Monday, September 21, 2015


By the time Arthur Conan Doyle wrote "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs," he was just three years and a handful of stories away from finally, truly giving up writing about the detective. "Garridebs" feels like an indication to me that it was time.

One Nathan Garrideb contracts Holmes for an unusual task: finding another man with the same last name. This Nathan has been approached by a John Garrideb from Kansas, with a fantastical opportunity to get rick quick. It seems an American land tycoon has died, quixotically declaring in his will that his entire estate will be divided evenly among three total strangers, should three men all sharing the obscure last name of Garrideb come forward to claim it. With two Garridebs in hand, can Holmes find the third to fulfill the terms of the will? Or, as the case is ultimately revealed, can Holmes discover why this Kansas Garrideb has spun such an outlandish falsehood?

The story is actually fairly entertaining overall. The problem is, it's essentially a remake of one of the earliest Sherlock Holmes adventures, "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League." More than essentially, in fact. In both tales, a would-be thief is contriving to get a person out of his house in order to rob them. In both, the person himself is not the target of the theft; it just happens that the house itself is important. In both, a strange con is crafted to explain why the person needs to leave his house (in one, that a trust fund has been set up for red-headed gentlemen willing to perform pointless, menial work; in the other, that a vast fortune is coming to three men named "Garrideb").

I would dismiss "Three Garridebs" as the lesser story, being the second and therefore derivative tale, but there is one aspect of the tale worth commending. In the story's climax, Watson receives a grazing gunshot wound, which moves Holmes to an uncharacteristic emotional outburst in which the depth of his feelings for the doctor are revealed more fully than ever. For all the barbs and verbal abuse it seems Watson endures in these tales, it's nice to get this moment of confirmation that the detective actually does care about his friend.

Indeed, because of this very important character moment, I'd actually have to pick "Three Garridebs" as the superior story, if I'm comparing it and "Red-Headed League" side by side. And because I graded "Red-Headed League" a B-, I feel compelled to give a B to "Three Garridebs." Nevertheless, it's a shame that the two stories feel so similar. If this really was a sign that Doyle was running out of ideas, then it's perhaps just as well that he was about to retire Holmes (for good, this time).

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