Cover of 1930 edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes

At the end of 2017, I decided that I would read my copy of the 1930 Doubleday edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, cover to cover, during 2018. I started on January 1st with the preface by Christopher Morley, and I finished “The Retired Colourman” in the evening of December 31st.

I wrote out a schedule for the year that broke the reading down more or less evenly over 52 weeks, though I ended up reading it in bigger chunks less regularly. It was an interesting experience, immersing myself in the Canon in approximate publication order, having read some stories many times before, and others only once or twice.

This year, I’m going to explore the Canon from a different angle, and read through my Baring-Gould annotated edition.

Do you have any Sherlockian goals for 2019?

What Are Your Favourite Pastiches?

No review today… sometimes you just don’t have time to read!

Instead of a review, though, I thought I might pose a question to our wonderful Watsonian community!

What are your favourite pastiches?  Do you have ones that you just love?  Ones that you read when you first discovered Holmes and Watson that have stuck with you through the years?  Ones that strike you as particularly ‘true’ or any that ring false but you love them anyway?  Let us know!

We’d also LOVE to see some SH shelfies!  What does your Sherlock Holmes bookshelf look like?  Is it neat?  Do you embrace a minimalist aesthetic?  Is it cluttered and overflowing?  Do you despair because you need MORE shelves still to fit it all?  Post shelfies (pictures of your shelves!) either in the comments, or tweet them at us @JHWatsonSoc!  Use the hashtag #SHshelfie, if possible, so we can be sure to browse and admire accordingly!

I’ll have a new review soon (I have an ARC of Sherry Thomas’ “A Conspiracy in Belgravia” that I’m working my through; copies of Rohase Piercy’s “My Dearest Holmes” and the companion novel “A Case of Domestic Pilfering”; the middle grade book “Lock and Key” by the author of “Peter and the Starcatcher”, Ridley Pearson; and at least three other books that I need to get to!).  Thanks for your patience, and I look forward to seeing those shelfies!

Sherlock’s Delight and Watson’s Dream

Yes, those are definitely oranges.

Given the happenings involving the “Five Orange Pips”, I’m not sure “delighted” is the adjective Holmes would use upon encountering some oranges, but this fruit crate label certainly caught my attention.

From the information I could find, Ted W Holmes purchased the Blanton Packing Co warehouse in Pasco County, Florida, in 1956. He used it for two weeks every December to package gift fruit as a hobby until his death in 1989. In 2000, his son donated the entire packinghouse to the Pioneer Florida Museum Association for use as a citrus museum. The building and its contents were dismantled, moved, and reassembled for exhibit at the Pioneer Florida Museum and Village. The Association plans to re-construct it as a working educational structure on their property. (It doesn’t look like the project has gotten very far. That’s a shame.)

While looking for information on the Holmes Fruit Co, I also found a nearly identical label for “Watson’s Dream” oranges. We’re always glad to see Watson get equal billing! Even if it’s still Holmes in the picture. I’d like to know more about the Holmes Fruit Co – I couldn’t find much out there. It looks like it only operated at Christmastime, and it’s not clear if the fruit was sold as a seasonal gift or perhaps given away. What do you think?

Mixed Teams in the Canon, or Crime Is an Equal Opportunity Employer

[After last week’s Forum topic of “Villainesses, Adventuresses, and Other Canonical Women“, Ron Lies (JHWS “Chips”) sent this paper he wrote a couple of years ago for further consideration. Please do add your thoughts in the comments! –Selena Buttons]

Morton Lowry and Wendy Barrie as the Stapletons in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

A question posted on the Welcome Holmes discussion site started it all. “Isn’t it rare in the Canon to have a male and female act jointly for a criminal purpose?”

I came up with the following list and added some of my thoughts about the pairings. What is a team? The first definition I come to is a group of people banded together to accomplish a common goal. But can a group of people with different reasons for being in that group be called a team? Can someone be forced by fear or blackmail to be in that group be a member of such a team? I say yes, how about you dear reader? Let me know what you think? I would welcome your thoughts along with any pairing I missed.

