Many people admire Holmes, especially Watson who puts him on a pedestal and idolises him. He has a unique personality showing his intelligence and humour through sarcasm. Sherlock Holmes’ mannerisms are crucial to the way he’s portrayed, as many people believe that he would not seem the same without them. Sherlock Holmes’ idiosyncrasies include the way he leans back in his chair and closes his eyes when thinking. Although some of Holmes’ behaviour is exaggerated the sleuth is still credible. An example of his flamboyant actions is when “He threw himself down upon his face”; this was merely to examine the floor.
Mr Holmes does not use colloquial language but a formal array of vocabulary, which adds to his serious manner, making him more convincing. In all situations Holmes’ keen observation skills and powers of deduction help him to succeed. He enjoys meditation and playing the violin amongst other pastimes. I’m unsure whether Holmes’ talents are enhanced by his hobbies but they doubtlessly add to Sherlock Holmes’ persona. It is thought that Sherlock Holmes was created to ridicule the private detectives and most of all, the police.
The police were being mocked in reality in Conan Doyle’s era and in the books themselves. For example, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s murder mystery ” The Empty House” Sherlock Holmes detects the murderer but says, to a policeman who failed to uncover the criminal, “to you only, belongs the credit”. This added even greater insult to the police as it greatly highlighted their failure. In “Silver Blaze” not only is there a sleuth but a policeman also, called Inspector Gregory. He is used to add professionalism and to allow an informed discussion between him and Holmes, showing the detection details.
Inspector Gregory is good at his job but is used as a foil. On top of this foil Holmes’ unique intelligence and skill can be shown. In Silver Blaze his superior intelligence is shown by the way he manages to deduct facts from the clues, using his imagination. Holmes questioned one of the “stable lads” about the sheep in the paddock and discovered that “three of them have gone lame”. He used this within his working hypothesis to realise the events relating to the disappearance of “Silver Blaze” and the murder of John Straker.
An assistant who often conveys the narrative and idolises their colleague almost always accompanies the problem solver. John Watson fills this roll in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Throughout the entire story mood is used to convey the atmosphere and build tension, accompanied with the components of varied pace and drama to create depth. Contrasting locations in “The Speckled Band” help to create different moods in the story, enabling a greater amount of effect for the reader. The scenes are the homely house of Sherlock Holmes on Bakers Street and the Victorian manor of Stoke Moran.
Holmes’ place of residence has a very calm and relaxed atmosphere. This atmosphere is created by the mood setting of, the warm fire “Mrs Hudson has had the good sense to light the fire”, a drink “a cup of hot coffee” and the fact that it was daytime. All of these features create a secure, friendly and enticing setting. The majority of frightening events in films or books occur in complete darkness, as humans are more scared in the dark. The calm ambient mood continues when Holmes and Watson are travelling to Stoke Moran.
This is conveyed with the description of their surroundings; “It was a perfect day, with a bright sun and a few fleecy clouds in the heavens”, ” pleasant smell of the moist earth”. These descriptions create the desired effect of calm as the antithesis in tension to come. Upon reaching the gothic manor the mood changes. Expressive phrases such as “the building was grey”, “windows were broken”, “ill-trimmed lawn” and the simile “like the claws of a crab” are all contributors to the dull atmosphere. The manor is surrounded with fear and terror due to the state of the building, the hostile environment and the array of residents.
The inhabitants include a group of gypsies on the lawns and prowling Indian animals. These exotic animals include a baboon and a leopard. There is a relative calm but a different calmness to that of Baker Street they feel neither safe nor secure “there is a distinct element of danger”. When heading across to the manor, suddenly “a hideous and distorted child” runs swiftly across the lawn. This causes tension to soar. Realising the demon child is actually the baboon the reader, Holmes and Watson are seduced into a false sense of security.
After this ascent in fear the tension is released rapidly. Unlike the last moment of terror, which had no build up, Holmes and Watson next have to wait in the darkened room of the late Julia as tension slowly rises. The atmosphere is used as a technique to create more tension “we must sit without light”. The tension mounts until crescendo like, the swamp adder crawls through the ventilator and is thrashed with a cane by Holmes. The snake recoils back through the ventilator and attacks Roylott. Dr Grimsby Roylott releases a “horrible cry” as he is killed instantly.
The tension descends greatly as the puzzle is unwound with a denouement. The denoument is an important part of a murder mystery as this is when the puzzle is unravelled. In “The Speckled Band” the denoument reveals that Dr Grimsby Roylott had set up a deadly swamp adder to kill his stepdaughter, Julia Stoner, then attempted to do the same to Helen Stoner. It describes how he did this and explains how Holmes came to this conclusion for this singular crime. In “Silver Blaze” the denoument derives from logical connections, the pace of action and revelations of two crimes.
This provides large amounts of suspense and drama. It reveals that it was not a murder; “Silver Blaze” killed John Straker accidentally. The actual crime was attempted fraud, committed by Mr Straker. The murder weapon is a component that has to be chosen with much care. It could be an ordinary object, a clever choice or a live weapon such as the swamp adder in “The Speckled Band” or the horse “Silver Blaze”. Although in both stories the agent of death is an animal, they animals are deployed in different ways. In “The Speckled Band” the snake was intended to kill, forced by Roylott.
In “Silver Blaze” the horse killed its trainer accidentally. The horse did not intend to kill Straker and simply reacted to what Straker was doing. Straker was trying to lame the “Silver Blaze” as he had done to the sheep. I have looked at the detective genre to identify whether “The Speckled Band” is a typical murder mystery and then to recognise why. “The Speckled Band” has some noticeable strengths and weaknesses. I believe that the strengths are how well the puzzle within the crime scene was constructed and the use of mood and tension to make the story more credible.
I was completely fooled and could not understand how Julia Stoner had died. This was an original idea and I felt it was very ingenious, if implausible. For the general public of today the weaknesses would be the red herring and the type of mystery. I think that the red herring regarding the gypsies was not very convincing. I automatically realised that it was not the gypsies who were responsible for the murder. The Victorians probably would have found this red herring more believable as they were racist towards gypsies and presumed them evil.
I then analysed the prime differences between “Silver Blaze” and “The Speckled Band”. I found there are differences within their plots, the characters, some conventions of the genre and the denouments. Although these murder mysteries have differences they both comply with the requirements of a murder mystery. I prefer “Silver Blaze” as I enjoy a complex mystery. I appreciated the structure of the story and especially the way Conan Doyle intertwined two mysteries into one. I found “Silver Blaze” exciting, more realistic and satisfying as a murder mystery.