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Why does Watson write this stuff for publication?

  • The example that springs most immediately to mind is in "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", but also applies to any other story in which Holmes undertakes illegal behavior. It amounts to a public confession. "And then we broke into the guy's house, hid behind the curtain while some lady came in and shot him, burned all his papers, and then kept the entire escapade a secret- hey, wait a second..." Plus the numerous occasions when they let criminals go free. I realise that in many cases (as with the above) all the principals are dead, but surely you can still be found culpable for an offence years after? Another niggle- all the unflattering descriptions of people's habits and/or appearances. You'd expect a good many of the clients to sue for the rude way they're described. And do people really want the Great British Public to know about their drug problems? Jacking up in the living room is one thing, but one character (can't remember the story now) is explicitly portrayed as an opium addict, seen as a real social evil of the time. This attitude would be understandable if he was a villain- but this guy is one of Watson's friends!
    • Well, Watson just needs to say "That was an embellishment" and what does the prosecution do? Sherlock Holmes is a legend and more than that he counts most of the governments of Europe as "people who owe him a favour" as well as His Holiness the Pope as a character witness. Plus can you imagine being the man who "imprisons the greatest foe of crime of all time"?
    • "Surely you can still be found culpable for an offence years after"... yes, but there is a limit. Statute of limitations. I don't know what it was in 19th Century England, but in 21st Century US it's often 5 years or so for burglary or stuff like that.
    • Sorry if this isn't formatted properly, but as far as I'm aware there has never been a statute of limitations in our (the UK's) law.
    • In European civil law countries, prescription limits the time in which a lawsuit can be filed to a number of years equal to the longest punishment for the said crime. The only crimes which are never prescribed are murder and crimes against humanity.
    • Indeed, many of the stories are stated to have been withheld until they became less sensitive (usually in the case of misbehaving Nobility and Royalty.)
    • We're talking about a man who is owed favors by the Queen of England and at least two Prime Ministers, not to mention has personally and repeatedly saved the careers of every single one of Scotland Yard's top inspectors. Short of committing regicide on the Palace lawn at high noon during a parade, the mind boggles at anything Holmes could do to get himself put in jail.
    • Watson says as much at the end of the story The Illustrious Client:
      Sherlock Holmes was threatened with a prosecution for burglary, but when an object is good and a client is sufficiently illustrious, even the rigid British law becomes human and elastic.
    • They not only overlook the burglary charge, but also the fact that Holmes was accessory to a rather nasty assault in which vitriol (sulphuric acid) is thrown in somebody's face - "I didn't know she was going to do it" being a fairly shaky legal defence under the circumstances, which would be aggravated burglary. And the "good object"? To prevent an unsuitable marriage...
    • For the "Illustrious Client" case, the marriage by itself was not the problem, but the fact that all the girls that the Baron intangles with tends to get ruined or die in odd circumstances (while somehow leaving the Baron all their money). The vitrol throwing was done in revenge by a ruined ex-lover, which everyone thought was justified. And to cap it all off, the titular client was implied to be King Edward VII, so I would think that it would be rather easy for Holmes to avoid jail time.
    • Some of the stories end with Holmes and Watson promising to keep the facts secret, so the murderer's innocent young daughter (or whoever) will never know the awful truth. Except, hang on, Watson's now published the facts in a book. If the innocent young daughter isn't going to learn the truth from that, it can only mean that she's died between the events of the story and Watson going public.
    • In one case, this is exactly what happened; Watson opens with an explanation that, due to the untimely death of the last innocent person connected with the case, he is no longer bound to secrecy.
    • He openly admits to changing names and locations in at least one of the later stories.
    • There is a moment in the fantastic Holmes movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes which addresses this concern; in it, Holmes all but accuses Watson of embellishing "The Red-Headed League" in order to make the story more exciting for the readers. Watson's an Unreliable Narrator — there's no guarantee that Watson doesn't fictionalize his cases, mixing and matching details and changing names just in order to keep an exciting narrative without getting him and Holmes sued from here to doomsday and losing business for being indiscreet about clients. Those scenes where someone asks them to keep it quiet or Holmes intones that the world is not ready for this story are just Watson's little nods to his reader that the whole thing is Ripped from the Headlines.
    • Maybe Watson only publishes accounts that bad-mouth the client, or relatives or friends of same, if the client in question refuses to pay Holmes his consulting fee....
    • Holmes actually confronts Watson about his style of writing several times. Watson's concerned with writing a good story, and while Sherlockians/Holmesians prefer to believe what he recorded was accurate there's no reason why he wouldn't have embellished. The accounts Holmes crafts himself are much more scientific and instructional.
    • Are we ever told when his accounts are released? He could give it to the publisher with strict instructions not to release it until a certain date/until a client is dead/until he and/or Holmes is dead/etc. He could also, as someone suggested, change the names in order to make sure no descendants face the embarrassment of their ancestor's issues.
      • One or two clients mentions having read Watson's accounts, so at least some of them were published during Holmes' career.
    • Aside from airing the clients' dirty laundry, which is excusable if he changes names, Watson's also given away spoilers for several of Holmes' methods of deceiving criminals. You'd think every crook in London would know better than to answer a cryptic agony-column message, without verifying it's not one of his Batman Gambit set-ups, by now!
      • But he can also put in as much misinformation as he wants, and exaggerate Holmes' deductive capabilities and make the criminal underworld even more terrified of him.
      • In fact, in "Memoirs..." Sherlock tells Watson that in his writtings he appears to be infallible, when in practice he is much more prone to error, as holes in the evidence can mislead him as much as anyone. Only when in possession of all the facts he can achieve an accurate deduction, otherwise he has to rely on inference.
      • Plus, let's face it, it's not as if every single criminal and would-be criminal in London is going to go out and buy and read every issue of the Strand to study up on the off-chance that they end up having to do a battle of wits with Sherlock Holmes. There's plenty of crime, criminals and intriguing mysteries out there for Sherlock Holmes to deal with.

