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 Musgrave Ritual

Found in: “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”

The Case: Sherlock tells the story about one of his earlier cases. An old college friend named Reginald Musgrave had come to Sherlock with the request to find his missing butler. The butler, name of Brunton, was last seen looking over a paper detailing The Musgrave Ritual, a call-and-response sequence recited by Musgrave family members when they come of age.

The Solution: *The ritual is a treasure map.*

Impressions and Fingerprints: Though this story does provide some precious backstory on Sherlock Holmes, this story is perhaps most notable for how it opens.

Before Holmes begins his tale, Watson exposits that despite being two well-ordered and methodical gentlemen, they are paradoxically complete slobs. Sherlock, in particular, is described as “a man who keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece.” This is also the story in which Sherlock – in a fit of boredom – uses a pistol to shoot the initials “V.R.” (for Victoria Regina, or “Queen Victoria”) into the opposite wall.

Though “The Gloria Scott” is chronologically the first of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, that mystery was solved without any involvement from Holmes. As such, this is the first in-canon mystery that the detective ever solved.

Is it worth it? The ritual is cleverly crafted and decoded in a very entertaining way. There’s also a great bit of humor from Watson and a ton of character development for Sherlock. Definitely worth a look.

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”