Friday, June 13, 2014

A Black Mystery

There are several distinctive elements to the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of Black Peter," making for a quite entertaining read.

First, the crime is quite grisly and unusual compared to the consulting detective's usual fare. Holmes and Watson are called upon by a young rural detective to investigate a man murdered by harpoon. The victim, the titular Black Peter, is found in a small shack, impaled and pinned to the wall.

Second, the victim is in no way sympathetic. Holmes has barely undertaken the investigation before it is made plain that this Peter was a reprehensible individual, a violent and abusive man whose own daughter is actually glad he's dead.

Third, the crime is actually two-fold in nature: it's both a murder and a theft, and Holmes must get to the bottom of both. And it's a mystery that does play quite fairly with the audience. A red herring is thrown very prominently into both the detective's and the reader's path, though Holmes cleverly holds sight of the telling detail that keeps the investigation on track. Ultimately, Holmes does a little unseen research that keeps the audience from beating him to the punch with the specific identity of the culprit, but it would be well within the reader's ability to at least sort the important from the immaterial here.

The result is a swift, fun adventure that I find memorable among the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I give "The Adventure of Black Peter" a B+.

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