Continuing my rereading of the entire Holmes stories on my phone, this is the second collection of short stories, published in 1894. Famously it ends with an attempt by Arthur Conan Doyle to kill off his popular character. Let me take the stories in order.
“Silver Blaze” is somewhat reminiscent of “Hound of the Baskervilles” in that it takes place at a remote country estate and over open ground. “Blaze” is a champion race horse of great value who has gone missing, with his trainer found dead in the moor of blow to the head. More strange things surround the crime, including the famous “curious incident of the dog in the night-time,” a dog that did not bark. Great story.
“The Yellow Face” is a tale of marital strife and a strange face seen in a house neighboring that of the client, a house which the client’s wife seems continually drawn to. At the heart of it is the story of an unusual marriage for the time. Interesting, but at times it seemed dated.
“The Stockbroker’s Clerk” is one of those elaborate con schemes that Doyle was fond of concocting. This one is clever and interesting, even if the clerk is clearly gullible and being duped.
“The Gloria Scott” is a story told to Watson by Holmes as being his “first case,” a mystery encountered while visiting the home of a college friend. It’s one of those “rich men with a sordid past” stories, involving blackmail, and evil deeds at sea. Not bad.
“The Musgrave Ritual” is a classic puzzle story involving an old moneyed family and their odd ritual, two missing servants (one presumed drowned) and a secret room. Excellent!
“The Reigate Squire” is a burglary mystery where Holmes takes an active part in the action once his investigation begins to close in on the truth. A note of odd origin, and blackmail are involved. An exciting one.
“The Crooked Man.” There seem to be a lot of rich and/or important men around in Holmes’ England who have embarrassing secrets and shady pasts. This is one of those. This time there’s a love triangle involved, as well as betrayal and torture. Ah, Victorian England.
“The Resident Patient” is about another of those rich men. This one has set up his own personal doctor in practice downstairs from his own home, where he lives in fear of intruders, with good reason. Holmes is put on the case by the doctor, but not in time to prevent a murder.
“The Greek Interpreter” is a rare unsolved case that is still full of interest and action. A man fluent in Greek is kidnapped and force to act as an interpreter in what is clearly a criminal matter, trying to force a Greek prisoner to sign some documents. The interpreter is released unharmed, and takes the case right to Holmes. When they find the scene of the event, details emerge, but the criminals are long gone.
“The Naval Treaty” involves a missing document that is politically important and dangerous if sold to other governments, stolen from a clerk who is so upset by the crime that he has a nervous breakdown. When Holmes and Watson hear his story, it appears the man is still under threat from someone trying to break into his room. The set-up of this situation is far-fetched, but entertaining.
“The Final Problem” introduces master-criminal and Holmes foil Professor James Moriarty, and his criminal network with threads throughout London and England. Holmes has been trying to break that network and have all the principals arrested, but Moriarty himself is an equal match for the detective, and Holmes finds his own life in danger. An escape to Europe with Watson is planned to take him out of trouble, but the trip does not succeed, leading to the famous fight between Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, where they apparently both tumble to their deaths. Doyle felt he wanted to write other things, and this was his way out of the Sherlock Holmes stories, giving him a grand finale. It didn’t work, but it still makes for fine reading, the best in the book, and one of the best Holmes stories of all.