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To prevent deletion [Jul. 16th, 2010|09:22 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
In case anyone would like to read the community for whatever reason.
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The Adventure of the Copper Beeches [Feb. 16th, 2008|08:25 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |pleasedpleased]
[Current Music |"We Are the Champions" - Queen]




After a brief argument Holmes has with Watson over the style of his stories, Holmes shows him a note from a Violet Hunter who is requesting his help, stating that he has fallen far to be solicited for aid from young ladies. Hunter arrives and explains she is an out of work governess. She had recently been offered a position at more than double the usually yearly salary by Mr. and Mrs. Rucastle, but the conditions are odd, requiring her to wear an oddly colored dress, move from place to place in a room at the wife's request, and cut her hair short. She originally turned down the offer, but has since reconsidered and wants Holmes's opinion. He does state that he wouldn't like a sister of his in the job, but does not stand in her way. She requests he be on standby in case of an emergency, to which he readily complies.

Ten days later, a telegram arrives from Violet, requesting Holmes and Watson meet her at an inn nearby to where she is staying. They arrive, and she tells them the odd story of her life at the Copper Beeches, stating that each morning the couple has her put on the oddly colored blue dress (which Rucastle tells her belongs to his daughter who is currently in America) and sit with her back to the window while the husband tells funny stories and makes her laugh. Suspecting something was going on in the window behind her, she snuck a mirror into her handkerchief and noticed a man standing in the road outside and looking at her. The wife caught her, however, and told her to turn around and wave the man away. She was not asked to sit in the room again. During this time, she also found a set of tresses identical to her own in a locked drawer in her room. Additionally, her charge, young Edward, is a total brat who enjoys torturing animals. Additionally, while taking him for a walk, she noticed that not only was one wing of the house vacated and one of its windows boarded up, but that it was also locked. The next time the male servant gets drunk, she quickly slips down the accidentally unlocked passage and sees a barred up door and the shadow of a figure under it. Frightened, she runs back down the hallway and into Ruscastle, who threatens to throw her to the mastiff if she should ever go there again. That would be when she telegraphed Holmes.

Holmes puts two and two together and realizes that the daughter is being kept prisoner in the locked room and Violet was chosen to impersonate her so that her fiance, the man in the street, would think she no longer cared for him. He tells Violet to lock the female servant in the wine cellar while the male is drunk, the dog chained up, and the Rucastles are out visiting the next night, then let the two of them in to free the girl. She does exactly this, and when the door is opened, no one is there, but a skylight is open and a ladder propped against the wall. Holmes assumes the father has spirited away the daughter, but this is disproved as Rucastle, infuriated, arrives to demand what they have done with his daughter. Rucastle runs to the kennel to set the mastiff on Holmes and Co., but he has forgotten the dog hasn't been fed in two days and winds up a Scooby Snack. The female servant explains the she knew Miss Alice had been locked in the room because Rucastle knew she was considering marriage and would take her small fortune with her. Her fiance had broken her out of the room only a few minutes before Holmes arrived, and they have eloped. Not quite sure whether their being there is entirely legal anymore, Holmes, Watson, and Violet get out. Rucastle did recover but was a broken man requiring his wife's help to survive. Violet went on to success at running a girl's school, and Holmes, to Watson's disappointment, took no further interest in her.

Possible discussion questions:
-Watson is rather critical of Holmes character at the beginning of the story, calling him an "egotist." Is this a fair description of Holmes's personality, or is Watson being overly sensitive to the criticism of his stories?
-Is it me, or did it sound like Violet was walking into some weird dom/sub thing?
-Mr. Rucastle is obviously cruel, but Mrs. is a bit less clear. What is your take on her?
-Violet is the second female Holmes has found intriguing, the first being Irene Adler. What do these two women have in common? How are they different? Why does Holmes seem so adamant on the subject of not falling in love?
-Rather like the somewhat pointless though menacing babboon from The Adventure of the Speckled Band, the dog is a highly menacing animal, possibly a prototype of the one in Hound of the Baskervilles. Rucastle is frightening enough, but why is the dog capable of increasing the tension so much more than, say, Rucastle brandishing a gun at our heroes?
-This is the final story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, though Arthur Conan Doyle wrote several other stories about the title character. What is it about Sherlock that has made him a character absolutely imprinted on most people's brains, to the point where even the name is synonymous with a brilliant detective even if the person hasn't read a single one of the stories? Is he a realistic character or too perfect? What makes him likable (if you find him likable)? How did he become so wildly popular?