    • Permit this Troper to resolve this mystery once and for all, by submitting the following likely solutions to the central question - "Why does Watson publish these stories?" Let us take them item by item.
      • 'A Study In Scarlet' took place in 1881, and was published in December, 1887. Watson marries in early 1888. It is not inconceivable that a when man (unemployed, living on benefits for the last six years) faces the prospect of paying for a wedding, ring, house, and new career, he can use some income. It's not inconceivable that Holmes permitted this as a sort of wedding gift.
      • Er, A Study in Scarlet was published before the events of the Sign of Four. Study is discussed by Holmes and Watson before meeting Mary Morstan.
      • 'The Sign of the Four' - It's the love story of how Watson met his wife. What an anniversary gift.
      • 'The Adventures/Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes' and 'Hound of the Baskervilles' were published in July 1891 - mere months after Holmes supposedly died at Reichenbach. Clearly, these were intended, by Watson, as a posthumous memorial.
      • 'The Return of Sherlock Holmes' was published in late 1903 and early 1904. We later learn this was just when Holmes was wrapping up his career for retirement (and Watson getting re-married.)

    • In other words, the overwhelming majority of the series were written during periods where it was assumed that Holmes was no longer practicing. Viola. (I'll leave all the other posts here, untouched, out of respect, though).

  • One question that has not been raised above is the troubles that would ensue when Watson reveals(through his stories) the many instances where police officers have taken credit for Holmes' work. Wouldn't this ruin their reputations and result in many a demotion or dismissal?
    • This can also be explained through Unreliable Narrator / Ripped from the Headlines; to take one example, presumably there's no real Inspector Lestrade, but Watson has based him on a real detective (or a composite of real detectives) he and Watson worked with during the cases and uses him as a little nod to the reader that Holmes had more to do with solving the case than the official authorities were willing to concede.
    • Alternatively: To be fair to Lestrade and Gregson it was only the papers that exaggerated their contribution to the solving of the cases (perhaps out of a Victorian respect for authority and their refusal to believe that a talented amateur could outperform the professional police). Gregson & Lestrade were scrupulous in telling their superiors exactly what happened. It's clear from The Six Napoleons that the official police eventually come to respect Holmes.

  • At least one story directly addresses several of these questions. "The Veiled Lodger" opens with Watson openly saying that he's got boxes and boxes filled with records of cases that he and Holmes worked together to solve, but many of them will likely never see the light of day because those involved have asked him to keep them secret (which, we can presume, also includes Holmes). He assures the reader that he's happy to acquiesce to any reasonable request for confidentiality... but also notes that someone involved with a case has apparently tried resorting to burglary or other unscrupulous methods to get at Watson's records in order to keep the affair he or she was involved with secret, with a barely-veiled warning that if said person doesn't knock it off sharpish the world will soon know rather a lot more about the affair "concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant" than said person would presumably like. In addition to other examples listed, several stories also note that much of the affair in question is already public knowledge and Watson's just offering another perspective. So we can presume that either:
    1. The case is already public knowledge to a degree (as IIRC with "The Noble Bachelor") and Watson's just filling in the details of what happened, in which case the identities of those involved are already widely known;
    2. If the case is not public knowledge, then being the decent, honourable sort of chap that he is Watson gains consent from the people involved with the case for him to publish it;
    3. If those involved don't mind it being published but don't want their identities revealed, Watson changes or obscures sufficient details to prevent those involved from being identified while still preserving what happened, or fictionalises a just-too-good narrative but invents new characters, settings, etc. to fill it;
    4. If those involved don't want it published at all, Watson still writes it down (presumably to maintain his archive) but doesn't submit it for publication, but may be willing to ask again in future, or at least wait until either (a) those involved who object or would be negatively impacted are no longer around to be affected (either via death or emigration) or (b) such a time that the events recorded are no longer considered scandalous enough to worry about; or
    5. Those involved have sufficiently annoyed Watson or themselves behaved in a sufficiently dishonourable manner about things for Watson to consider himself freed from any honourable obligation to keep their involvement in events secret.
  • KCS proposed a theory: "The Six Napoleons" followed "Charles Augustus Milverton" because Lestrade read CAM in The Strand and threatened to have Holmes and Watson dragged to court for aiding and abetting murder... unless Watson publishes something that had Lestrade in a complimentary light. Presumably something like this happens whenever Watson publishes something that's too uncomfortable for certain people.

  • Of course, ultimately the real answer is simply Anthropic Principle. If Watson wasn't able to write down and publish the stories, we wouldn't be able to read them since they're from his perspective. Ergo, Watson is for whatever reason able to write them down and get them published (and we just need to take a deep breath, remember that it's just a story and we really should relax, and enjoy reading it).

What happens to Watson's wife?

  • In The Final Problem Watson is married and in active practice. In the stories compiled as "The return of Sherlock Holmes" he gives up private practice and goes back to live with Sherlock. So, um, where is his wife now that he is living his old bachelor life again?
    • She died.
    • Yep, there's very little song and dance about it but he does mention his bereavement in passing. And later (if you don't believe they're all cover stories and the detective and the doctor were romantically involved), he marries someone else. Which Holmes describes as the one selfish thing he ever did.
    • This troper prefers to think everything after The Final Problem were just stories set before it and written after. Forget those niggling details...
      • Even The Adventure of the Empty House? Anyway, I've seen versions of Holmes continuity where Watson has three wives, who all die. He does mention the death of one wife in The Empty House (The return of Holmes), which apparently happened while Holmes was missing and gives Watson an excuse to move back in with Holmes.
    • This is what has been agreed upon by several BS Is and editors: Watson had three wives. The first was a woman from America (possibly named Constance) who was with Watson during several of the earliest Adventures. She died, leaving Watson a widower. When he married Mary Morstan at the end of The Sign of Four, it's postulated he edited the stories he'd already written so that she would see her name in print when he published them. She died shortly before Holmes's return. Watson married again, but this woman was not fond of Sherlock and tried to keep them apart. (Mary in the books had no trouble with Holmes - he helped her solve the mystery of her father)
  • This troper read an essay that came to the conclusion that Doyle killed Mary off because he hated his mother for being Irish.
    • Balderdash and piffle. Doyle loved his mother. It's firmly supported in his biographies. There's a special place in Hell for essayists who try to guess and hint at the secret thoughts and private hangups of dead famous people.
    • Not to mention that Doyle invented Mary Morstan years before he started thinking of killing off Holmes, let alone bringing him back (and needing an excuse to have Watson move back to Holmes's bachelor pad).

