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The View from the East End (36)

By Inspector Hopkins

April 9 , 2006

The Three Gables

I read somewhere that they train bank tellers to recognize counterfeit money by having them count piles and piles of the real stuff, over and over.  Then whenever a teller bumps across a fake bill, it feels immediately obvious to them because they are so used to handling genuine currency.

Well, something like that happened to me the first time I read this particular adventure.

Not that I’m saying the “Adventure of the Three Gables” is a counterfeit story, mind you. It just felt so different, and so strange. It was so totally unlike almost any of the rest of the Sherlock Holmes stories that it stuck out in my mind.  I did not get that familiar cozy feeling that I usually get when a story starts off with Holmes and Watson in their sitting room in front of their fire. I did not feel at all comfortable.

In fact, I found myself reading and re-reading the first page or two of the story in my old Doubleday, desperately trying to get that old comfortable feeling back. But it just wouldn’t happen. Like a counterfeit bill to a bank teller, Holmes’s dialogue with Steve Dixie just didn’t feel right to me.  In fact, I found Holmes to be strangely distant and languidly oblivious to the threat he was facing from Barney Stockdale’s thug. His behaviour was slightly reminiscent of his encounter with Dr. Grimsby Roylott in “The Speckled Band”, but in that case Holmes seemed to be more of his usual self. Perhaps it was because that story began in the more familiar manner where we meet the client first.

At any rate, The Three Gables doesn’t get much better after its beginning, either.

Even being the Sherlockian “sophomore” that I am, I was able to detect weaknesses in the plot. As I had mentioned to you before, I have always taken a more or less defensive posture when it comes to playing the Game. That is, I look for ways to prove that what Watson wrote was true, rather than take delight in exposing inconsistencies in his narratives. I understand that everyone has their preferences of course, and this includes favourite Sherlock Holmes adventures as well as not-so-favourite ones. But, horror of horrors, it looked as if I found a story in the Canon that I intensely disliked.  I actually started to wonder if perhaps Watson did not write this story after all, and it was just a mistake!

But if I thought the story was bad, I found the treatment in the Granada series to be even worse. In fact, it was so bad and so un-Canonical that I couldn’t even finish watching the film. Imagine Steve Dixie physically threatening Holmes by holding him up off the floor while Holmes yells for help from Watson.  Then, later on in the film, Watson gets beaten up by Steve Dixie.  Holmes appeared to be shockingly unconcerned over this and made a scornful remark to Watson about it: “Physician heal thyself”. That’s when I shut off my DVD player and put the disk away. Upon later reflection, I talked myself into believing that Granada was just making the film as bad as the original story. 

But personal preferences aside, the more that you read the Canon, the sooner you will have a “bank teller” moment of your own . . . when something just doesn’t feel right to you.

And that’s a good sign!

It shows that you are recognizing parts of the Canon and are beginning to find relationships among all the pieces. It also shows that you are in tune with the regular sequences and chains of events which are the hallmarks of Watson’s narratives. Finally, and most importantly, it shows that you’re developing a good sense of what Sherlock Holmes is all about, and what he means to you.

Until next time, and thanking you for your attention, I am indeed,

Yours faithfully,