Happily, the strike is at an end, and so is our reading group. I do hope it's been fun for some of you. Congratulations and best of luck to the WGA in going back to work and creating the shows we all love so much. :)
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The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet [Feb. 15th, 2008|07:19 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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A mostly-crazed man arrives at Holmes's home and tells a tale of a highly important person asking for loan from his business, using a beryl coronet, a public treasure, as collateral. The banker agreed and took the coronet home with him for safe-keeping. After telling his son and neice about the coronet, the son asked for his third loan in a month to pay club debts, and the father refused. Late that night, the banker is awakened by a loud noise, and goes from his room to the room cabinet where the beryl is being kept only to find his son wrangling with it and three stones and a section torn off.

The banker, of course, assumes his son has stolen the gems, but the son insists on his innocence. The police are summoned, and although the son is arrested and a search is made, the gems are not found. Holmes assures the banker that his son is actually not guilty, but the banker can't believe it.

Holmes searches the house, questions the niece, and then returns to Baker Street, where he dresses as a layabout and goes out. Several hours later he returns, dresses in his own clothes, and leaves again.

The banker arrives the next morning, and Holmes requests a payment of 4000 pounds, which the banker happily pays, and Holmes gives him the missing section of the coronet. However, the niece, Mary, has run off, leaving a note. Holmes says this is the saddest bit. Apparently, the son's friend from the club, who was a notorious villain although the son didn't know it, became the neice's sweetheart. He incited her to steal the coronet, and the son realized what was happening, then ran off after him, fought with him, and managed wrestle it away from him except for one corner that broke off, and this was apparently the sound the father heard. The son was trying to twist the coronet back into shape when the father found him. The niece ran off with the thief. Holmes managed to track down the man, who had already sold the beryls for a pittance, and then purchased them from the man who bought them. The banker runs to the jail to set his son free and apologize while Holmes says the niece's fate will be more than punishment enough for her.

Possible discussion topics:
-This was one of the more complicated plots to summarize. Did you get lost at all in this?
-Do you feel sorry for Mary or believe she got what she deserved?
-Was the banker foolish to accept the coronet as collateral?
-Holmes doesn't really do much "showy" detecting in this--no figuring out a person's entire personality by a blot on a sleeve--but quite a lot of regular detecting, such as following footprints and looking at motives. Did this change the tone of the story at all?
-The banker is a bit of a strange character, what with pounding his head into walls and the like. Did you like him, think he was an idiot, find him funny, or have no reaction to him at all?

Tomorrow will be the last of all the Holmes stories and close out strikereaders, so do come play!
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The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor [Feb. 14th, 2008|08:15 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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A highly snobby nobleman, St. Simon, hires Holmes to find his missing wife, who has disappeared during their wedding breakfast. Simon states that she seemed to be in good spirits and he does not understand where she went. The bride was an American from California and had led a somewhat free life in a mining town until the age of 20 when her father struck it rich. He also mentions that she was briefly disturbed at the ceremony when she dropped her bouquet in front of a young man. He also mentions her maid said something about "claim jumping." Holmes agrees to take the case.

After Simon leaves, Lestrade shows up to rib him claiming that a woman who caused a disturbance during the breakfast has killed the bride, and producing her wedding dress and purse, which were dredged from the river, although Holmes insists he already has the mystery solved and the bride is perfectly fine.