Why did Holmes have to fake his death?

  • Technically speaking, Holmes faking his death is a side effect of what he's really doing, as the people he's running from already knew he was still alive. What Holmes was doing was living off the grid and under a succession of aliases to keep Moran from killing him, knowing that after months or years of fruitless pursuit Moran would run out of funds and have to go back to England and resume his criminal career to pay the bills. Holmes could then, after Moran has abandoned the offensive (and thus yielded the tactical initiative to Holmes), set a trap for Moran by reappearing in London and baiting Moran to try and kill him at his house. As to why Holmes feared Moran so much: the man was one of the best rifle shots in the world, a master of stealth, absolutely obsessed, and while no Moriarty-level genius, he wasn't stupid either. (We're talking about a guy who crawled down a sewer drain after a wounded man-eating tiger and won, after all.) Holmes simply could not try to go about a normal life knowing that Moran only needed to get somewhere within rifle range of him once to splatter him. For God's sake, in The Adventure of the Empty House Moran killed a guy using an air rifle, firing a revolver bullet, with a perfect headshot through a barely-opened window. If a man like that was on my ass like the Terminator, I'd spend months hiding out under another identity too.
  • Its specifically mentioned in the story that Holmes suddenly reappearing in London immediately after Moran had committed another murder (with the obvious intent of investigating it, and thus getting Moran sent to jail) is the only thing that made Moran desperate enough to rush and try and kill Holmes at Holmes' own house. Under less pressing circumstances, Moran was patient enough to have waited for an opportunity to kill Holmes somewhere he was more vulnerable and less able to rig traps ahead of time.
    • Okay but why couldn't he let Watson know that? Why not head straight back to London and set up the wax dummy, instead of waiting three years?
    • Reread the above example. It took three years for Moran to give up on chasing Holmes across Europe, return to London, and then finally commit another crime that Holmes could pin on him (thus rendering Moran vulnerable enough to be desperate). Without any of the above factors, Moran would never have risked attacking Holmes on his home ground, but would instead have simply patiently waited until he could rig a foolproof trap. As for not telling Watson, this is because while Watson has many valuable talents, being able to lie convincingly is not one of them. The only way his reactions would be genuine enough to fool Moran is if he didn't know what was going on. (Note also that leaving any sign that Watson was 'in the know' and helping Holmes would almost certainly have resulted in a rifle bullet through Watson's head.) Note that Holmes did let someone in London know he was still alive and secretly kept in touch with him — Mycroft. But Mycroft was someone Moriarty's organization knew much less about, and given his position in the British government, had access to much better protection if he needed it.
    • He explicitly tells Watson this - Watson's hurt that Holmes didn't trust him, and Holmes had to reassure him it wasn't a trust issue.
  • Also, Watson was Holmes's chronicler. It was absolutely essential everyone else believe Sherlock died, if only to ensure that Moran would have trouble convincing people otherwise. If people believed Holmes dead, they wouldn't be looking for him. And it's not hard to imagine he may have had other enemies who would be more than willing to take a pot shot at him when Moran's back was turned.
  • Possibly I'm being incredibly stupid, but here goes: Watson's not in hiding, so why didn't Moran just grab him and send out some sort of message to Holmes, saying, "Come back to London and face me directly or I'll shoot him, and don't you dare bring along Scotland Yard"? Is it Honour Before Reason? Even Evil Has Standards? Would Mycroft's agents interfere?
    • Possibly a little of All Of The Above; among other things, Holmes would no doubt ask Mycroft to keep an eye on Watson to make sure all was well in his absence, and this was the Victorian era, age of gentlemanly conduct, and if you had a disagreement with another gentlemen you settled it between yourselves. Furthermore, the whole point of Holmes faking his death was to keep Watson out of the loop and convince the world at large that he was dead; there's no point in holding Watson to ransom or to find out what he knows because he doesn't know anything, and Holmes is in deep cover so Moran has to find him first before he can send him threatening messages.
      • I somehow doubt Moriarty's most ruthless associates would take such great pains upon themselves for moral reasons, and as for getting the message to Holmes, they would just have to put an ad in any public news source that he'd be likely to be following. It's mostly something readers have to accept for the sake of Sherlock Holmes returning from death and continuing his adventures.
      • Fair point about the ruthless associates (although it's worth noting that in "The Empty House", it's revealed that Moriarty's second-in-command Moran has pretensions towards high-society acceptability, so might have adopted a veneer of 'gentleman's conduct' as part of this) but unfortunately, the whole 'deep cover' thing isn't so easily solved; the whole point of sending someone a ransom note is that you know for certain the other person will receive and act on it. Holmes was traveling around the world incognito, remember, so if they're resorting to putting ransom ads in the news agencies then they presumably have no clue where he actually is — and if they don't even know where the guy is, how are they supposed to know what newspapers he's following or where to send a telegram? For all they know Holmes is Deep in Darkest Africa (metaphorically speaking at least), away from any kind of news source — and remember, this is the Victorian era, and news did not travel around the world as quickly as it does today. He could even be dead for all they know. Meaning it could be months or even years before he manages to get their message, if he even gets it at all — which thus renders the whole thing pointless from the start, since they're hardly going to keep Watson hidden as a hostage for all that time, and if they do kill him before Holmes gets their message they've lost their only bargaining chip. Presumably they were keeping an eye on him to see if Holmes did get in touch, but once it's clear he doesn't know anything there's no point in doing anything more until they have something more concrete on where Holmes is, and if they have that then they might as well deal with Holmes directly.
    • Not to mention that, in eliminating Moriarty and faking his own death, Holmes had incidentally granted Moriarty's various underlings the perfect opportunity to re-bury their own criminal enterprises which Holmes had unearthed. If they abduct Watson, he's no longer around to publicly grieve for his "dead" roommate or bicker with Colonel James about alleged slurs to the Moriarty family name, thus keeping the wider world's attention on their deceased leader, not on whatever schemes they might be up to, now. Sure, Moran may have taken his boss's death personally enough to try to hunt Holmes down, but most of Moriarty's minions were just in it for the money and would have no stake in revenge, either by proxy through killing Watson as payback, or by risking a kidnapping with no profit margin in it for them. As for Moran himself, Watson is much more useful to him as unsuspecting bait than obvious bait.
    • Sending Holmes a message would require knowing where Holmes is, and if he knows where Holmes is, then he doesn't need to kidnap Watson to draw him out.

