I recently acquired a classic collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, which contains all the stories in the original order they were published in. Well, more or less. (There are a few exceptions much to my chagrin and bewilderment, however. Why couldn’t the compilations just have them in the original chronology? It does not make sense.) Anyway, I’ve read the first two novels, and I was waiting to find a collection that had the stories in the original order – or at least a list of the original chronology (which this edition includes as well) so I felt there would be good sense in buying it.
So I bought it. Because clearly I am a creature of good sense if nothing else.
Anyway, the third story, following A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four is A Scandal in Bohemia. It’s quite a short story in itself. In the second novel, amorous Watson had decided to marry Sherlock Holmes’ client at the time, one Miss Mary Morstan. So when this story opens it’s with Watson admitting that he hadn’t seen his friend since his marriage. Which was apparently quite some time ago. Enough time for Watson to have put on seven pounds.
|Basil the Great Mouse Detective|
Why couldn’t you just continue bacheloring it up with with Holmes so that I could be privy to his amusing quirks, too, you annoying doctor? I really think Sir. ACD should have given the two men’s friendship a little more time to develop before he introduced Miss Morstan to entrance the good doctor away.
The story opens on one evening when Watson happens to be passing by Baker St and, upon realizing he hasn’t been around that side of town for some time, he decides to drop in on his friend. (See, Watson? See what marriage has reduced your friendship to? Just ‘dropping in’ on Holmes for infrequent visits! In the words of Lady Catherine de Bourgh: “I am most seriously displeased!”)
However, it is clear they they are meant to be bros, because he’s very quickly calling Mrs. Hudson “our landlady” and discussing mysteries as if he hadn’t left at all. On this occasion Sherlock Holmes’s client is a masked nobleman from Bohemia who requires the detective’s assistance in procuring some telling photographs from the “adventuress”, Irene Adler. Holmes agrees to help but only after rendering his client’s disguise unnecessary by calling him “Your Majesty” (as he is, in fact, the King of Bohemia) and throwing in a few sarcastic jibes while he’s at it.
|Hattie Morahan, Sense & Sensibility 2008|
It’s not much of a mystery, but it is an interesting little story by the end of which Holmes is utterly and thoroughly bested by Irene Adler. And you needn’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything. Those are the opening words of Watson’s recount so I’m not exactly giving away the plot. I did feel, though, that the story should have involved something more. Looking back, Adler doesn’t seem to do enough in order for Holmes to always respectfully refer to her as ‘The Woman’. But I am quite smug with the thought that he does as he apparently used to “make merry over the cleverness of women”.
And a Holmes who stands corrected, is the best kind.
3.5 out of 5 incriminating photographs.