The next day, Holmes has a feast delivered while he is out. Simon joins Homes and Watson, and he is soon followed by his former bride and her actual husband. It turns out the pair were secretly married in California but she believed he had been killed in an Apache attack. Later, she met Simon and agreed to marry him. However, her husband was actually captured, escaped, and followed her to England. She had seen him during the ceremony and had dropped her bouquet as a pretense to pick up a note from him. Unable to face Simon's family, she had fled. She had also briefly met the woman who caused the disturbance and who was previously Simon's mistress, but the woman had no other part in the business. Holmes was able to track down the pair by tracing the hotel receipt the husband had written the note on. Simon leaves in a snit, but the happy American couple stays with Holmes and Watson for dinner.

Possible discussion questions:
-Oddly, Lestrade, who always seems to loathe Holmes, suggested Holmes to St. Simon as a good investigator. Why would he do this? Is it possible Lestrade might not be as stupid as we think?
-I always find it fun to see a British interpretation of American slang from this era. Just how overboard did he go?
-We have a rather negative model of the nobility here, along with Holmes's declaration that he believe America and England will one day amalgamate to form a world government. Is there a subversive element to these stories at all?
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The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb [Feb. 13th, 2008|09:48 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |pleasedpleased]

Watson is awakened by a patient whose thumb had been cut off. The man explains that there is a very strange tale attached to this, and, after properly bandaging him, Watson takes him to see Holmes.

The man is an engineer, and one day a sinister-looking German man offered him 50 guineas to check his hydraulic press that he has been using to make brick of fuller's earth, on condition that he come in the dead of night and never tell anyone anything about it. The man agrees.

After a rail journey, the engineer is driven in a carriage to a home. He is there warned by a woman to get the heck out of there, but he decides she's probably just crazy. After all, what's so dangerous about checking a hydraulic press in complete secrecy in the dead of night with no one knowing where he is and the man and his companion who brought him there seeming like extras from a Scooby Doo cartoon.

He is taken to a room that is entirely one large hydraulic press, the ceiling able to come down to the floor and crush whatever is there. He fixes the press, then, examining it more closely, realizes that it cannot be used on fuller's earth since there are metallic remains everywhere. He tells the German this, stupidly while he's still standing in the hydraulic room, and boom, the door is shut and the ceiling is dropping. At the last moment, the woman opens a tiny door to one side, and he squeezes out, leaving his oil lamp behind him. They run to a window where he is supposed to drop into the garden. However, as he is hanging from the sill, the German produces a butcher knife and lops off his thumb. The engineer lands unhurt and runs away, then passes out in the rose garden. The next day, he finds himself near the railway station, went back to London, and went to Watson's to be patched up.

The three men go to the police, then out to the railway station near the crazy hydraulic press-thumb-lopping people. Holmes figures out the home is right near the station because, despite an hour long drive to the engineer was taken on to go from the station to the house, the horses of the carriage were fresh when he first saw them, and they wouldn't be if they had just travelled an hour themselves. However, they arrive to find the house is in flames. Apparently, the oil lamp left in the hydraulic press caught the house on fire, sending the three people, who were counterfeiters using the press to coin tin money, out the door carrying large, cumbersome boxes, presumably full of fake coins. Prints in the garden show the woman and the other man carried the engineer to near the station. The German, his accomplice, and the woman are never heard of again, even with Holmes's help, though he does point out the engineer has a really great story to tell at parties.

Possible discussion points:
-Many times in a mystery, one of the characters has to act with extreme stupidity for the whole plot to work. For example, the step-daughter in "A Case of Identity" is unable to detect her own step-father is her beau, or the pawn shop broker in "The Red-Headed League" falls for the idea he is making a load of money for copying an encyclopedia. Examples abound in both mystery and horror books and films (think Harker in Dracula or the moron who runs up the stairs in every haunted-house movie ever). Is it absolutely necessary to have an idiot in the mix?
-This story ends abruptly and without much of a resolution. Did the ending surprise you at all?
-The sequence of the falling ceiling has been used in a lot of classic movies, perhaps most memorably in Indiana Jones. However, we know the engineer is going to survive because he's the one telling the story. Does this decrease the suspense, or is the scene suspenseful enough to make you bypass that fact?
-Did you catch the horse clue (or clew, depending on your edition)?
-This guy took the loss of his thumb pretty dang well. What did you think of him as a character?