Wait, so Moriarty and his brother are both named James?

  • Unless the brother's given name is actually Colonel, that is? Did this actually happen in Victorian England?
    • I don't know about men, but the first name "Mary" was very common for multiple daughters, mostly among Catholic families. In the Chalet School books from around fifty years later, one mother names her triplet daughters Mary Helena, Mary Constance and Mary Margaret and this isn't considered wildly unusual.
      • Mary Saintsname O'Something is quite a common name choice for daughters in Catholic families. And James Thurber once had a maid whose mother had named all her daughters with variations on Juanita. (Juanemma, etc.)
    • This Troper has two Great-great-great-uncles who had the Christian names Richard Johnathan and Augustus Richard. But the letters we know that from mentuon that Augustus hated the names and everyone called him Richard. A similar thing maybe happening here.
    • Hockey legend Maurice "The Rocket" Richard was officially named Joseph Henri Maurice Richard. His noteworthy younger brother, Henri Richard, had Joseph Henri Richard as his proper name. Possibly a French-Canadian Catholic tradition?
  • In John Gardner's alternate continuity novels about Moriarty, He gives a possible explaination both Moriarty's changing appearance and his first name being the same as his brother's: There were three Moriarty brothers, all named James by their insane father. He gave them the middle names Edgar, Edmund, and Edward. The oldest became a professor, the middle one was a train conductor, and the youngest became a criminal. The youngest learned the art of makeup and acting, Killed both of his brothers, and impersonated his eldest brother, Leading to Moriarty being thought of as an older professor when he was actually a young gangster.
    • Which one entered the military in this scenario?
    • Except Colonel James Moriarty was still alive after the Reichenbach incident, specifically said as publicly defending his dead brother the Professor's reputation. So if Moriarty was impersonating his murdered brother the Colonel, he'd have to have survived the fall and made it back to England to resume his double life. He can't be in two places at once and Holmes is certain Moriarty didn't survive his tumble down Reichenbach. I buy the "all named James by their insane dad" idea, but not the "Moriarty murdered and impersonated his brothers" one.
      • Kim Newman proposes a similar setup sans impersonation, with Colonel, Professor, and Stationmaster in that order. He also goes into depth with Pater James' illness; he flat-out refuses to even acknowledge his previous son's existence with each successive one being born, pretending each new son is an only child worthy of the name.
  • Or "James Moriarty" could be a compound surname.
    • Like everyone assumes "Conan Doyle" is, you mean?

Jefferson Hope lets himself get caught

  • Holmes tries to bate Hope with the wedding ring at Baker's Street through an ad. Hope sees through it and sends a confederate posing as an old lady to recover the ring [actually a fake]. After he kills two people, some kid shows up at the cab company where he works and ask for him by name and wants him to go to the very same room from the ad, 221b Baker's steet. Why he tries to throw himself out a closed window once he is there? I don't know, for drama? The alternative is a massive plot hole. Holmes must have deduced the man who's life mission is over would not fight to preserve that life which is coming to an end.
    • Jefferson Hope is described as a man of average intelligence, fanatical persistence, and extremely quick reflexes, but never as a guy who was unusually swift on the uptake mentally. And once before, he was almost at the close of his quest when he was arrested by the police, and had to start over again after years of delay. So his immediate reflex upon having handcuffs suddenly snapped upon him is to fight; it isn't until after he's subdued and his adrenaline's worn off that he remembers, 'Hey, I don't need to fight anymore; I've already killed the men I'm after. Hah, silly me!'
      • Also note that Hope is well aware that he's living on borrowed time, since he deliberately shows Watson that he has a serious heart problem. He willingly makes a full confession because he doesn't want to be remembered as a cold-blooded killer, and wants to make sure that the world knows just why he killed Drebber and Stangerson. Surrendering to the police gives him the opportunity to do just that.
    • Plus, he probably fights because while he might have completed his quest, he doesn't necessarily want to go to the gallows for murder; it's instinct, but it wears off once he realizes that the game's well and truly up. As for why he went, he probably didn't expect to be arrested immediately upon arresting and thought he'd be able to bluff his way out of it; over-confidence, in other words.
    • Jefferson Hope average? That seems a tad harsh. Pursuing two desperate men across the globe for years, on a shoestring income, and then devising his unique method of assassination show a man of considerable ability and resourcefulness. However, as to why he didn't make the connection about the addresses?

The simple deduction is that, sending his confederate to retrieve the ring did not require him to commit the address to memory. He might quite simply have handed his friend the newspaper and said "Hey, mate. Sounds like some chap found a ring I lost, but I'm too busy to go get it. Be a pal, stop by and get it from them, won't you?" When nothing happened to his confederate (and the ring turned out to be fake), he probably gave the place and people no further thought.

  • Or possibly we're giving Hope too little credit. His "cabbie" persona had been sufficient to fool the very man he'd been pursuing across most of Europe, and he has no way of knowing that Holmes already knows his name or that the cab-driver did the crime. He may have thought that some passerby had reported his cab in the area on the fatal night, and that at worst, Holmes wanted to interview its driver as a potential witness, not culprit. In which case, he might be able to find out what happened to the real ring, and throw his pursuers onto yet another false trail, by playing along.

Why is Irene Adler considered Holmes' equal?

