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Authors: Donald Thomas

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The Lost Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes

BOOK: The Lost Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes
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Lost Casebooks


Sherlock Holmes



Donald Thomas





The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes


Sherlock Holmes and the Voice from the Crypt


The Execution of Sherlock Holmes


The Secret Cases

of Sherlock Holmes

The alleged bigamy of King George V
The theft of the Irish Crown Jewels in 1907
The bizarre circumstances of the death of President Faure of France
Such dramas are not fiction but historical reality

‘It would have been astonishing,' wrote Dr John Watson of these cases, ‘if the skills of Sherlock Holmes had not been employed by those at Scotland Yard.'

The investigations described in this volume relate the part played by the great detective in seven major crimes or scandals of the day, some of them too damaging to the monarchy, the government or the security of the nation to be fully revealed at the time.

Compiled in narrative form by Dr Watson soon after Holmes's death, the notes have been kept under lock and key at the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane.

Now, seventy years later, we can finally open the secret cases of Sherlock Holmes …

To Ben and Pet

In gratitude for Mrs Carew


A Letter to Posterity from John H. Watson, MD

The Ghost in the Machine

The Case of the Crown Jewels

The Case of the Unseen Hand

The Case of the Blood Royal

The Case of the Camden Town Murder

The Case of the Missing Rifleman

The Case of the Yokohama Club

Author's Note

A Letter to Posterity

from John H. Watson, MD


Those who have read my narrative of the Brixton Road murder, made public under the somewhat sensational title of
A Study in Scarlet
, will recall the events which led to my first meeting with the late Sherlock Holmes. For any who come new to this story, let me recapitulate the circumstances as briefly as I may. Having taken my medical degree at the University of London in 1878, I had attended the required course of the Army Medical Department at Netley. When my time at Netley was over, I was attached as Assistant Surgeon to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. I will not repeat in detail how I landed in Bombay when my regiment was already in action in the Second Afghan War; how I joined it at Candahar only to be wounded in the shoulder, my active service career terminated by a Jazail bullet at the battle of Maiwand.

It was not the wound received in battle that alone decided my fate. Enteric fever contracted at the base hospital of Peshawar so weakened and emaciated me that the medical board had not the least hesitation in ordering my return to England. A few months later I was endeavouring without success to lead a comfortless existence at a private hotel in the Strand upon my invalid allowance of eleven shillings and sixpence a day.

The weeks of summer passed in 1880, and I watched with dismay as my little stock of capital ran lower. I had no family in England, no expectations, no one to whom I could turn for immediate assistance. My state of mind may easily be imagined, as I contemplated the loss of both health and independence.

In such gloomy circumstances I had taken a turn down Piccadilly one morning in July. That fashionable avenue was busy with swan's-neck pilentum carriages drawn by glossy bay geldings, here and there a coach with armorial bearings upon its door and a hundred hansom cabs. Among these symbols of imperial prosperity, I reflected that walking costs a man nothing. The clocks had struck twelve as I began to make my way back from the trees and carriages of Hyde Park Corner, where the pretty horse-breakers and their escorts rode under the leafy branches of Rotten Row.

In the course of this stroll, I had decided that my first economy must be to leave the private hotel where I had been living. I would seek cheaper lodgings. With that, I felt a little richer and entered the old Criterion Bar in Coventry Street. It was a chance in ten thousand that, as I stood at the bar, I should have been tapped on the shoulder by young Stamford, who had been a surgical dresser under me at Bart's Hospital. To him I described my situation and my new resolve as to where I should live. He it was who mentioned his acquaintance Sherlock Holmes, a man also in search of diggings. That very day Holmes had been bemoaning to Stamford that he could not get someone to go halves with him in a nice set of rooms which he had found but which were too much for his purse.

I recall, as if it were only a week ago, my excitement at this chance of solving my own problem so easily. I turned to Stamford and exclaimed, ‘By Jove! If your friend really wants someone to share the rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him. I should prefer going halves to living alone!'

As yet, I had not set eyes upon my unwitting partner.

This is not the place to draw a complete portrait of him who was to be my friend and companion for so many years. I must say, however, that in all the time I knew him the appearance of Sherlock Holmes seemed to alter no more than his demeanour. He was a little over six feet in height and throughout his life he remained so lean that he looked, if anything, taller. His eyes were sharp and his gaze penetrating, his nose was thin and hawk-like, making him seem always alert and decisive. His jaw was firmly set, square and prominent with a look of resolve and determination. If I were to compare his features and behaviour to those of public figures, he had the stance and manner of Sir Edward Carson QC, that most vigorous and astute of prosecuting lawyers. In his style, he had something of the combative and self-assured manner of Lord Birkenhead, the former Mr F. E. Smith. Perhaps I do him and them a disservice by such comparisons. There was never any man who was a twin for Sherlock Holmes.

