The View from the East End
L.E.S.K. for BRUC
by Inspector Hopkins
This time, we’ll take a look at some “Loose Ends and Story Killers” (L.E.S.K) for the tale of The Bruce-Partington Plans . . . another story of the beginning genre of the spy drama!
This one is a bit more difficult than NAVA.
It’s not as difficult to find loose ends in this story, and here are just a few that crossed my mind:
1) The “Great Contradiction”: When Mycroft Holmes approached his brother for help he asked him, “Surely you have heard of it? I thought everyone had heard of it”, in spite of his earlier statement that the plans were “a most jealously guarded secret”. Although this does seem to be a contradiction (as many other Sherlockian scholars have pointed out), my take on this one is that Mycroft committed a sort of “Freudian Slip” here. That is to say, he subconsciously assumed that Sherlock (as well as other top officials) were included in that “everyone” clique.
2) Another contradiction: It seems awfully strange to me that a young junior clerk such as Cadogan West had “daily personal contact” with top-secret submarine plans, while Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk and draftsman, did not. My explanation for this is that it was probably just a literary device to increase the amount of suspicion heaped upon West.
3) The death of Sir James: It seems to be inferred that he committed suicide due to the anguish caused by the scandal of the missing plans. However the cause of his death was not clearly given by anything other than a “broken heart”. Whether or not he did kill himself may not really have any bearing on this story, but it is interesting to note that no one questions this. Based upon reference to his earlier service to the Crown, as well as to his personal characteristics, suicide seems unlikely. Could he have discovered his brother Valentine’s treachery, and been murdered by him? This is a possibility that might be further explored. Lacking any further imaginative explanations from more experienced Sherlockians, then, I submit that his death may have been presented as a kind of literary misdirection to further deepen the complexity of the story.
4) Oberstein’s sentence: To me, it seems a little bit strange that Oberstein gets only a 15 year sentence for killing a man and committing treason. Either of those crimes would have been worthy of the death sentence at the time, let alone both of them! Why was this? Perhaps his sentence may have been somewhat reduced by his cooperation with the authorities in writing that note that Holmes dictated. But nonetheless, why would his sentence not have been greater, perhaps life in prison?
5) The thud of a body: Recall that Lestrade’s witness claimed that he “heard a heavy thud, as of a body striking the line, just before the train reached the station.” Imagine being in a train clattering along the tracks, a steam locomotive chuffing away, squeaks and rattles galore, and yet being able to hear the sound of a body hitting the ground above all that racket? I say it was absolutely impossible! On the other hand, no one reported the “thud” of West’s body being dropped on top of the railway car while it was stopped underneath Oberstein’s window. Why was that? Perhaps no one was in the car at the time, but then, this might beg the question as to which car Lestrade’s witness was riding in.
Finally, on the heels of our previous NAVA analysis, the astute Sherlockian will note that the Villains in both of these stories were motivated by the need for money caused by losses in the stock market.
Until next time, when we will look at yet another LESK analysis, and thanking you for your attention, I remain as always,
Past 2010 Columns