56 Sherlock Stories in 56 Days - Day 3 - The Red Headed League

Posted by Steve Emecz on

To celebrate the release of her novel Barefoot on Baker Street, Charlotte Anne Walters undertook the task of reading and reviewing one of the original Sherlock Holmes short stories every day until she had completed all 56.  The reviews were posted daily on her blog and attracted viewers from all over the world. The reviews are full of humour and Holmesian insight, ending in a score out of ten for each story.  The book contains all 56 blogs plus additional material including reviews of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s four Holmes novels. 

Although it was a pleasure for a life-long Holmes admirer to re-visit the stories, trying to do this on top of holding down a busy full-time job and family commitments was a big challenge – resulting in some stressful but comical moments detailed in the blogs.  Even Mr Walters couldn’t resist throwing in a few comments of his own.

Here's day 3 - A Case of Identity

There have certainly been times over the many years it has taken me to write my novel when I have worried about the story being a bit too far-fetched at times.

Overall, I don’t think it is but, well, I suppose some parts do stretch the imagination somewhat.  But clearly I needn’t have worried because in A Case of Identity reality is suspended as we are asked to believe this very far-fetched tale of a girl and her evil step father.

Poor Miss Mary Sutherland has been duped into believing that someone wishes to marry her and when he disappears she resolves to keep her pledge until he returns.  This is what he begged her to do should anything happen to him.  The mysterious Mr Hosmer Angel however, is actually her greedy stepfather in disguise.  He doesn’t want her to leave home and take her £100 a year allowance with her; therefore he concocts this whole saga so that she will resist all suitors for a good few years to come.

Personally, I love this story.  It’s great fun even though impossible to believe.  Despite the stepfather’s disguise of beard, side-whiskers, tinted glasses and whispery voice surely his step-daughter would recognise the man she lives with every day?  She tells her story to Holmes in a clear, intelligent way so is obviously not stupid.  Would she really fall for such a callous trick?  Holmes even says to her upon hearing her story – ‘You have made your statement very clearly’.

But then, fiction doesn’t have to be completely believable does it?  Are books not meant to be our escape from the all-to-believable realities of modern life?

I really like the line Holmes says to Watson at the start – ‘Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.’  I think this may have inspired my opening line in Barefoot but actually didn’t realise this until reading the story again today - :

‘Life in all its complexities is stranger than any fiction and full of so many intricate twists and turns that we sometimes lose track of ourselves, of who we really are.’

Isn’t it strange how lines from Holmes stories become so familiar to us that they just become part of our everyday phraseology without us even realising?  Or am I just strange like that?

Anyway, other points of interest about this story are that the reader is left in no doubt as to the extent of Holmes' success both in England and internationally.  Watson remarks early on how Holmes is a ‘Helper to everybody who is absolutely puzzled, through three continents’.  Holmes then talks of his work with the King of Bohemia and the reigning family of Holland.  He also tells Watson that he has twelve cases on the go – so clearly business is booming!

Quite unusually I think, Holmes is so enraged by the stepfather’s behaviour and the lack of official action which can be taken as no actual law has been broken, that he goes to whip him with his hunting crop.  This seems to be an uncharacteristically emotive action from such a cold and reasoned man.  Holmes does have hidden depths of emotion.

My only problem with the story however, is that Holmes doesn’t tell poor Mary the truth and I imagine that she carried on staying true to the non-existent Mr Angel into her old age.  How strange that Holmes cared enough to want to whip the man who duped her, but not enough to tell her the truth? 

For this reason, I can’t give the story any higher than a 6 out of 10, despite enjoying it very much until the last page.

56 stories in 56 days is available from: 

Amazon USA      Barnes and Noble  

Amazon UK     Book Depository (free worldwide delivery)

In audio:  Audible USA   Audible UK

In ebook:  Kindle   Kobo   Nook   iTunes

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