The Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries, written by Arthur Conan Doyle in the nineteenth century, were serialised in magazines and they became incredibly popular. ‘The Speckled Band’ focuses on the Roylott family, of Stoke Moran in Surrey. The family includes twin sisters Julia and Helen Stoner, and their stepfather Dr Grimesby Roylott. The readers’ first impression of Helen Stoner is that she is grieving over someone’s death, due to her appearance. She is “dressed in black and heavily veiled”. The reader is encouraged to feel sympathy for Helen Stoner and anxious to find out who has died and how, as she is clearly in mourning.
The simile used to portray her fear and agitation suggests she is weak and vulnerable, maybe even the next victim. “Restless frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal”, indicates to the reader how she is being “hunted” like some kind of prey. This assists in building the suspense, as the reader is unaware of the details of the death, it is still a mystery. Conan Doyle’s use of adjectives and verbs in the description of Helen Stoner portrays her as a rapidly ageing woman of 30 years.
Her features and figure were those of a woman of 30, but her hair was shot with premature grey… ” This creates tension, as the reader would still be uninformed of the mystery, and therefore intrigued to discover what it is that has caused Helen Stoner to age so severely, so quickly. Conan Doyle’s use of nouns, when Helen is speaking, suggests how scared she is. “It is fear, Mr Holmes. It is terror”, illustrates that either Helen Stoner is exaggerating the situation, or something terrible has happened to cause this extreme horror.
The reader is intrigued, as it is not yet understandable why she is so upset. Therefore the nouns used create suspense, by controlling the emotions of the reader. The metaphor, “At least throw a little light through the dense darkness” represents to the reader the idea that Helen Stoner needs help, and that she is desperate for assistance in solving the murder. The reader senses how Helen is lost in the “darkness”, and Sherlock Holmes will provide the guiding light out. This creates suspense, as the reader is still unaware of the murder and what has happened.
There is no way for the reader to tell how dark and mysterious this murder is. The complex sentences used in Helen Stoner’s speech, when she informs Holmes of the situation, such as, “The very horror of my situation lies in the fat that… as the fancies of a nervous women”, suggest she hasn’t spoken to anyone about her fears, and therefore she is desperate to report to Holmes, allowing him to attempt to solve the mystery. By doing so, there is a build up of suspense for the reader, as it is apparent the reader will soon discover the mystery, which has been troubling Helen Stoner.
The reader’s first impression of Dr Roylott is that he is better then his relatives and he will do the “right thing” with his life, as he has a medical degree, and a large practice in Calcutta. This however is a false impression of Dr Roylott, as he “beat his native butler to death”, in a fit of anger. And later on, “he became the terror of the village”. This allows the reader to become suspicious, and link him to Helen Stoner’s fear, and maybe even the murder.