This week I have been listening to Stephen Fry read the complete Sherlock Holmes.
One story, the Adventure of the Crooked Man, tells a locked room mystery. The husband is found dead, the wife is in a brain fever, there are mysterious animal prints in the room, and the door key is missing.
After some investigation, Watson and Holmes discover that the couple were happily married, childless, and that the husband doted more on the wife. Nancy is described as ‘striking and queenly’. She had been into town to a church meeting with her friend, come home, had an argument with her husband that the servants could hear some of, and then the disaster struck. The local police think the wife hit him with a poker. ‘Coward’ was a word the servants overheard her shout at him.
On questioning her friend, she confesses that they met a disabled man in the street. The wife and he had quite a conversation that she did not overhear. He was new in town and did magic tricks for the soldiers.
The autopsy exonerates her. James died of shock. After some more digging, they track down the man she met and question him.
Watson says: “The man sat all twisted and huddled in his chair in a way which gave an indescribable impression of deformity; but the face which he turned towards us, though worn and swarthy, must at some time have been remarkable for its beauty.”
When Nancy was a young woman she had two suitors; both in the army. One was a sergeant James, and the other, more handsome one Henry, was a corporal. Her father, a colour sergeant himself, thought Henry was unsuitable as he had a reckless youth.
During the Indian mutiny, the town was under siege. Henry volunteered to try and get out a message for help. He discussed it with James, who betrayed him and then reported to her that Henry was dead. She and James married and thirty years later, are stationed back in England where he is now a Colonel.
Henry tells them how he was treated as a slave, tortured and punished each time he tried to escape, until he is the crooked man of the title.
The animal? “It was a mongoose!” Holmes cries as if that was the big issue, and off they go back to London.
It is famous for being the story where Holmes ALMOST says, ‘elementary, my dear Watson.’
But my writer brain wants to know what happened next.
Did Nancy and Henry reunite? How could she possibly compensate him? Can he claim decades of lost Army pension? Does she still love him? Can he forgive her for marrying his rival?
That’s the story I want to read. Sighs… maybe I’ll have to write it myself?