Teams Consisting of One Male and One Female

1. My first pairing is Barney and Susan Stockdale in 3GAB. From the words of their employer in this case “They are good hounds who run silent.”—- “They will take what comes to them. “That is what they are paid for.”, All 3 of the above quotes are from Isadora Klein, their current employer. I shudder to have be the target of their services or have crossed their Employer.

2. Next is Mr. Jethro Rucastle and his second wife in COPP. This odious couple is working for the same purpose and result. A father and a stepmother working against the father’s own daughter. What will their son turn to be with such parental figures to look up to?

3. Our third team is the butler Brunton and Rachel Howells in MUSG. This duo could be proof of the old adage “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned”. Or was the outcome of the case a tragic accident? I find it hard to feel sympathy for Brunton. Yet Brunton feeling his life dying with each breath he takes, so horrible!

4. Anna Sergius (wife of Sergius/Professor Corum) and the unnamed second secretary of Professor Corum, in GOLD. He was an agent of a private detective firm who provided Anna with what she needed to break into the Professor’s. Then the unnamed agent quit before he was involved any further in Anna’s plot. So she is forced to go into the Professor’s on her own. Blind so to speak.

5. There is Anna Sergius and Professor Corum, in GOLD. They acted together to hide Anna from discovery by Holmes and The authorities. They hated each other and wanted the other dead but they acted together for a common purpose, I wonder what would have happened if they would deceived Holmes and Authorities who have left Professor and Anna alone to their own devices.
Anna Sergius is one for which it can be said that she was in the wrong places at the wrong times. She strikes me as a female Joe Btfsplk: The world’s worst Jinx (Check out the Cartoon strip Li’l Abner by Al Capp for background)

6. In the HOUN, we have Beryl Garcia, aka Vandeleur, aka Stapleton. In addition, there is Jack Baskerville aka, Vandeleur aka Stapleton.
Beryl composed and sent the letter warning Sir Henry not to go to Baskerville Hall. She tries to warn who she thought was Sir Henry on the moor. Beryl seems not to be a willing participant yet she is willing to risk her life to warn a stranger?

7. Sir George Burnwell and Mary Holder are next, in the Beryl Coronet. Here are a combination of the wolf and the sheep. They are one of the best examples I know of love being blind.

8. A mean team is James Ryder and Catherine Cusack, in BLUE. To do the crime and try to pin it on an innocent party and at Christmas time! They are my candidates for The Marley Scrooge, Snidely Whiplash award for the nastiest at Christmas Time. (For background, if needed on Whiplash see the Adventures of Dudley Do Right on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show.) If background needed on Marley and Scrooge, you have to be kidding!

9. Next up is Jonas Oldacre and his housekeeper Mrs. Lexington, in the Norwood Builder. Talk about there being a fine line between love and hate. His housekeeper could fill in for Mrs. Danvers at Manderley. (See the novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier if background is required)

10. James Windibank aka Hosmer and Mrs. Windibank, in IDEN. What a pair! I have heard of evil stepparents but an evil stepfather and the victims own mother. That is a new one on me.

11. Then there is Mrs. Eugenia Ronder and Leonardo the strong man, in VEIL. Mrs. Ronder is one for whom I have sympathy for. Holmes was extremely kind and sympathetic to her. To me, this is an example of what Holmes had learned about people over the years and how he changed.

12. We have The Lady Trelawney Hope and Eduardo Lucas, in SECO. The expression of “being caught between a rock and a hard place” fits this Lady Hope to a T. I have my suspicions about the lady herself. She showed a clever mind later on in the story. Yet for her to believe that she was being forced to steal only minor papers at the start?

13. We have Holy Peters and Annie Frasier aka Peters, aka Schlesinger, in SOLI. They are another pair of really, really, nasty people. I wonder if there has ever been a pastiche written about these two.

14. Next come the Butler Barrymore and his wife Elisa in HOUN. I imagine Barrymore as a man in a difficult situation. On one hand, he has an obligation to turn in a viscous killer, on the other destroying his wife and possibly his marriage.

15. We have Von Bork and his wife, in LAST. His wife acted as a funnel for minor papers while protected by her diplomatic immunity. Von Bork had one very bad evening.

