The Greek Interpreter – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 10 Feb 1995

  • What kind of childhood did Holmes have?
  • Are aversion to women and interest in music unemotional traits?
  • Were the golf club membership organizations?
  • Having more chance to practice, why wasn’t Sherlock Holmes superior to Mycroft in observation and deduction?
  • Did Holmes or Watson discuss the ecliptic?
  • Did Holmes have another older brother to inherit the family property?
  • Was Holmes talking about his maternal or paternal grandmother?
  • How could anyone be well known in the Diogenes Club?
  • Is modesty an underestimate of one’s self?
  • Does Mycroft dine at the Club, at his lodgings, or elsewhere?
  • What directed the path of the stroll?
  • Was “the Carlton” the Carlton Club?
  • Is auditing consistent with not taking the trouble to be proved right?
  • How did the Diogenes Club attract new members?
  • Does an observant person have a flabby handshake?
  • Does Mycroft go “everywhere” to hear of Sherlock?
  • What are ammunition boots?
  • Why not gifts for a relative’s or neighbor’s children?
  • Why not death from tuberculosis or any other disease plaguing 19th century England?
  • Why Orientals more than Occidentals?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 3 May 1996

While some of the Canonical stories have limpid and memorable plots — The Red-Headed League, for example — others seem complicated and obscure, so that readers can never quite explain what the story is all about. Is this story as extreme an example of obscurity as, say, “Wisteria Lodge”, and if so, is that a flaw?

Sonia Fetherston – Thu, 24 Jul 1997

I won’t be around tomorrow (or much of the weekend for that matter), so I’ll beg the Hounds’ indulgence and post my discussion notes for GREE this afternoon:

  • This story is about kidnapping. Kratides was kidnapped and murdered. Melas was kidnapped and survived the attempt on his life. Sophy was kidnapped near the end of the story, and Holmes believed she killed the kidnappers and got away. How do Latimer and Kemp stack up against other abductors in the canon — like those in SOLI and PRIOfor example? Which canonical kidnapper do you think you could get away from, and why?
  • Having an interpreter as the center of action is a great device. For more than 30 years my father volunteered as an interpreter for the port authority in the city where I grew up. There were many middle-of-the-night emergency calls for him to translate for refugees demanding political asylum, persons being detained in customs, tourists who were victims of crimes, etc. A few cases were dramatic, some were funny, all were really interesting. Some Hounds may have translator/interpreter stories to share — respecting use of the CHAT header, please!
  • Watson had thought Sherlock Holmes “an isolated phenomenon,” and even “an orphan.” If you’ve never read further than GREE, if you are like Watson and have limited knowledge of Holmes’ personal background, would you share this opinion? Would you be very surprised to learn there is a brother?
  • Watson says he had the satisfaction of “knowing that my hand had drawn him back from that dark valley in which all paths meet.” Besides the wonderful picture this conjures in the mind, my reaction upon reading this is that the writer truly understood how it feels to save a human life. That the writer was a real doctor, for example! For the Doyleans on the list — do ACD’s medical notes contain much information about saving his patients from “that dark valley?”

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 9 Oct 1998

The Diogenes Club is an odd sort of place and an even odder place to begin an adventure that involves in kidnapping, assault, and murder. The opening includes a tour de force in the fine arts of deduction and inference as practiced by the Master Brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Then Mr. Melas, a well-known interpreter for foreign guests in London hotels, is asked to “step across” and the story takes a bizarre turn.

Mr. Melas relates how he is lured into a carriage for a professional interpreting engagement that quickly turns into his abduction. He is taken to a destination he does not know and asked to translate the Greek writings of an emaciated prisoner whose face is mottled all over with sticking-plaster to make it difficult for anyone to recognize who he is. By a clever trick of adding a question in Greek to those he is told to ask the prisoner, Melas is able to extract some information from the hapless captive, but his efforts are interrupted by a tall, dark woman who somehow recognizes the prisoner as her brother Paul Kratides.

The “interview” comes to an abrupt halt and Melas is warned to say nothing on pain of severe punishment and dumped on a desolate stretch of heath outside London. The next day Melas goes to the police, who do not believe his story, and so he confides in Mycroft, who asks his more active brother Sherlock to investigate. Through an advertisement, they learn of the whereabouts of the house where Kratides is being held, but by the time they get a search warrant and arrive, the ruffians — for there are two of them — have fled, leaving Paul Kratides dead and Melas, whom they had abducted again, nearly dead from suffocation.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will let slip the Hounds of the Internet on this trail of deceit, brutality, greed, and murder. The spoor will take many a twist and turn before they bring this fox to bay.

In this adventure we meet Sherlock Holmes’ older (and smarter) brother Mycroft. Mycroft is a sedentary creature who spends his spare time at the Diogenes Club, a place for “the most unclubbable men in London” where talking is absolutely forbidden. Diogenes was a Greek Cynic philosopher (412?-323 B.C.E.) and an exponent of asceticism, but he was cynical, not necessarily misanthropic. Why did the founders of the Diogenes Club name it after him? And why would an interpreter, whose business entails interacting with other people, belong to such a club?

Paul Kratides must have presented quite a spectacle with sticking-plaster all over his face and his mouth firmly shut with the same material. Why did Kemp and Latimer keep his mouth taped and force him to write his answers to their questions if neither of the former understood written or verbal Greek?

Said Wilson Kemp to Melas, “‘We shall know if you speak of this…We have our own means of information.'” How would he and Latimer know if Melas spoke of the matter to anyone unless they learned of it in the media, as Mycroft so kindly “arranged” with his agony column inquiry as to Paul’s and Sophy’s whereabouts? Kemp and Latimer couldn’t hope to have informants within the Diogenes Club, where speech was taboo. And apparently, their “means” didn’t include the ability to learn that Melas first went to the police before consulting Mycroft.

It’s quite evident that Kemp and Latimer wanted a lot of privacy in their choice of residences. Although Sophy was apparently free to move about the residence, and perhaps about the property, it’s a good bet that she wasn’t allowed to be alone for long or to interact with the neighbors. How did middle-aged Mr. J. Davenport come to know her – indeed, to know her “very well” — and her whereabouts?

When Melas and Paul Kratides were discovered shut up in a room with a charcoal brazier, Sherlock Holmes first noted that a match wouldn’t burn in that poisonous atmosphere. Why, then, did he first call for a candle? Did he think a candle would stay lit when a match wouldn’t? And had he forgotten temporarily that Lestrade had his lamp which could provide sufficient illumination from the doorway? After they got Melas and Kratides out of the room, why was Watson content with “one glance” at the latter? Wasn’t CPR known in those days? Couldn’t he have even felt for a pulse? And he used ammonia and brandy, hopefully not admixed, to revive Melas. Brandy is a stimulant, if you can get it down the throat of an unconscious person, but would ammonia be indicated for reviving a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning? (Or would it have been carbon dioxide?) Further, while someone may well have had a pocket flask of brandy available, where did Watson get the ammonia? Did he travel everywhere with his little black bag?

I wonder who clipped the “curious newspaper cutting” in Buda-Pesth, and how he or she knew to send it to Sherlock Holmes? And how do we know that the killings described in that cutting were of Kemp and Latimer? If Holmes was correct that Sophy had wreaked her vengeance, how could one woman accomplish that against two such ruffians?

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