A good Sherlock Holmes story discussion night with our local Peoria library group is always a stimulating event, but tonight's took us on an even more varied and diverting path than normal with that classic "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs."
The good Carter proposed that if this tale had appeared before "Red-Headed League" in the Canon it would probably get a lot more credit, and I agree. There is a lot of rollicking fun in the tale, and beyond that, it has such a wide range of details and little historical easter eggs for you to do deep dives into that you can have some real fun with it.
For example, did you know the classic game "Pit" was created twenty years before Watson first wrote of Alexander Hamilton Garrideb supposedly making bank off the Wheat Pit in Chicago?
So, it's pretty easy to play Alexander Hamilton Garrideb in the Chicago Wheat Pit on Sherlockian game night, because there are definitely wheat cards in the game! (And don't go, "Alexander Hamilton Garrideb wasn't real!" lest you fall into a spiral of meta.)
And of course, the fact that Garridebs appear on Ancestry.com came up!
Which you and I might know as notorious Sherlockian pranksters of New York and St. Louis areas from decades ago, but as time passes, many a Sherlockian or student who does that search is going to think that Garridebs do exist! Thanks to archived data, held without the story of how it got there, the Garridebs will have moved into some people's reality.
"Killer" Evans is the only person to whom the word "killer" is used in the Sherlockian Canon, despite the plethora of murderers, and his Chicago origins in a 1924 tale give him ties to Al Capone and the rest of the Chicago mob of that era, despite his story taking place in 1902. And, speaking of crime, I was reminded my personal edition of The Newgate Calendar
is the edition revised and published well after Sherlock Holmes says he has "a portable Newgate" calendar in his memory.
Holmes suggests Watson take a "siesta" immediately after referring to the Wild West -- and the fact that "Killer" Evans only shoots people who already have drawn a gun on him (including Holmes and Watson) gives him a real quick-draw gunslinger image, and a little more of a sympathetic vibe than many a villain. (I contend that Watson's words "Killer returned to those shades from which he just emerged" aren't just a poetic way of saying "prison" -- I think he escaped back to the underworld.)
So many echoes of other tales: a forger named Evans, a name from the Doyle construct a name machine "Mor" + "croft" this time, an elderly gentleman who must make a trip so Holmes can get into his house, a butterfly collector, someone who comes to London in 1893, a card game involved shooting, something under a carpet . . . this story is practically a quiz on other stories!
And don't get distracted by that look of "loyalty and love" when Watson gets shot -- ponder the sequence that comes right after that section:
"It's nothing, Holmes. It's a mere scratch."
He had ripped up my trousers with his pocket-knife.
A bit of a bodice-ripper of a romance going on there, eh? Homes, BE-have!
Really, something for everyone in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs," and I could probably go on a bit more, but why spoil it all? Is "Garridebs" the best of the Casebook tales? One definitely could make a case!