Monday, August 17, 2015

Get the Carfax

"The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" may be a Sherlock Holmes adventure, but it's one in which Watson takes an uncharacteristically large role in the plot. When Holmes takes up the titular case, he decides he's unable to travel outside of London as the investigation requires, and dispatches Watson to get things rolling.

Watson's efforts in mainland Europe seem to be going swimmingly. He's endeavoring to be as thorough as Holmes himself would be, and seems to be following a trail of credible clues. But he's rather unceremoniously shot down when Holmes finally does join him, only to criticize Watson's efforts as stumbling in every way one could conceive. Holmes is correct, of course, if unduly harsh. But Holmes has a bit of a comeuppance in store that makes this a quite memorable story in Doyle's collection.

In the second act of the story, Holmes himself bungles the investigation. He's not wholly off-base with his conclusions, but he does act impulsively and is outmaneuvered by his better-prepared target. He has missed something, and has to regroup and go back over all the evidence to discover what that something is.

The climax of the story involves a race to prevent a murder, and a clever means of disposing of the body (which I've seen a few times in stories written since, though I'd wager was appearing for one of the first times here). In all, it's a rather full meal for a short story, with multiple reversals, travels spanning several countries, and clever villains. (Indeed, I might even say the villains here are more clever than the famed Moriarty, considering that the professor's evil deeds aren't really portrayed for the reader in any Holmes tale, but only testified to by Holmes.)

I'd give "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" a B+. I think it's one of the more stand-out tales from the "His Last Bow" collection.

No comments: