Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day means that Presbury monkey business.

One hundred and fifteen years ago this week, Sherlock Holmes was presented with one of his more ridiculous puzzles. And he's sitting like "L" from Death Note, though L probably is the one sitting like Sherlock, since Sherlock was Sherlock before L was. But I digress.

The case Sherlock Holmes took up all those years ago was one that now seems a little . . . non-case-like?

A man of sixty-one years of age gets all teenage about a girl a third of his age, takes a trip without telling his kids, and gets bit by his dog. If you lay out the facts that start off this case, in the year 2017, it really sounds like a no-go for our man Sherlock, late in his career. "What? A man behaving peculiarly in his later years, chasing younger women? Surely this must be the work of a resurrected Professor Moriarty!" Nope.

If everything in "The Adventure of the Creeping Man" had occurred without Professor Presbury having discovered a Victorian Viagra supplier, Sherlock Holmes would have had nothing to investigate here. A rich old guy and a younger woman start a relationship, she decides maybe the wealth isn't worth missing out on men her own age, and he gets a little wonky when she dumps him. Have Presbury standing outside her window with a guitar instead of pretending to be a monkey in a tree and no one even calls Sherlock Holmes.

I mean, think about it. If Presbury decided song was his key to her heart, suddenly took secret voice and guitar lessons, had his dog bite him for his painful crooning, is there a case here? Not at all. One might argue that a strange imported drug makes it a more criminal matter, but this was 1902. Injecting one's self with animal gland liquids was probably not something Scotland Yard really cared about. And your crazy old father was more of a case for a specialist in mental issues than the greatest criminal investigator of his day.

Perhaps the worst crime in this story is young Bennett refusing to have Presbury seen by a good surgeon after he is mauled by the dog and nearly killed. Or perhaps it's the fact that Professor Presbury, when turned into Mr. Monkey (yes, this tale should really be titled Professor Presbury and Mister Monkey for being the lamest possible remake of 1886's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) would tease the dog so much. (I guess we're supposed to believe dog-teasing is hard-wired in the DNA of Himalayan langurs?)

If there was a way to do Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffs on a short story, "The Adventure of the Creeping Men" certainly would be a candidate for it. As we enter the week it took place, all those hundred and fifteen years ago, it's worth another look to make that judgment call for yourself.

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