Re-reading the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Have I been too critical of these, what with them being classic literature and all? Maybe, but this week it’s The Man with the Twisted Lip, which reaffirms my love of all things Holmes.
Facts of the case: Watson must venture into an opium den to rescue a drug-addicted friend of his wife. While there, he finds Sherlock Holmes, working undercover. Holmes is investigating a rich man’s disappearance, suspecting that a disfigured beggar is involved.
Great detective: Instead of sleeping, Holmes sits up all night silently concentrating on the case. He later says this is what helped him solve it.
Good doctor: Watson marches right into the dark and creepy opium den to get his wife’s friend out of there. This is a good story to show someone who still believes Watson is merely a bumbling comedy sidekick.
Who’s at the door: Watson’s wife Mary is described as like a lighthouse, offering aid to anyone in grief. Holmes’ liaison with the police in this one is Inspector Bradstreet, who is described as a stout fellow and who seems perfectly happy to have Holmes’ help.
Action hero: Holmes has some sort of history with the sleazy guy running the opium den, a man known only as “The Lascar.” The Lascar has a trap door in his building leading to a wharf, which he uses to dispose of the bodies of his enemies. Holmes fears that he will end up down there if Lascar knows what he’s up to.
Yes, this is canon: Holmes’ personal pride takes another hit, as he gets down on himself for not figuring out the mystery sooner. He says to Watson, “You are now standing in the presence of one of the most absolute fools in Europe. I deserve to be kicked from here to Charing-Cross.”
Indubitably: This story is one of the best, for the language if nothing else. Doyle’s mastery of wordplay is astounding, from the you-are-there descriptions of the hellish opium den and Holmes’ all-night concentrating, to dialogue full of clever witticisms. Just a great read.
Next week: Your goose is cooked.
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