Re-reading the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Charles Augustus Milverton is a standout among the canon for how different it is. It offers new aspects to Holmes and Watson we hadn’t previously seen.
Facts of the case: A woman hires Holmes to help her after she’s been blackmailed. The culprit is Charles Augustus Milverton, a serial blackmailer who seemingly has info on everyone in London. To outsmart Milverton, Holmes must beat him at his own game, which means breaking all sorts of laws and personal moral codes.
Great detective: Holmes not only indulges in burglary to get at Milverton, but he also poses as a plumber to seduce and even get engaged to Milverton’s maid. Once he has the info he needs, the poor woman is out of the story just like that.
Good doctor: Watson is thoroughly ticked off when he learns what Holmes is up to, threatening to turn Holmes in to the police. He eventually comes around, tagging along with Holmes for some breaking and entering. Watson even makes matching black masks for them to wear!
Who’s at the door: Inspector Lestrade shows up at the end, now referred to as “Mr. Lestrade.” He has a passive interest in this case, too satisfied that justice was served to launch a full investigation.
Action hero: Holmes and Watson don black masks to break into their enemy’s home at night. It’s classic heist action, building up to a grisly confrontation.
Yes this is canon: Courtesy of Lestrade, we get a physical description of Watson — middle-sized, strongly built, square jaw, thick neck, with a moustache.
Indubitably: There’s a lot of trivia out there about how this story came to be. Some say it’s based on a real-life blackmail case, others say it’s based on a time Arthur Conan Doyle’s was robbed, and others argue that it’s a parody of the then-popular Raffles stories (about a gentleman thief). What makes it fun is how Holmes indulges his dark side, temporarily living life as the type of criminal he normally pursues. Fun, fast-paced, and fascinating.
Next week: Napoleon complex.
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