  • She didn't win on the basis of being abnormally clever. The only reason she escaped was because Holmes' massive intellect inexplicably decided to take the night off. If had sent for the king immediately, or at the very least had his irregulars watch her, he would have gotten the picture just fine.
    • It's not that she's his intellectual equal, it's more that Holmes' misogynistic attitude caused him to underestimate her, and she just changed his perception of women.
    • Tut, tut, you are underestimating The Woman; while is true that fans overrate her as a Holmes equal, is truth that she a)Recognized the maneuver of distraction and her error, b)Devised and executed instantly a perfect counterplan and c) Closed the execution with a little tease/mock of her own, the letter and the costumed salute (not far that Holmes himself would have done). All that when Holmes had previously assumed that women were sentimental, not intellectual beings. Is not surprising then that this is the closest he comes to romantic infatuation...
    • Because Holmes himself considers her an equal (or near enough). The story itself begins with Watson waxing lyrical about how Holmes respects her enough to consider her above any other woman of his acquaintance, it ends with Watson describing how Holmes acquires and prominently displays a memento of her to remind him of their encounter, and in general the story is presented in such a way as to leave little doubt that Holmes has developed a regard for Adler that, if not exactly considering her an equal, at very least suggests that he clearly feels that she's very close to being an equal by his standards. And she's one of the few villains in the canon who receives this kind of treatment, male or female. In short, it's not hard for readers to view Adler as being an equal to Holmes (or close enough at least) when the protagonist of the stories himself clearly gives the impression of viewing her that way.
    • Adler's also played up because she makes a very convenient female romantic foil to Holmes (otherwise we might start asking questions about Watson). Not that she's not awesome, but people who play up Irene and cast her as Holmes' quasi-girlfriend tend to forget that her big "crime" is protecting herself from the King of Bohemia, so she can live happily ever after with her hot rich lawyer husband—whose wedding to Adler Holmes himself witnesses.


  • At the end of The Sign of the Four, Holmes states that Jonathan Small's inside man must have been the Indian butler. Why did he rule out the former prize-fighter, McMurdo?
    • You never really know someone until you fight them?
      • The inside man would have had to have been there the whole time, but Mc Murdo was only hired at some point in the last year or two. The butler is the only member of the staff who's been continuously there since the beginning.
    • Also, considering that the events of the narrative heavily revolve around India and all but one of the Four were Indian, it's also logical to speculate that the inside man is probably connected to India in some fashion as well. McMurdo presumably is not Indian nor has been to India, which likely rules him out.

Why doesn't Col. Moriarty go after Holmes for his brother's murder after the Great Hiatus?

  • The case against Moran is flimsy at best (especially since Holmes refuses to let him be arrested for the one thing anyone at Scotland Yard knows beyond a shadow of a doubt he did—attempt to murder Sherlock Holmes), and it's made clear from a reference in one of the later stories that Moran was never hanged for his crimes, possibly even released at some point. Since he saw the fight at Reichenbach, couldn't he and Col. Moriarty work together on a case against Holmes? Especially since it becomes clear after the fact that up until Watson wrote up FINA Professor Moriarty was considered so upstanding that even a Scotland Yard inspector who had met him thought that Holmes was slandering an innocent man?
    • Possibly the Colonel had privately known his brother was involved with shady business, but kept quiet about it for the sake of the family name. He wouldn't personally take action to expose or stop his criminal brother's activities, but he wouldn't necessarily go after the man who did figure out what the Professor was up to and end his reign of crime, either.
    • Considering also that Moran and the Colonel's brother actually were knee-deep in all kinds of dodgy dealings, much as they might have an axe to pick with Holmes they're probably safest just keeping a low-profile and letting bygones be bygones. It's fairly safe to presume that neither one of them is even half the criminal genius Moriarty was, and given that Holmes has by this point brought down Moriarty's criminal empire, foiled Moran's numerous attempts at murdering him and in turn exposed him as a murderer (even if the case was weak) and basically came up on top each time his paths have crossed with Moran and Moriarty, they've probably decided that it's not worth risking it.
  • On a related note, why don't we hear anything about Moriarty's former colleagues or students after VALL? If he was so "learned" and "fatherly," (to paraphrase Inspector MacDonald), one would think they'd be concerned about his disgrace and death?
    • Because the stories aren't about Moriarty, they're about Sherlock Holmes. Several of them probably were concerned / shocked, but unless they were criminals themselves or got involved with a mystery that Holmes was called upon to solve why would they get involved with Holmes about it? To take a metaphorical example, if you learn that your favourite teacher has been arrested for murdering his / her spouse, you might be pretty shocked to learn it, but that doesn't mean you're going to start hounding the detective who arrested him for it.
  • For all we know, the Colonel cared little for his brother, his recriminations at the aspersions placed on the Prof's good name were token, half-hearted, or outright nonexistent, and Watson was merely being sarcastic when he mentioned it.
  • Just because Professor Moriarty is a murderous criminal mastermind doesn't mean his brother is as well. Colonel Moriarty might want to defend his brother's name and reputation, even if merely out of family loyalty or for his own self-interest, but it doesn't necessarily follow that he's also willing to go so far as to engage in a blood feud with Sherlock Holmes over it, especially if it means collaborating with a dishonoured soldier and criminal who may have narrowly wriggled out of a hanging to do so.

Why was there no wedding in The Hound of Baskervilles?

  • At the end of the novel, Beryl Stapleton is free to marry sir Henry Baskerville, who is in love with her and believes she returns his feelings. Now, we do not know for sure if she really did or was she just forced to display interest, but this is never taken into consideration: instead, we are told that sir Henry "has been let down by the woman he loved" or something like that. Why is that? She tried to protect him, even at the expense of her own health and (potentially) life, and she did what she could to keep him out of harm's way. It would be understandable if she didn't love sir Henry back, but to find her guilty of anything is ridiculous.
    • Who's to say that there wasn't a wedding? As a matter of fact, it's implied that Beryl did in fact return Sir Henry's feelings. The catch is that, at the end of the novel, Sir Henry has suffered a nervous breakdown from nearly being killed by the Hound, and needed to travel around the world before his nerves recovered. He clearly wasn't in any shape to marry anyone at the time, but once he'd recovered there's no reason to believe that he wouldn't have done so. It's just that it probably wasn't recorded by Watson, since it had nothing to do with the actual investigation.
    • Beryl was also, by choice or not, involved with the man who tried to kill Sir Henry and an active (albeit clearly reluctant) participant in his plot. That's quite a lot to take in, and it's frankly not entirely surprising that Sir Henry might have some mixed feelings about marrying her, at least when the wounds are still open.
    • How long would it take for her husband to be declared dead, in the absence of a body or witnesses to his actual death? I think it's seven years for normal disappearances, but the circumstances might make it possible to push it through sooner. At least it'll take months to sort out, and probably years given his previous disappearences and false identities.
    • In the Victorian era, mourning was Serious Business. As a widow, Beryl would have been expected to go into mourning for two years, and remarriage during that time would have been scandalous. (Men only got away with remarriage while in mourning for a wife because someone had to look after the house and children.) Even if all the official reports listed her as sister instead of wife, which might have been arranged by either Holmes or Watson to spare her, that's six months of mourning. There may have been a wedding after Sir Henry returned to England, but there simply wasn't time to have one before he left.