And finally, YAY! THE STRIKE IS OVER! We will finish up Sherlock, though.
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The Adventure of the Speckled Band [Feb. 12th, 2008|08:19 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |okayokay]





A young woman, Helen Stoner, comes to Sherlock and Watson very early one morning. She explains that her twin sister was killed shortly before she was due to be married, and no one was able to figure out the cause. The only clue was that she had been hearing a soft whistle at night, and that just before she died, she screamed, then ran into the hallway and said something about a "speckled band" before becoming unconscious. Helen is now also engaged and her step-father has required her to move to her sister's old bedroom due to remodelling. The previous night, she too had heard a low whistle, and she came immediately to Sherlock for help. He agrees to see the house that afternoon. No sooner does she leave than the enraged step-father shows up and threatens Sherlock, telling him to stay out of his business, before twisting a steel poker and leaving in a huff. Holmes casually bends it back into shape. No word yet on whether he's capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, though.

Holmes examines Helen's bedroom and sees that the bed is fixed to the floor, and dummy bell pull rests on the pillow, and a ventilator connects the room with that of the step-father. In the step father's room he notes a metal safe, a large saucer of milk (not for the cheetah that roams the home, or the babboon, both animals from India where he used to live), and a dog whip. Holmes tells Helen she must not sleep in her room that night, but Holmes and Watson will sneak into the room at her signal. After several hours of sitting in silence, the whistle is heard, and Holmes starts whipping at something in the room. Shortly thereafter, the uncle's scream is heard. He had been keeping a "swamp adder" (a snake that does not actually exist) in the safe, training it with the milk to come when called. It had been released into the ventilator and crawled down the bellpull to the pillow, but when it was called back, the snake was so angry by the hubbub that it bit and killed the uncle, who stood to lose money if his step-daughters married. The snake itself was speckled, hence the "speckled band." Holmes says good riddance.

Possible discussion questions:
-This is one of the creepier mysteries we've read, with only "The Five Orange Pips" actually dealing with a successful murder. What makes this so icky?
-There have been a few mistakes found in this story. Snakes are generally deaf (though they can "hear" vibrations) so calling the snake with a whistle is rather dicey, how was the snake breathing in an iron safe, and lastly, snakes don't drink milk. They can, however, go up and down ropes, apparently. Too many errors for our dear Mr. Holmes?
-Holmes's lack of regret over the step-father's death is notable, and he does have a highly defined sense of vengence or perhaps karma. Does Holmes exhibit this tendency in any of the other stories?
-Holmes expresses concern over Watson's presense, yet he chooses not to tell him they are in the same room with a poisonous snake. Why?

With any luck, the strike will be over tonight. Hooray! We'll finish out Sherlock Holmes, though.
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The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle [Feb. 11th, 2008|07:47 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |okayokay]





In what qualifies as possibly the weirdest case ever, a friend of Sherlock's finds a gigantic blue carbucle in the crop of a goose he was eating for Christmas. Said goose, along with a hat, were pilfered from a guy named Henry Baker. It turns out, however, that Henry Baker knew nothing at all about the gem, which was stolen from a Countess of Morcar.

Holmes tracks the goose to its source, only to find that another man has been asking questions about said goose. It turns out that the man had stolen the carbuncle in a fit of wild envy, then fed it to one of his sister's geese, requesting it for Christmas dinner. The problem was, the goose had an identical twin (kind of like Hero...). He wound up with the twin, and the real goose was stolen from Mr. Baker. He pleads with Holmes not to prosecute him, and Holmes lets him go, saying it is Christmas. It's not clear whether Holmes gives the carbuncle back to the countess or keeps it.

