The Reigate Puzzle/Squire/Squires – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 20 Jan 1995

  • Was the swindle primarily British?
  • Was the fresh weapon feigning a fit, toppling a table, or handwriting hypothesis?
  • Which room was ankle-deep with telegrams?
  • Which three countries?
  • What did Holmes find in common with Colonel Hayter?
  • Would pistols be Eastern weapons?
  • Is there significance to the ball, book, and candle aspect?
  • Why was the twine taken?
  • Why the “sirs” if propriety was lost?
  • Was Watson wrong about the pantry window?
  • Why did the Colonel wait for the butler to go?
  • Why was more than one burglar suggested at Acton’s?
  • Why did Holmes think that Reigate, 18 miles south of London, was an unlikely parish for thieves?
  • Did Watson ever previously admit that “the case was hopeless”?
  • Why did seeing the man identify him with the Acton burglary?
  • Do you ever smoke your pipe in your dressing gown?
  • In what relative positions were the house, lodge, avenue, back door, kitchen, dog, and road?
  • Doesn’t death release a grip?
  • Why did Kirwan carry the paper?
  • Was Holmes accustomed to being a full hour tardy?
  • Who saw the envelope destroyed?
  • Where was the second constable?
  • Why would Mr. Alec have stood on the stairs?
  • Was Mr. Alec the first criminal to get Holmes involved in his own crime?
  • How could Holmes be in the kitchen before entering the house?
  • How could Kirwan’s bedtime be known?
  • What would Holmes’ murder gain for the Cunninghams?
  • Why did Mr. Alec retain his pistol?
  • Did the shouting arouse the dog or servants?
  • Why did Mr. Alec wish to implicate his own father?
  • Had Acton suspected the Cunninghams?
  • Why was the evidence (note) left with Holmes?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 12 Apr 1996

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?

Sonia Fetherston – Sat, 5 Jul 1997

Some thoughts and puzzlers from my REIG margin notes…

  • Holmes is unable to cope with, or acknowledge, the accolades when all Europe is ringing with his name. Granted, he’s exhausted and depressed, but gadzooks, what a difference a simple change of venue makes! In Reigate, he positively basks in the praise of Inspector Forrester, the Colonel, Acton, and Watson. The heartfelt compliments of “little people” seem so much more meaningful to the Great Detective than does official praise.
  • The spectacle of Hayter’s unnamed butler, “with all his propriety shaken out of him,” bursting in on his employer’s meal is simply not believable. No properly-trained English butler would disrupt a meal, murder notwithstanding. I once discussed this scene in REIG with a retired professional butler who assured me that it is improper for a butler to speak at all during breakfast. During lunch and dinner speaking is permitted, but never breakfast. Food for thought?
  • Holmes suggests a reward of £50, and Cunningham allows that he would willingly give £500. Once the case is solved, would SH try to lay claim to the reward money? Is there an ethical problem with his receiving it since he had a hand in setting the total?
  • William appears to lead a comfortable life for a coachman. He has a private, “pretty” cottage, not simply a loft over the stable. His mother lives with him. He’s normally in bed at a very decent hour for a servant. Makes me wonder whether William hadn’t threatened the Cunninghams with blackmail for a long time, for all sorts of offenses.
  • In REIG the mystery is solved…sort of. We’re left with many, many questions about the Cunninghams, Annie, and William. Is this unsatisfying for the reader, or does it make REIG all the more tantalizing, a la the unchronicled cases?

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 18 Sep 1998

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’ 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’ 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 the weapon?

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’ statement valid, or was it merely coincidence that the two handwritings showed similarities?

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