Banner art by Chelsea Sprauer

Everyone’s heard of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, but how much do you really know about the residents of 221B Baker Street? In addition to four novellas (one of which we covered at GUY.Com), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote five collections of 56 short stories starring the world-famous detective and his faithful associate. We’ll be spotlighting 20 of them, to get you caught up just in time for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. All of these stories are public domain, so find a free copy online and read along!

The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Found in: “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”

The Case: This mystery begins with Julia Stoner, who was killed under very peculiar circumstances. First there were some unusual noises in the night-time, and then Julia talks of “the speckled band” with her dying breath. The coroner was completely unable to determine her cause of death.

Two years later, Julia’s twin sister, Helen Stoner, is awakened by the same noises. Frightened to the point of hysterics, she consults Holmes and Watson.

The Solution: *The “speckled band” is a venomous snake that the Stoners’ stepfather had trained to kill them so he might keep their inheritance.*

Impressions and Fingerprints: Yes, this case is extremely far-fetched, even by this series’ low standards. Still, it’s the characters that really make this story worth reading. This story is quite notable in that Holmes and Watson both go into mortal danger in place of their client, with little idea – if any – of what danger is coming.

Even so, the highlight of this story is definitely its villain. Not only is this character strong enough and psychotic enough to pose a genuine threat to our heroes, but he’s also smart enough to throw Sherlock Holmes onto a wrong scent (however temporarily) at a critical moment. Plus, he has a whole menagerie of dangerous and exotic animals, which is pretty cool in itself.

Is it worth it? It’s an enjoyable read, though not one of the better ones in the series.

Part 20: “The Last Bow”
Part 19: “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”
Part 18: “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”
Part 17: “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange”
Part 16: “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
Part 15: “The Adventure of the Empty House”
Part 14: “The Final Problem”
Part 13: “The Naval Treaty”
Part 12: “The Crooked Man”
Part 11: “The Reigate Puzzle”
Part 10: “The Greek Interpreter”
Part 9: “The Musgrave Ritual”
Part 8: “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
Part 7: “Silver Blaze”
Part 6: “The Five Orange Pips”
Part 5: “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”
Part 4: “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”
Part 3: “A Case of Identity”
Part 2: “A Scandal in Bohemia”
Part 1: “The Red-Headed League”