Saturday, January 18, 2014

Resident Evil

"The Adventure of the Resident Patient" is a middle of the road installment in the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

A doctor specializing in cataleptic seizures comes to enlist Holmes' services. This Dr. Trevelyan has entered into an arrangement where his practice's expenses are paid by a rather mysterious live-in patient. But that patient goes into a rage when it appears his living quarters have been intruded upon by a pair of mysterious callers on the doctor's practice. Information this "resident patient" is withholding will prove key in unraveling the entire strange affair.

The story starts out on intriguing footing, even though there's something about the construction of this mystery that recalls earlier Holmes tales. This isn't the first time the consulting detective has taken on a client who has made a suspicious business deal with an uncertain party. (See "The Red-Headed League" or "The Stockbroker's Clerk," among others.) But here, the atypical job arrangement isn't really the crux of the mystery, as with those earlier tales, but a colorful bit of background.

Yet the story begins to lose steam when it becomes clear that information is being withheld from the readers. Funnily enough, Sherlock Holmes himself expresses outrage in this tale that the "resident patient" is lying to him, and walks out in the middle of the investigation. But Arthur Conan Doyle himself goes on to reveal additional information in the final pages that improbably explains the situation -- information known to Holmes, but only dropped in at the end for us. Also unsatisfying in this case, the guilty parties go uncaptured. Doyle is upfront with this at least, having Watson tell us at the very beginning that there will be something unsatisfying about this particular mystery... but acknowledging the weirdness in the tale doesn't really remove it.

So, as I said, a middle of the road tale, all told. I give this one a C.

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