Possible discussion questions:
-He smuggled the carbuncle in a goose? What is this, Monty Python?! Oddness aside, it's a very ingenious way of smuggling the loot, and drug dealers have been known to hide drugs in their own body cavities rather than that of a goose, so, eh, plausible. Still... just how odd did this one strike you?
-Did Holmes make the right call in not prosecuting the theif? Will he return the carbuncle or not?
-Holmes says that big gems like this have a tendency to cause immense trouble, listing all the problems this one has already caused. Does all wealth lead to touble?
-Watson does very little in this case other than observe, but we do again have Holmes stating his importance, "I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my results." Why does Holmes set such a store by Watson?
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The Man with the Twisted Lip [Feb. 10th, 2008|08:07 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |hopefulhopeful]




The game's afootCollapse )

And a mod note in regards to the strike voteCollapse )
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The Five Orange Pips [Feb. 9th, 2008|09:02 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |optimisticoptimistic]

Brief mod note: It appears the strike is very near its end, thank goodness. However, until the picketing has completely ended and the contract is voted upon and accepted, we'll keep on a-readin'.

On a dark and stormy night, Sherlock and Watson are visited by a young man named John Openshaw. Apparently, his Uncle Elias had emmigrated to America before the Civil War and had been a planter, apparently using slave labor, and then rose to the rank of colonel in the Confederate army. Post-war, he was very anti-carpet bagger as well as adamently opposed to African Americans voting. In 1869 he came back to England, and his nephew basically lived with him from about fourteen on, pretty much running the house.

One day, his uncle received a letter postmarked from India that contained 5 orange pips (seeds) and a letter the nephew did not read, though he noted the letter K.K.K. on the envelope. The uncle ran upstairs and burned papers in a room the nephew was never allowed to enter, then became incredibly paranoid, claiming the letter meant death. Seven weeks later, we was found dead in a shallow pond, and it was a ruling of suicide, though John did not believe it.

The uncle's estate then went to John's father. Eventually, he too received an envelope with K.K.K. on it, postmarked from Dundee, with 5 orange pips and a demand to "leave the papers on the sundial." The father thought this was ridiculous, especially as there were no papers left to put anywhere. Three days later, he "accidentally" fell to his death in a pit.

Two years have passed, and now John, who inherited the estate of his father and uncle, has received a letter identical to his father's, but postmarked from East London, which is why he has come to Holmes for help. Holmes is very upset, claiming he should have come earlier. It turns out one paper DID escape his uncle's burning, which mentions three men and pips. Holmes tells him to put the paper in a box on the sundial of his home with a letter explaining that's all he has, and to do so quickly. Openshaw leaves, promising to come back and confer with Holmes about what has happened.

Holmes spends the next day researching, and realizes that the K.K.K. is a defunct (at that point) Confederate organization that terrorized people over voter rights, often going to murder, although always in covert ways that could not be traced. Apparently Elias was once a member but ran off with the records of the group. Holmes also realizes that the gap in time between the reception of the letter and the murders has lessened each time, meaning that the killer is travelling by sea, and from this he is able to figure out from passenger lists who has performed the killings. Sadly, though, this is all too late Openshaw, who was thrown in the river last night, the murder made to look like he made a bad step in the dark.

Holmes, infuriated, sends a letter to the American home of the murderer to await his return and alerts the authorities of his area that he is wanted for a London murder. In the letter he includes 5 orange pips, and instead of K.K.K. he writes S.H. for J.O. However, the ship carrying the man sinks midway across the Atlantic.