What does Lestrade think of Watson's publications?

  • The claims that he takes all the credit for most of Holmes's work aside, how does Lestrade feel about Watson repeatedly comparing him to a ferret?
    • Ferrets are great hunters! It's a compliment. Sort of.

In The Copper Beeches, were these things ever explained?

  • When Violet Hunter is explaining all the odd goings on to Holmes and Watson, she says that at one point he told Violet a series of jokes that left her exhausted from laughing, all without smiling. She also mentions that his son is often cruel to small animals. Were either of these things relevant to the plot? I might be forgetting something...
    • You are, both were clearly explained in the story. As Violet was hired to impersonate Rucastle's daughter to put off her suitor, it was important that she was seen to be perfectly happy - hence the constant jokes so that she would be seen laughing. The son being cruel to animals implied that Rucastle had bought his son up to be cruel for cruelty's sake, which indicated to Holmes that Rucastle would be cruel enough to lock his daughter up.
  • Why doesn't Miss Stoper at the beginning of the story get more suspicious about Rucastle's behavior around the prospective governesses and his attentions on Violent Hunter? Governesses back then were in a particularly vulnerable position and were often governesses because they really didn't have any other recourse and were in danger of being taken advantage of by the older men in the household (including the master of the house). If something bad happened, she wouldn't have just lost her job but her reputation (which was considered even worse) and basically be blackballed. As the top employer of governesses, Miss Stoper would've not only been aware of this but of the damage to her business because everyone would've known she was the one who recommended Violet. So why doesn't she get more suspicious and why did she scold Violet for turning down a good job when it was clear this guy was looking at their appearances?
    • Mr. Rucastle is an affluent and seemingly respectable gentleman who is, in his words, looking for a young woman with "the bearing and deportment of a lady". Part of this would be taking a close attention to their appearance, and while his behaviour and some of his requirements are perhaps a bit eccentric, on the surface Miss Stoper doesn't have any real reason to suspect or accuse him of anything unproper. Furthermore, while she might run a well-known agency (and to quibble, no one ever says that it's the best agency or that Miss Stoper is the best employer, just that the agency she runs has a good reputation), no one ever said that Miss Stoper was the most ethical of employers. Mr. Rucastle is willing to pay a governess a very generous wage to work for him, and Miss Hunter makes a point of stating that she strongly suspects that part of the reason Miss Stoper gets so stroppy with her when she initially refuses the job is because Miss Stoper herself is losing an equally (if not more) generous commission if she doesn't find someone for Mr. Rucastle. In other words, Mr. Rucastle is using the time-honoured strategy of silencing any qualms Miss Stoper might have with a large bribe.

In "The Boscombe Valley Murder", why did the victim use his killer's old gang name instead of the one he was currently using?

  • He was trying to tell his son the name of his killer, so why would he use a name that his son didnt know about, as opposed to one he did?
    • The guy had just had his head bashed in. It's not like he had full command of his faculties at the time; when trying to reveal his killer he was literally experiencing his last moments of life. That sort of thing is presumably quite disorientating. We can perhaps excuse him under the circumstances for not quite having the mental wherewithal to make his last message crystal clear or to pick the best possible words to identify his murderer with laser-sharp accuracy, since he was trying his best to reveal something that would identify his killer while simultaneously also dealing with with massive head trauma, brain damage and gradual heart failure.

Regarding Holmes's initial error in "The Lion's Mane"

  • When Holmes discovered the dying victim, McPherson, the latter had just come up from being immersed - up to his neck - in water. Yet Holmes didn't notice any sign of this, despite physically handling McPherson. And when he found a dry towel by the water, he erroneously concluded that he had not gone into the water. Surely, given that McPherson had evidently donned his clothes in haste after leaving the water, Holmes should have noticed that the coat, trousers or shoes were damp - especially considering his extraordinary attention to detail!
    • It's admittedly a bit of a stretch, but this case does take place after Holmes's retirement, when his powers were presumably not as sharp as they once were. He might also have simply been distracted by trying to attend to the man dying right in front of him, and depending on the weather the man might have dried fairly quickly if it was a hot, sunny day. So this might just be a case where a younger Holmes might have come to the correct conclusion a bit quicker, but older Holmes was just a bit slower on the uptake.
    • A careful re-reading of the story may go some way to resolve the issue: Holmes didn't really examine the body of the victim until the coroner's inquest, several hours after the man's death. At the time, a mere glance suggests the wounds are so fresh that they must've been inflicted only minutes ago; seeing this, Holmes immediately rushes off to backtrack the victim's footprints across the beach, thinking to spot the attacker. While he does briefly kneel down to look at McPherson when he and Stackhurst discover him, the dying man was wrapped in a long coat at the time, and Murdoch's arrival interrupts any further on-site examination.