My first meeting with him, when Stamford introduced us later that day, was in the chemical laboratory of Bart's. His fingers were blotched with acid and stained a little by ink. Surrounded by broad low tables, shelves of bottles, retorts, test-tubes, and Bunsen burners with their blue flickering flames, Holmes seemed in his element. He quite ignored me in his excitement at explaining to Stamford the success of an experiment on which he had been engaged. He had discovered a reagent which was precipitated by haemoglobin and by nothing else. In plain terms, it would now be possible for the first time to identify blood stains long after the blood had dried.

I was soon to see for myself a curious antithesis in my new friend's character. He alternated between periods of fierce intellectual excitement and moods of brooding contemplation. There were days of torpor in which he appeared to see little or nothing of the world about him. I had yet to discover that the last of these states was often produced by his use of narcotics. Life cannot always be lived at a pitch of fierce excitement. There are days, weeks, and months of tedium. Other men might have turned to drink or sexual vice. Sherlock Holmes preferred the less complicated palliative of cocaine. I deplored his use of it and protested to him—but in vain. I came to see that the drug was not his true addiction, merely a substitute for a more powerful enchantment. Cocaine, he said, was his protest against the tedium of existence. When his powers were fully occupied, he showed not the least need of it. The excitement of discovery, detection, activity, was everything to him. I firmly believe that cocaine was a make-do for the greater stimulant of adrenalin. The syringe provided for his needs when his adrenal gland failed to do so.

The world knows so much about the reputation of Sherlock Holmes that I need add little here. He pretended to be the dedicated student of science, yet from time to time one caught a glimpse of the great romantic. When I first met him, I noted that he had a profound knowledge of chemistry, an adequate but unsystematic acquaintance with anatomy. He had a good practical knowledge of the English law and was unrivalled in his reading of the literature of crime. From botany and geology he took just such information as seemed useful to him. Whenever necessary, he could make himself expert at a new subject in an astonishingly short time. When the new science of morbid psychology came into its own after 1880, he mastered it with such skill that neither Krafft-Ebing nor Charcot could tell you more of his own works than could Holmes.

At first I noted that he appeared to have little knowledge or interest in literature or philosophy. I was to discover that, when it suited him, he could show a degree of familiarity with writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, or Robert Browning, the analysts of human darkness, which lifelong students of literature might envy. There were days when he exercised his brain as other men would have used a chest-expander or a set of dumb-bells. In such times of idleness he set himself the task of confronting the great unsolved problems of mathematics. If he did not find solutions to Fermat's Last Theorem or the Goldbach Conjecture, I believe that he understood at length the nature of those abstract impossibilities better than any man living.

There was something not quite English about Sherlock Holmes. Having played rugger for Blackheath in my younger days, I found he had no sense of sport in his physical activities. You could not imagine him among ‘the flannelled fools at the wicket and the muddied oafs in the goal'. His physical exercise was Continental rather than Anglo-Saxon. Like a French or German student, he was an expert swordsman, boxer, and single-stick player. Though far from burly in his build, he demonstrated a grip that was the strongest of any man I have ever known.

He cared very little for society, let alone for politics or public men. Early in our friendship he assured me that a nation was better led by a rogue than by a reformer. In more recent years, he abominated Mr Asquith as leader of the government but openly admired the style and complicity of Mr Lloyd George. As the result of services which he had rendered to the Crown in the years before the German war, I was with him once at the Reform Club, when Mr Asquith spoke after dinner. Sherlock Holmes had attended the function reluctantly and sat with eyelids drooping and an air of ineffable boredom. Intending to compliment or instruct his audience, the late Prime Minister remarked that he owed much of his success in life to an endeavour to associate only with those who were his intellectual superiors. To my dismay, I heard Holmes rouse himself and say loudly enough for all those around him to hear, ‘By God, that wouldn't be difficult!'

He was once at a soirée of the late Mr Oscar Wilde, an occasion which he would have avoided if he could. The unfortunate playwright was at his most self-satisfied and paradoxical, preening, praising his own works and genius in every nuance, while his sycophants chortled and encouraged him. As the guests prepared to depart, Sherlock Holmes stood up and the faces of the company turned towards him. He fixed Mr Wilde, the serene egotist, with those glittering eyes and seemed to bow a little towards him. The breath hissed slightly between his teeth.

‘Master,' he said with expressionless irony, ‘before we leave, could you not perhaps tell us a little about yourself?'

It was cruel and it was deadly. For more than an hour, Mr Wilde had seemed to talk of nothing but himself. This egotism would have justified Holmes's sardonic reprimand. Yet there was something more about the playwright which Wilde knew and Holmes had guessed, but which remained hidden from the others. Holmes, as I have said, was well read in the literature of morbid psychology. From this knowledge he had divined a pathological truth behind the mask of the
and he let the unhappy victim know it. A smile touched Wilde's lips, the worse for its ghastliness. The truth which Holmes inferred was one that the rest of the world was soon to hear in three trials at the Central Criminal Court.

BOOK: The Lost Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes
6.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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