Possible discussion questions:
-This is a very odd mystery for Holmes. He is not able to protect his client, and he is also unable to bring the criminal to justice. Why would Doyle choose to write the story this way?
-I'm guessing most people in the group are Americans since the strike is for the Writers Guild of America; therefore, most of us probably knew at once what KKK meant. The details Holmes gets are rather skewed here, though it is true the group went through a dormant phase at the end of the 19th century. Was it surprising to find an American group dealt with in a Sherlock story? Did it bother you?
-Also, for the first time, we have a character who is openly racist, and he does wind up promptly murdered and is otherwise generally morally faulty (heavy drinker, seems rather cowardly, horrible temper). Did this work decently? Or did the idea of an English writer picking out an American racist group rather than a British one seem too heavy-handed?
-Did the death of John Openshaw surprise you?
-Holmes says a very sad thing in this story, confiding that Watson is his only friend in what is essentially a throw-away line. Did this startle you? Frankly, do you feel kind of bad for him?
-We also get Holmes being uncharacteristically wrong at the beginning, guessing the business of the visitor incorrectly. This might foreshadow his essentially losing the case. Also, he points out the 4 times he has been outwitted (one of them from "A Scandal in Bohemia"). Why does Doyle go so far to point out Holmes's abilty to be fallible? Does this actually plug in to his lack of any friends other than Watson?
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The Boscombe Valley Mystery [Feb. 8th, 2008|05:22 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |hyperhyper]

Holmes calls Watson to come with him on a trip to Herefordshire where a murder has occurred and a young lady has hired him to help prove the accused man's innocence. McCarthy and Turner lived on the same land, both of them from Australia, and while the land belonged to Turner, McCarthy and his son lived on it rent free. One evening a girl picking flowers observed McCarthy and son arguing over something and the son nearly striking him. Frightened, she ran back to town and told her mother she was afraid they were going to fight. Almost immediately, the son arrived to say he had found his father dead. He was arrested for probably murder, and when questioned, he refused to give the topic of the argument, stated his father's last words were "a rat," and that he thought he saw a gray object on the ground that had disappeared by the time his father had died.

The daughter of Turner is the person who has hired him, sure the son is innocent. She's also quite hot. Apparently, Turner wanted his daughter to marry McCarthy's son, but the son was not ready for this yet, being only 18.

Homes, accompanied by the scoffing Lestrade from Scotland Yard, interviews the young man in jail and learns that he would have liked to marry Alice Turner, but unfortunately he had secretly gotten married at 16 to a tavern waitress. Happily, it turned out that the waitress, seeing the newspaper article stating he was in jail, wrote him to explain she had already been married to someone at the time of their marriage, so her marriage to the young man was not binding.

Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade go to the scene of the murder and Holmes is able to deduce the man was a left-handed, limping man from Australia, wearing a gray cloak and square toed boots, who smoked Indian cigars rolled in Holland in a cigar holder and own a blunt pen knife. Lestrade scoffs, as Lestrade is wont to do. However, lo and behold if Turner doesn't turn out to fit the description exactly. It turns out Turner had been an Australian bandit who had robbed but not shot McCarthy in his wilder days. When Turner retired to England, McCarthy found him and blackmailed him to get the land. The final straw was when he demanded his daughter for his son, and he waited while the son and he were arguing, then clocked him on the head with a rock. The rat mentioned was a reference to Ballarat, the town in Australia where he lived.

However, Turner is dying and would rather Alice not find out about his past unless necessary. He signs a confession for Holmes on the condition that it be used only if it looks like the son is about to be convicted. As it is, Holmes is able to poke enough holes into the case against the boy that he is not convicted, and Turner dies at home seven months later, possibly clearing the way for the two children to eventually marry.

Possible discussion questions:
-This is the second time we have met Lestrade, the first being in "The Red-Headed League," in which he again comes off as being a maladjusted, inept, bungling twit. Why does Doyle choose to make the representative from Scotland Yard look like a fool?
-I think the whole left-handed, limping, Indian cigars, Australian, blunt pen-knife reveal is possibly my favorite so far because it's so preposterous yet Sherlock makes it work. Is anyone this clever? Could someone even do this today (without the use of DNA testing and the like)?
-Our third lady Holmes interacts with comes in here (Irene Adler aka "the woman" and the jilted step-daughter being the other two), here remarkable for her violet eyes and unshakable faith. Is there a trend in the way women are characterized in these stories?
-We actually see Watson at home with his wife here and even get to hear her speak. Why did we get this bit of backstory? Was Mrs. Watson what you expected?
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