16. Then we have Reuben Hayes and his wife in PRIO. This unnamed wife had a reputation in the neighborhood as a good person. Yet she could not do anything and would not do anything without her husband’s permission for fear of her husband.

17 We have the unnamed Man, who acted as carriage driver and his equally unnamed wife in GREE. Surely, that must be a pastiche written involving these two characters. On the other hand, maybe posting this will give someone the idea to write one.

Teams Consisting of One Female and Two Males

18. We come to a trio who very little is known about. We have Elsie, Stark and Ferguson from ENGR. Elsie is opposed to Stark using violence again so she has been with the team at least a year. If so why does she stay? Family love, Romantic Love, Fear, or another reason? She warns our Engineer, helps him escape. So why leave our maimed and bleeding helpless Engineer laying in the garden? Short of a confession from one of the three we will never know.

19. Here are Carrie Evans and her husband, who practiced his trade as an actor, and Sir Robert Norberton from SHOS. The old saying that money is the root of all-evil applies in this case. That must have been quite a brother sister relationship in the Norberton family.

20. Next we have Ivy Douglas, her husband John Douglas aka Bertie Edwards and Cecil Barker in VALL. Mrs. Douglas was trying to protect her husband. I have wondered, based on my reading the story, were Cecil Barker’s motives really, what they seemed to be on the surface?

Teams Consisting of Two Females and One Male

21. Lady Eva Brackenstall, her personal maid Theresa Wright and Captain Jack Crocker in ABBE.A plot device that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used so well in this and the next case on this list.

22. Hatty Doran/Mouton, her personal maid Alice, and Frank Mouton in NOBL. To marry another man while seeing her first husband in attendance. Wow! What a lady who can think so fast on her feet.

Teams Consisting of a Female as Leader of a Group of Males

23. Signora Victor Durando/Miss Bernet and the society who conspired against Don Murillo in WIST: Revenge in this case is one I can sympathize with and hope she was able to find peace.

24. Isadora Klein and The Spencer John gang in 3GAB. This Villainess reminds of Cruella De Ville of The original Disney cartoon movie “One Hundred and One Dalmatians.” To paraphrase the song about Ms. De Ville:
“At first you think Isadora is a devil, but after time has worn away the shock, you come to realize you’ve seen those kinds of eyes watching you from underneath a rock. A vampire bat, an inhuman beast! She ought to be locked up and never released. She’s like a spider waiting for the kill,” look out for Isadora Klein!

Finally, There is my Favorite One of All

25. A female or is it a male impersonating an old woman and Jefferson Hope in STUD? Did this person give Jefferson Hope help in other ways that Watson and Holmes were not aware? How about the ideas that the fellow actor helping Hope was John Clay or a member of the Moriarty organization helped Hope in return for a promise to help the Professor when the Professor called the favor in.

The opportunities for Sherlockian research theories will continue for as long people can read and think “what if?” May the Canon always be with us!

By Ron Lies, “Chips” 5-19-15

Villainesses, Adventuresses, and Other Canonical Women

In front of him, in the full glare of the electric light, there stood a tall slim, dark woman, a veil over her face, a mantle drawn round her chin. [CHAS]
Last week, author Michelle Birkby [Elise Elliot (JHWS “Lucy”) has reviewed both The Women of Baker Street and The House at Baker Street as part of our Dr Watson’s Library] was featured in iNews with an article called “The Female Villains in Sherlock Holmes Were Ahead of Their Time”.

Comparing the women in contemporaneous works – like Collins’ Armadale, Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret, and Dickens’ Bleak House – with some memorable Canonical women – like Sophy Kratides, Kitty Winter, and the unnamed mysterious lady who appears in “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” – she says:

The bad women of Victorian literature lose. They have to, or what’s the world coming to? They are hanged, or kill themselves to save their loved ones, or just go mad.

No matter what their crime, if they deviate from the perfect Victorian woman, they must be punished.

Except for the female villains of the Sherlock Holmes stories. They get away with it.

(Why was a certain obvious name left off that list of “memorable Canonical women”? Birkby states right off the bat that “Irene Adler, from A Scandal in Bohemia, is, despite nearly every screen adaptation ever, not a villain.” Her reasons for this assertion are very clearly laid out, just in case anyone needed convincing. And for more on the topic, see Esther Inglis-Arkell’s io9 post from 2013, “Why can’t any recent Sherlock Holmes adaptation get Irene Adler right?”)

