Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Bust of an Adventure

Because exploration of his characters was rarely high on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's agenda, the quality of any given Sherlock Holmes story generally turns on the cleverness of the mystery at its core. In this, "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" is rather a disappointment.

Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard shares an odd and seemingly trivial crime with Holmes and Watson: two locations, a store and a residence, have been burgled for the strangest of purposes. The perpetrator has disturbed nothing but plaster busts of Napoleon Bonaparte, shattering them into pieces upon the ground. Holmes must uncover the motive behind the crimes before he can apprehend the culprit.

The trouble with this story is that the twist is readily apparent from the moment Lestrade introduces the case: someone is breaking the statues in hopes of finding something inside. But the story doesn't provide any clues as to what might be hidden in the statue; Holmes reveals this only in the climax, having deduced it from investigation the reader isn't made privy to.

The result is a lot of uninteresting pages between the brief introduction and brief conclusion. The reader already knows the shape of the ending, but is denied the opportunity to guess the specifics. Watson and Lestrade come off even less capable than usual; Lestrade's theory of some madman who hates Napoleon is laughable even for him. There's simply nothing here to engage the reader before the inevitable wrap-up.

I'd say "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" rates only a D.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never one of my favorites -- despite a great title, I think.