Book #13 – The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

What can I possibly say about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his incredibly famous creation, Sherlock Holmes? I don’t know what I was thinking by not reading any of these novels and short stories for the first twenty-four-years of my life, but I have now (at least somewhat) amended this grievous error.

The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge is a short story, although longer than the majority of short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Narrated by the ever-so-faithful Watson, the story begins with a strange telegram explaining that the unknown writer has just experienced something grotesque and wishes to consult Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes is bored and between cases, and as his mind does not cope particularly well with boredom, he takes on the case, simply at the mention of the suggestive wording of grotesque. His expectations for a challenging case are happily met: Mr. Scott Eccles recalls his bizarre stay at the house of a new “friend” the night before and a mystery is formed for Holmes to solve. Mr. Eccles was introduced to a Spanish man named Aloysius Garcia at a dinner party, and Garcia quickly formed a friendship with Eccles, inviting him to stay at his house, Wisteria Lodge. Eccles accepts the inviatation and begins one of the strangest experiences of his life. The servants are terrible, the meal is poor, and his host seems to be distracted the whole night. Garcia’s distraction only grows after he receives a note, which he immediately burns, and after suffering the silence for too long, Eccles excuses himself to bed.

The only oddity of the night itself is that Eccles is woken at 1 a.m. by his host to ask if he had rung the bell – which he had not – but after being informed of the time, he goes back to sleep. When he awakes the next morning, however, the entire household has vanished. At first Eccles thinks it must be some kind of practical joke being played on him, but the more he considers this, the more he realises it makes very little sense.

It turns out Garcia is lying in a field not far from his house with his head smashed in from behind. And his time of death is sometime before 1 a.m. – seemingly quite impossible considering he was talking to Eccles at exactly 1 a.m.

The fact that the servants from Garcia’s house have also disappeared looks suspect, but, as Holmes points out, why would they kill their master on the one night they have a house guest, rather than all of the other nights when they are there alone with him?

Despite being “just” a short story, this little mystery manages to cover just about everything: civil war, a possible affair, an evil dictator, voodoo, and a proper English gentleman who is bewildered at being caught up in the middle of it all.

No true crime-lover can do anything but adore Sherlock Holmes, and The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge is as brilliant as ever – even featuring, possibly for the first time, a policeman who can actually keep up with Holmes.

Four stars.

★★★★☆☆

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