Three Continents

  • Watson and Holmes' adventures are said to have taken them across three continents. Watson and Holmes separately went to Central Asia, they both went to Europe, but what's the third continent? Or is Great Britain considered a continent to itself?
    • If we assume that Watson is not speaking strictly literally (that is, that their adventures have taken them across the world metaphorically because they've involved people and events from other countries but have happened to climax in Britain), then it's worth noting that large sections of A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear involve the characters uncovering events that occurred in the United States, "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" revolves around a backstory in Australia, and "The Adventure of the Crooked Man" hinges on events in India and Afghanistan. Otherwise, it's probably just more Noodle Incidents that the reader is supposed to speculate on; Holmes and Watson have been all over the world solving mysteries, we just haven't seen those particular cases.
      • And The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge calls back to events in Latin America.
      • When Holmes recounts his adventures to Watson during the Great Hiatus in The Adventure Of The Empty House, he mentions that he stopped in at Khartoum, which is today the capital of Sudan. Maybe Africa is the third continent, even if Holmes was the only one to visit it.
      • Or Watson was just speaking metaphorically - as in, mind travel rather than physical one was necessary to get to the core of some mysteries. Just as none of the abovementioned other examples actually featured Holmes and/or Watson physically travelling to India, Afghanistan or America.
    • One of the Noodle Incident cases mentioned in passing, but never written, involved two Coptic Patriarchs. The Coptic religion is primarily Egyptian, so maybe Africa is the answer if that investigation occurred on the faith's home ground.

About Holmes's choice of drugs...

  • When Holmes becomes restless and bored he resorts to either morphine or cocaine. Morphine seems just about the "right" drug to calm the nerves, but cocaine? Wouldn't cocaine rather accentuate Holmes' yearning for intellectual stimulation?
    • I believe that it's more about the rush with cocaine. Holmes gets bored easily and needs mental stimulation, and when he cannot get it with a case he turns to cocaine to give him that same rush.

On cryptography in "The Valley of Fear"

  • Cryptography in the very beginning of the novel makes sense only from the Doylist perspective (to show off Holmes' code-breaking abilities). As it is Moriarty, not the police, who Porlock is afraid of, and as he fears for his life much more than cares about the task assigned by Holmes, it is extremely doubtful he would use any cypher in the first place: Moriarty would execute him for the very fact of spying, regardless of what exactly he managed to convey - and, moreover, the presence of the unciphered keywords "Douglas" and "Birlstone" would allow him or his minions to easily guess the approximate contents of the message anyway. Even less explicable is the second letter from Porlock - instead of detailing why he wouldn't send any more messages, he would spend just about the same amount of time and risk simply finishing the code, especially given that a simple mention of the title of the book in question looks much more innocent than an obviously encrypted message.
    • Using the cypher in the first place could be chalked up to simple paranoia; it might be redundant, but someone who has decided to spy on the greatest criminal mastermind of his generation for his arch-enemy is likely to also be someone who decides that there's no such thing as too much security (even if it is redundant), and Holmes does describe him as "shifty and evasive". Moriarty will kill him if he's discovered, but that doesn't mean he has to make it easy for Moriarty to discover him. Using a cypher also makes it a bit easier for Porlock to bluff his way out of any possible exposure (as, indeed, he claims to have done) than if he'd just written "Yo, Holmes, you ain't gonna believe what Moriarty's up to right now..." or something similar. The holes in the cypher are likely Porlock discovering either that encoding a good cypher is harder than he thought or that he doesn't have resources on hand to make it as strong as he'd like (such as a book with the words "Douglas" and "Birlstone" in it on top of the other words he needs to include). And the final letter is pretty clearly suggested to be Porlock simply panicking on top of a pants-shittingly terrifying meeting with Moriarty that he just barely managed to get through by the skin of his teeth without being exposed, and desperately trying to back out of his arrangement with Holmes. Holmes himself deduces that "Friend Porlock is scared out of his senses" from his handwriting alone, which explains why he bottled it on finishing the code. Presumably Porlock, who we never meet, is incredibly paranoid (with good reason, to be fair), not as skilled at cryptography as he'd like, and ultimately weak-nerved in the face of Moriarty himself.
    • "Moriarty will kill him if he's discovered, but that doesn't mean he has to make it easy for Moriarty to discover him" - the thing is, the very fact that Porlock wrote am unauthorized letter to someone while using a code would probably be enough for Moriarty to kill him, regardless of whether he breaks the code or not. So it's the handwriting that really counts here, and according to Holmes, Porlock probably made no attempt to change it. And yet again - if we assume that Moriarty has got some agents at the mail who are able to open the letters, "Douglas" and "Birlstone" are more than enough to get to the core (in fact, Porlock got it backwards: he might as well have encrypted nothing but these two, which are the only specifics pointing to a possible author in an otherwise pretty generic letter); if not, the whole cryptography thing doesn't seem to make any sense, since Moriarty wouldn't have access to it anyway. If anything, the chosen method is actually likely to ignite suspicions, since it is so obvious that the message is encrypted. It is actually steganography that the situation called for, not cryptography - of the "Gloria Scott" kind at the very least.
    • Maybe, but I guess we again have to chalk this down to Porlock either/both being not as good at spying/cryptography as he should be and allowing stress/panic/paranoia to cloud his better judgement. Ironically, he's likely making the classic mistake of tying himself in so many knots trying to think of ways of obscuring what he's doing so much that he overlooks the obvious things. Of course, outside the world of the novel as stated this is just to show off Holmes's cleverness anyway (and Doyle was pretty well into his "I don't really care much about any of this" stage anyway).

Why would the Musgraves be allowed to keep the crown?

  • In "The Adventure Of The Musgrave Ritual", Holmes tells Watson that the Musgraves were allowed to keep the old English crown after some legal troubles and paying a hefty sum. Why would they ever be allowed to keep it, though? Wouldn't the crown be the property of the Royal Family, or of Parliament? What legal basis do the Musgraves have for keeping state property?
    • The ancient law of finders vs keepers.
    • In seriousness, likely because the "crown" is by that point a few broken and rusted scraps of metal and some old gems, there's really little actual evidence to prove it was the real medieval Crown of St. Edward beyond what's basically a nursery rhyme (in reality the medieval Crown is believed to have been melted down or sold by Cromwell's government) and Holmes is merely speculating when he suggests it's the actual crown, the monarchy had created a replacement crown by that point, and a particularly ambitious lawyer could conceivably argue that there were potentially various loopholes regarding the length of time the "crown" had been missing and the various political and social changes that had occurred in the meantime (such as the Act of Union for one, which dissolved the English monarchy which claimed the old crown and replaced it with the British monarchy) that called the monarchy or state's ownership of the "crown" into question. The "legal troubles" were almost certainly various lawyers and historians going backwards and forwards about why the remains of the crown was/wasn't the historical crown of legend and did/didn't belong to the state, and the settlement was likely just the Royal Family and their representatives throwing their hands up and going "Fine, it's ultimately some broken old metal, just chuck us some money for appearance's sake and you can keep it if you really want it that badly."

