Holmes in Park Lane?
  • Which of Holmes’ accounts of returning to London is true?
  • Why the delay until 9:30?
  • Is a garroter a harmless fellow?
  • Could Watson have kept the secret if he knew Holmes to be alive?
  • Was it two or three who escaped conviction?
  • How did Holmes (and Moran) acquire a Camden House key?
  • How did Moran adjust his aim for the lamp’s location?
  • Why would Watson use the butt?
  • What diagrams were kept at 221B?
  • In what adventure did Holmes use two dogs?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 24 May 1996

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?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 15 Aug 1997

Honey, I’m home! And just in the nick of time, because somebody’s discharging airguns in the heart of London…Some thoughts and questions for our story this week, The Empty House:

  • Recalling events at the Reichenbach, Holmes says he and Moriarty “exchanged some remarks.” What on earth did they say to each other? Remember — these were the men who previously squared off with “all that I have to say has already crossed your mind,” and “then possibly my answer has crossed yours.” Can anybody suggest a few lines of dialog?
  • Let’s turn from trials of the century, considered this past week, to brains of the century. In EMPT, Holmes declares that Moriarty’s was “one of the great brains of the century.” We can safely agree that Holmes himself was another one. Whose were some of the other great brains of the 19th century?
  • One of the unsolved mysteries of EMPT is the broken engagement between the Hon. Ronald Adair and Miss Edith Woodley. The engagement of an Earl’s son was serious business, not lightly entered into or broken off. But this particular split seems to be no big deal. My own feeling is that their titles offer a possible clue: “Miss Edith” sounds socially inferior to the “Honorable Ronald.” Was she an actress? His sister Hilda’s governess? Did he love her and leave her?
  • “My collection of M’s is a fine one,” Holmes purrs. It truly is, with Moriarty, Morgan, Merridew, Mathews, and Moran. But that’s not all! Lestrade’s big case during the Hiatus was the Mosely Mystery. The loser at the card table was Milner. Adair’s father was Maynooth. Holmes claims to have been in Mecca. The twisted route to the empty house led down Manchester Street. The bust was fashioned by Meunier. Even Mycroft crops up in this story. Mmmmm. Maybe Mrs. Hudson’s first name was “Martha” after all!

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 30 Oct 1998

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, likable 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’ 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?

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 airgun 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?

Discover more about The Empty House and read the canon.