Thursday, January 23, 2020

Explain this one, Holmes!

Here's a little mystery that came up during tonight's Sherlock Holmes Story Society discussion of "The Adventure of the Second Stain," and it's a baffler.

At a key point in the story, Watson tells us: "Upon the fourth day there appeared a long telegram from Paris which seemed to solve the whole question."  Watson then goes on to reprint the entire "telegram," which he reads to Holmes.

What he reads, in the middle of its first line is the bracketed phrase "[said the Daily Telegraph]" giving the impression Watson is reading from the newspaper. But we were just told that it was a long telegram from that gave the information about who killed Eduardo Lucas. But the Daily Telegraph is a London paper . . . .

So the Paris police sent a long telegram of what they read in a London newspaper?

Don't worry. It gets worse.

If the Daily Telegraph was, true to its name, reprinting a telegram from the Paris police, where did the Paris police (or even a reporter for the Daily Telegraph) get a witness who was paying enough attention to Godolphin Street on a particular night to see a particular woman watching the house, along with somehow knowing that a woman who looked the same was being over-dramatic as she passed through Charing Cross station. The mix of Paris and London information in this single news source, combined with witness information that would have been extremely hard to coordinate without CCTV cameras or smartphone video, actually makes one start to wonder: Did somebody just make up this entire story, maybe a the end of a run of such stories, when they were getting tired and inattentive to detail?

Oh, heaven forbid, no!

When one fully considers the details of this murder mystery that Sherlock Holmes allows this telegram/article by the Paris police/Daily Telegraph to solve for him, one quickly starts to suspect that there was a much longer, more involved case here that someone decided to shorthand in a way that could condense two greater parts, the murder solution and the recovery of the letter, into one short story. Not exactly novel length in the whole, but a bit too long for The Strand Magazine, a thirteenth story tacked on to a series of twelve for unknown reasons, there is plainly more to "The Adventure of the Second Stain" than meets the eye.

We already know that this "Second Stain" isn't the one we were teased in the opening of "Naval Treaty." Or was it, and the true story is much longer an more involved than we ever realized.

Something is definitely going on here. But what?

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