First published: UK, George Newnes, 1894
This racing tale on Dartmoor is one of the best in the canon, and a fine way to open the second collection. Holmes is in superb form, making the famous remark about the dog in the night-time, and is both humorous and quietly sensational. The solution is ingenious—and fairly clued.
The Yellow Face
The Stockbroker’s Clerk
This tale of financial skulduggery has a rather obvious villain, and the plot is derived from “The Red-Headed League”. Not much happens, and the tale is rather drab. However, the villain’s abortive suicide has merits.
The “Gloria Scott”
The chief interest of this Boscombean tale is that it is Holmes’ first case, although he does little except to solve a cipher and listen to a dead man’s confession. It is, however, well-written, and the flashback to an Australian convict ship is a good adventure yarn.
The Musgrave Ritual
Holmes’ third case, and one of the best. Holmes locates both a hidden treasure and a missing butler through mathematical detection. The outdoor scenes are fun, the musty sense of history well conveyed, and the discoveries in the cellar quietly spectacular.
The Reigate Squire
Holmes, recovering from a nervous breakdown, investigates burglary and murder in Surrey, relying on a knowledge of epigraphy; common sense, however, prevails. The tale suffers for modern readers who suspect every character they see, for there are only two suspects. Notable for Watson’s affection towards Holmes.
The Crooked Man
A remarkably dull tale, suffering from the static nature of the telling. Watson does nothing except listen to Holmes explain how he reached the solution, and then they both listen to the pseudo-villain (the eponymous enigma) justify his actions. Indian flashback too much like The Sign of Four, and the “murder” turns out a disappointment.
The Resident Patient
A very good story, told in an interesting manner. Holmes and Watson, who have shared a flat for seven months or so, listen to the curious tale of the neurotic specialist Trevelyan, whose patron, the enigmatic Blessington, lives in a state of fear, and eventually commits suicide—Holmes, of course, proves murder.
The Greek Interpreter
The structure owes much to “The Engineer’s Thumb”: a mysterious stranger hires a young professional, and takes him to a house somewhere in the country in a dark carriage; the professional realises that his employers are criminals; he escapes; consults with Holmes; and the villains escape British justice, but not retribution. This, though, is much better.
It’s also the story that introduces Sherlock’s smarter brother Mycroft.
The Naval Treaty
The longest of the short stories, running to two parts. It’s one of Doyle’s most tightly-knit detective problems, involving the theft of an important government paper. Holmes, after digressing on the nature of the rose, produces a least likely suspect as thief.
The Final Problem
Doyle’s intended swansong for Holmes is a grim and gripping tale, pitting Holmes against the infamous Professor Moriarty: “the Napoleon of crime. He is the organiser of half that is evil and nearly all that is undetected in this great city… He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.” Both tumble off Reichenbach Falls – but Doyle cannily left himself a loophole, and brought Holmes back a decade later.