  • Why do so many of the recent adaptations portray Sherlock as well, such an asshole? Sherlock, Elementary, the Ritchie movies, for that matter House. In the original novels, Holmes could be socially unconventional, and was certainly capable of being rude or inconsiderate, but he was nowhere near as consistently thoughtless or obnoxious as he is portrayed in so many of the recent adaptations. Why have so many adaptations in the span of only a few years decided to take this direction with the character?
    • Ultimately, I think it's simply down to the fact that the Insufferable Genius is a popular character trope in recent years. Certain forms of characterization tend to become popular and widely disseminated (often because of a certain amount of Follow the Leader) so they start being frequently used; see also, other currently successful and popular characters like Sheldon Cooper, The Doctor, Iron Man, etc. This has coincided with a spike in popularity of adaptations of Sherlock Holmes; since the two are both popular and tend to go well together (Sherlock Holmes is a genius, and can frequently be insufferable about it), people tend to use them. Ultimately, it's just a phase; people will get sick of it and want to see other takes on the character / trope as well, and later creators / actors who take on the character will want to put their own stamp on it to avoid simply being considered as ripping off Benedict Cumberbatch / Jonny Lee Miller / Robert Downey Jr. / whoever, so we'll start seeing different interpretations of Holmes.
    • The original Holmes thought that people who weren't his intellectual equal beneath him. He thought that they were crude and illogical. If you read very carefully through the original stories, he treats Watson, and to some extant Mrs. Hudson, like how someone would treat a servant. Watson and Hudson actually humanize Holmes. Just read how he treats women. Now, he doesn't hate women. He just doesn't understand him as opposed, to say Watson, whose been married 3 or 4 times. How can you work or "deal" with people whose moods changes as the wind? Read "A Scandal in Bohemia" or "The Mystery of the Second Stain." Also, he's British. All that stiff upper lip and everything.
    • Personally I imagine part of it has to do with Values Dissonance; trying to get Sherlock to come off to modern audiences as he would have come off to contemporary audiences. Given that most modern sensibilities wholeheartedly reject the social norms and rules of Victorian society, Holmes would probably come off as far too sympathetic to modern audiences if he were just an eccentric who didn't fit in with those norms, where as Victorians might have found his behavior more shocking. By making him and out and out asshole, he comes off to modern viewers as he would have to readers of his time, to show that it's not as simple as the rigid, snobbish high society culture rejecting an odd duck.
      • Although given how Victorian audiences loved Holmes to the extent of mourning him as they would a public notable when he 'died', audiences of the times probably were supposed to just view him as an "odd duck" rather than as a complete asshole. He was supposed to be an eccentric, not a completely unlikeable character.
      • They liked Holmes because he was a champion of justice and because his stories were fascinating, not because he's the sort one would necessarily enjoy having over for tea.
      • The fact that Holmes was a flawed and eccentric bohemian does not mean he was supposed to be seen as or actually was seen as unlikeable (any more than, say, the Fourth Doctor was). People at the time reportedly mourned the "death" of Holmes to a degree where it was almost as if an actual person had died; this does not tally with the claim that they were supposed to or in fact did view him just as a complete jerk who just happened to be very good at solving crimes. The evidence strongly suggests that Victorian readers genuinely loved Holmes; the closest modern equivalent we have for how people reacted to Holmes's fictional death is probably how people reacted to the fictional death of Superman. While the latter might have been hype, it was also hype which got people celebrating a beloved icon of popular culture widely seen as reflecting some of the best of a generation's values — which doesn't happen or work with a fictional character everyone widely agrees is actually kind of a dickhead who nobody would like. Suggesting Holmes was actually supposed to be read as an unlikeable character seems to be somewhat revisionist history, as it does not appear to supported either by the stories themselves — wherein Holmes is consistently depicted as eccentric, rude and unorthodox but ultimately heroic, decent, charismatic, compassionate, possessing a clear (if not wholly Victorian) moral code and willing to do the right (if not always strictly lawful) thing — or by the way contemporary readers reacted to them and him.
  • Why did the author bring Sherlock back from the dead (or rather retcon it) when he could have just set all his new stories before the events of The Final Problem like he did with Hound of the Baskervilles? That way he wouldn't have to undo the great climactic death of Sherlock and he could have used this to build up Moriarty as a more fleshed out villain with more evidence of him being Sherlock's equal like in Valley of Fear. I know the public were desperate for more stories but that didn't mean he had to bring him back from the dead, just write more stories set before, rather then have the newer stories feel like a post script season.
    • (a) Having Sherlock Holmes triumphantly return from the dead having very cleverly outwitted his arch-nemesis is a very dramatic and attention-grabbing way of reintroducing your hero to the world — certainly more than just "here's a story from the archives, everyone" (it works in Hound, but then Hound also has a giant demon dog in it, so it doesn't exactly have to struggle to grab the attention). (b) It saved Doyle from having to include some kind of "here's another one from the archives, boys and girls" note to every subsequent story, which would quickly get repetitive and frustrating, especially if he could save himself the trouble by just establishing that Holmes had returned. (c) Depending on how many stories he'd end up writing, all of those stories being from some hidden archives might have started to stretch credibility, whereas extending how long Holmes practiced gives him more time to set the stories between. (d) It allowed him to update the stories a little to the more contemporary world that he was living in rather than setting them all twenty or thirty years in the past. (e) Doyle had long since stopped giving a shit about Holmes, and people were going to buy his stories anyway, so he frankly didn't care whether or not the newer stories seemed like a postscript season.
    • The Strand told Doyle that if he brought Holmes back from the dead they'd pay him a lot.
    • And given that he'd probably also been getting rather tired of writing Watson, Doyle may have gotten a chuckle out of having his narrator pass out on the floor when Holmes showed up alive.

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