A good number of Canonical women defy the Victorian ideal of femininity, whether they be villainesses, adventuresses, or something else entirely. Birkby offers some thoughts on why this might be. What do you think? Who is your favorite Canonical woman (villain or not!), and why?

Is Elementary Better Than Sherlock?

Noah Berlatsky recently posted an essay at Splice Today called “Elementary is Better than Sherlock”. He argues that the CBS series is better than the BBC series. In the end, he makes the bold assertion that “it is in fact the best Sherlock show.”

Being something of a nitpicker myself, I find some of his claims a bit specious, and his focus seems to center on proving why BBC Sherlock is worse than Elementary, rather than why the latter is better than the former. He echoes some of the complaints heard elsewhere about the fourth season (and especially the final episode) of Sherlock.

Still, the head-to-head comparison of Sherlock Holmes as written for CBS and portrayed by Johnny Lee Miller and Sherlock Holmes as written for the BBC and portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch is interesting to chew on. Their respective Watsons come under examination, too. Berlatsky favors the way Liu’s “Watson not infrequently catches details in a case that Sherlock misses” over the way “Freeman’s John Watson really is as far beneath Sherlock mentally as Sherlock says he is.”

I know we have BBC and CBS fans among our members. Elise Eliot (JHWS “Lucy”) contributed a thoughtful essay on “Why Joan Watson is Exceptional” to the Fall 2016 issue of The Watsonian. In the Spring 2015 issue, Michael J Quigley (JHWS “Roy”) and Christopher Zordan (JHWS “Flash”) compiled a list of eight key Watsonian traits. They measured several Watson portrayals against this rubric: Freeman’s John matched 8/8, and Liu’s Joan made a good showing with 6/8. (One of the two missing traits is patriotism as evidenced by military service. Joan as a former Army doctor would have been really cool. I wish the folks behind Elementary had made that a part of her story.)

Personally, I’m a fan of both shows. If you love one or both of the shows, I’d love to hear why in the comments.

[This should go without saying, but, well, it is the Internet, so…. We at the Watson Society firmly believe that we can have different opinions and discuss them without attacking one another. Be excellent to each other.]

[Comments have been set to moderation.]

Crafty Fans

“Geek Mom” Lisa Tate posted “Crafting the Detective: My History of ‘Sherlock’ Projects” over at GeekDad the other day, sharing some pretty nifty Sherlock-inspired craft projects she’s done.

I recently finished an especially Watsonian project myself, a pair of socks in a pattern inspired by the cabled jumper worn by Martin Freeman’s John Watson in the first season of BBC Sherlock.

The pattern is available (with some helpful tips for certain parts!) at Sherry Menton’s site, The Textured Knitter.

I’ve also tried my hand at some Sherlockian papercrafts, like the origami black lotus flower and Barachiki’s fancy paper snowflakes. (The original snowflake tutorial is gone from tumblr, but there’s a copy on Archive.org here.)

Have you done any Holmesian or Watsonian craft projects? Have you seen some interesting projects from other fans?

And now a break from our regular programming

Ok, Watsonians:

The silent response to my third Treasure Hunt warm-up question is deafening.  Therefore, let me ask you a silly question:

What is the silliest/funniest thing you have done because of your Holmes/Watson obsession?

I ask you this question because this week I found myself hanging a lovely artist’s rendering of The Musgrave Ritual on the wall in my bathroom because I didn’t have any other wall space and I simply couldn’t give it up.  Musgrave Ritual.  In the bathroom. A bit silly.

So: ‘fess up! What have you done?

I look forward to your answers to this question.



2016 Treasure Hunt Master


“No Great Harm Was Done” [FINA]

Stutler's Drawing of 221B Baker Street
221B Baker Street, as imagined by Russell Stutler


Brad at Sherlock Peoria posted recently about the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to the fire at 221B Baker Street in “The Final Problem”.

“They set fire to our rooms last night. No great harm was done.”

