Monday, 9 January 2012

The Boscombe Valley mystery

The Boscombe Valley mystery is part of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  I have to admit that I had already seen the adaptation with Jeremy Brett, so that while reading this story, I imagined him jumping out from the pages...

The story itself is very quick but still manages to include many pieces of wit from the part of Sherlock that showcase his intellect and his observation techniques that make him unique.

A man who has made his fortune illegally in Australia but has since moved on and has settled in England, is drawn back to his past by a fellow Australian who blackmails him.  This seems to be a common theme at that time, of gains made illegally and people making up for their past.  I suppose that this being the start of the end of the various colonies, people were becoming more mobile and tried to erase the unpleasant past in view of a calm, retired life. But this is not meant to be - while the main character in this case agrees to sign his confession, I believe one of the messages  is basically "be a good man from the start". 
One other point that struck me in this story, and this is not at all evident in any of the Sherlock adaptations, is the relationship between Holmes and Watson:  from the beginning it is evident that Holmes NEEDS Watson. 
He sends a telegramme requesting his company for a few days while he investigates this new case - he cannot start on his own?  he thinks better when Watson is by his side, keeping track of him?  Further on, he needs Watson to try out any new ideas:

"Look here Watson, just sit down in this chair and let me preach to you for a little. I don’t quite know what to do, and I should value your advice. Light a cigar, and let me expound"
What a relief to read that Watson does play an equally important role in the tales of Sherlock, not just being a sidekick (which is, I'm afraid, what I get from the screen adaptations). It also make Sherlock himself more human, not ashamed to rely on his friend. All in all, a very pleasant story, providing a whole new perspective (to me) of the adventures. 

Two minor things that puzzled me:  Sherlock speaking French (an über-British speaking this despicable language???) and the fact that these stories are supposed to be the published accounts by Watson.  How then, is the mystery of the past to be kept ("...there is every prospect that the son and daughter may come to live happily together in ignorance of the black cloud which rests upon their past")???   Strange...

Read for What's in a name and Back to the Classics


  1. I know exactly what you mean about the relationship Holmes/Watson. I read a Holmes spin-off last year that is hugely popular but it drove me mad with its "infantilisation" and dumbing-down of Watson:

  2. Confession: I haven't read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I should probably get on that!

  3. I have not read any of the Sherlock Holmes books or short stories but I will eventually since the hubs has the complete collection on his nook.

  4. I've read a few of the stories and a couple of the books, and Watson usually seems to be portrayed as a competent assistant. He can almost seem clueless next to Sherlock, who is nearly superhuman in his investigations, and a lot of the modern adaptations seem to roll with that too much.




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