So says Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Watson. It does indeed seem to have caused very little harm, since three years later, in “The Empty House”, Holmes says that “Mycroft preserved my rooms and my papers exactly as they had always been.” An impressive feat, considering how quickly paper burns.

That fire came up in a quiz a couple of years ago, and there was a discussion in the comments in which Ariana (“Carla”) suggested that Holmes set the fire himself.

What do you think? Did Moriarty (or his agents) set the fire? Did Holmes set it himself? Or perhaps Holmes fibbed, and there was no fire at all?

(Click on Russell Stutler’s illustration of the Baker Street rooms to see an enlarged version.  Be sure to visit his site for his annotations!)

Brett, Burke, and the Greatest Friendship Ever

Some excerpts from a lovely interview with Jeremy Brett were making the rounds on Twitter recently. (The full interview was published in the Fall 1985 issue of The Armchair Detective.) In the article, Brett talks a bit about how he and David Burke approached character development, especially for Doctor Watson:

We asked ourselves, “Who’d stay with Holmes? Well, Watson does. But therefore why does he stay?” All right, he’s fascinated with deduction – he still has never recovered [from the surprise at] Holmes’s knowing he had just come back from Afghanistan – but there’s more than that.

Holmes was obviously not an easy person to live with, what with the indoor shooting practice and the chemical experiments and the impromptu violin practice at all hours. Yet, Watson stays.

I think that what I found in what I call the under-bedding of the part is that somehow Watson sees this man’s need. First of all, Holmes falls apart when he’s not working. […] So he’s obviously a problem child as well as a brilliant friend. Watson sees that. Watson sees that Holmes can’t say “Thank you”; he can’t say “Good night,” can’t say “Help.”

Best friendship in human history, Holmes and Watson. They balance each other. They need each other.

If Watson suddenly decided to go and live, let’s say, in Madagascar, Holmes would be dead inside of six weeks. And that’s what we chose to play.

Selena Buttons went in search of the original magazine issue to read the full interview, but, while the local used bookshop had several issues of The Armchair Detective from the mid-90s and even more from the late-70s, they did not have this particular one from 1985.

What do you think of the way the Granada series portrayed the relationship between Holmes and Watson? Do you have a favorite moment?

But what Holmes does occasionally is rather sweet little things like in “A Scandal in Bohemia” he tells Watson, “You see, I did remember you were coming; here are your cigars.” And it’s the little things that mean a lot. I tried to show how much Holmes does actually need Watson without actually saying it.

Chronological Considerations

In response to last week’s post about where “Chips” gets his information about chronology for the “On This Day” posts, twitter user @spacefall said:

I once made a rough chart of full & partial chronologies from 1932 – 2013. It looks like this:

Spacefall's chronology chart
Chart by Spacefall and used by permission – click to see full-size

— spacefall (@spacefall) May 12, 2016

This week, let’s talk about chronology. What are your favorite sources for establishing the chronology that is sometimes a bit muddled in the Good Doctor’s writing? Have you tried to write your own chronology of the stories? Why is Watson sometimes so clear about dates, other times very vague, and occasionally downright perplexing?

Reichenbach Quasquicentennial

"The Great Falls of the Reichenbach" - Turner, 1804
“The Great Falls of the Reichenbach” (Turner, 1804)

… upon the afternoon of the 4th we set off together with the intention of crossing the hills and spending the night at the hamlet of Rosenlaui. We had strict injunctions, however, on no account to pass the falls of Reichenbach, which are about half-way up the hill, without making a small detour to see them.

It is, indeed, a fearful place. The torrent, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house. The shaft into which the river hurls itself is an immense chasm, lined by glistening, coal-black rock, and narrowing into a creaming, boiling pit of incalculable depth, which brims over and shoots the stream onward over its jagged lip. The long sweep of green water roaring for ever down, and the thick flickering curtain of spray hissing for ever upwards, turn a man giddy with their constant whirl and clamour. [FINA]

Plaque marking the location of the final struggle between Holmes and Moriarty, placed by the Bimetallic Question of Montreal and the Reichenbach Irregulars of Switzerland


The fourth of May is a date well known to Sherlockians and Watsonians the world over. On this day, 125 years ago, Holmes and Moriarty fought a final, apparently fatal struggle at the edge of the Reichenbach Falls. What really happened there has been the subject of a number of essays and pastiches over the years.

Today, there are a number of memorial sites one can visit in and around Meiringen. A life-size statue of Holmes, sculpted by John Doubleday, was unveiled by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London in 1988. Nearby, a Sherlock Holmes Museum opened in 1991.

Also in 1991, in honour of the centennial, the Bimetallic Question of Montreal and the Reichenbach Irregulars of Switzerland erected a commemorative plaque near the Falls. There are a few other plaques to be found in the area, including one noting the location of the “Englischer Hof” (otherwise known as the Hotel Rössli, Meiringen).

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London has arranged several journeys (or “pilgrimages”) to Meiringen and the Falls, most recently in 2012. The Reichenbach Irregulars have announced plans to host a conference called “Reichenbach and Beyond” in 2017.

Have you visited the Falls, either with a group or on your own? Share in the comments!

(The closest your “Selena Buttons” has been is the Geneva airport, but one day, who knows?)

Paget illustration for “The Final Problem”, 1893


Weekly Forum: Collector’s Corner

The Dealer Room at 221B Con was exceptional this year, and I came home with quite a few fun items. One was this Detective Mickey Mouse figurine:


It is not just a figurine. Oh, no. It is, in fact, a bobble-head! As soon as I discovered this, I knew it had to be mine, and it had to come home to live on my bookcase:


For this week’s Forum, please share an interesting item from your own collection. What is it, where did it come from, and why did it appeal to you?

The Beacon Society’s Jan Stauber Grant

With thanks to Donald Yates “Pal” for sharing the news with me, I’m happy to inform you that applications are available for the The Beacon Society’s Jan Stauber Grant!

Many of you are well-aware of the wonderful efforts of the Beacon Society when it comes to education, as well as reaching out to young people to share our interest in Sherlock Holmes and our love of reading, so if you happen to be an educator or know of one who would be interested in this opportunity, please spread the word!


Weekly Forum #9

In the spirit of the awards season… share with us the actor or actress who performed your favorite portrayal of Dr Watson in the motion pictures.

Weekly Forum #6

(The location of the Empty House, as deduced by Bernard Davies and introduced to me by Roger Johnson “Count”)

I’m back from my trip to New York City and England. The jet lag has mercifully passed and I’m starting to get back into the swing of things. I’d swamp you with vacation photos and stories of the incredible Watsonians I’ve met this past month, but this certainly not a personal blog, so let’s keep the focus on who we really enjoy talking about: Dr Watson.

I went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum and, although I felt quite hesitant, I was too curious not to at least go in and see the contents of the museum. This may be my only visit to London, after all, so why not at least once? I had heard about it (not all particularly positive impressions) and I felt oddly curious about the mixed reactions I’d hear from others.

After, I walked out of the museum feeling dissatisfied, though perhaps not for the same reason as others might (such as due to the high price or the over-reliance on wax figures). The reason for my dissatisfaction was this: despite having the room available of two additional floors in the building, why do we not see Dr Watson’s bedroom? There is Sherlock Holmes’ room and the famous sitting room and… that’s it, the rest of the floors display other things, but no bedroom for Dr Watson?

As far as I’m aware, Dr Watson never spares time to describe his own room at 221B Baker Street, though he took time to describe Holmes’ room and their sitting room. So, my question is: What do you think Dr Watson’s bedroom would look like? What do you think we might find in his bedroom? Could you describe how it might look?

Weekly Forum #5

You may remember some lovely fellows I spoke to about Sherlock Holmes on the radio: Lawrence Albert (JHWS “Bertie”) and John Patrick Lowrie, who play Dr Watson and Mr Holmes in Imagination Theatre.

I’m happy to mention that our dear friends and their clever cohorts have accomplished quite an astounding feat! The Imagination Theatre is the first North American English speaking audio drama company to perform every story in the Canon! They’ve collected their long, impressive project in a complete set, found HERE.

So, do you ever listen to Holmes and Watson on the radio? Do you have any particular Sherlockian productions or portrayals of Dr Watson that you personally enjoyed listening to as an audio drama?