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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Summary
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of twelve short stories. Each tale features the criminal investigations of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, as seen through the first-person perspective of his partner, Dr. John H. Watson. The individual stories were serialized in The Strand Magazine between 1891 and 1892, increasing Doyle’s popularity. Most of the tales attempt to identify and rectify social injustices among European aristocrats in the twentieth century.
In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the Bohemian King enlists Holmes to recover a salacious photograph of him in the company of Irene Adler, a famous opera singer. If this photo is exposed, it will ruin the King’s chances of marrying the King of Scandinavia’s daughter. Holmes disguises himself at Adler’s wedding to her true love, coyly locating the hidden photograph in the process. When Holmes returns with the King to obtain the photo, they learn Adler has fled the country with the photo. Adler leaves behind a self-portrait for the King, but he gives it to Holmes as a souvenir.
“The Read-Headed League,” finds Holmes in the company of pawnbroker Jabez Wilson. Wilson has been hired by Duncan Ross to be part of the Red-Headed League, mainly because of his hair color. The job takes time away from his pawnshop, and after two years, Wilson becomes suspicious. Holmes makes several inquiries, namely to Wilson’s helper, Vincent Spaulding. At night, Holmes and a few others discover a tunnel connecting to the bank’s basement. Holmes and his companions catch Ross and Spaulding stealing money red-handed. Spaulding is revealed to be the notorious robber John Clay.
In “A Case of Identity,” Holmes is asked to locate Hosmer Angel, the missing fiancé of Mary Sutherland, who disappeared en route to the church on their wedding day. More curious, a letter left by Hosmer seemed to foreshadow his disappearance. Holmes deduces that Hosmer is Mary’s disapproving stepfather in disguise, concocting a complicated ruse in order to retain access to Mary’s wealthy inheritance. Since no criminal charges can be filed, Holmes opts not to inform Mary of his discovery, issuing the stepfather a warning.
“The Boscombe Valley Mystery” begins as Inspector Lestrade seeks Holmes’s help after his son, James, has been accused of murdering landowner Charles McCarthy. McCarthy was a fellow expat with John Turner, whose daughter Alice is engaged to James. Alice believes James is innocent, and Holmes concludes a third culprit was present. Assuming the case is closed, Turner confesses to the murder, claiming he was being blackmailed by McCarthy, who threatened to expose Turner’s criminal history. Holmes does not identify the third person, but James is acquitted.
In “The Five Orange Pips,” Holmes is hired by John Openshaw, whose uncle died in 1883, two months after receiving a letter featuring K.K.K. inscribed with five orange pips. Openshaw’s father received the same letter upon his death in 1885. Now, Openshaw has received a letter. Holmes implores Openshaw to do as the letter instructs. The next morning, Openshaw is found dead. Holmes concludes that the crimes were committed by the Ku Klux Klan, which extorted money from people, including Openshaw’s uncle. Holmes sends the letter with five orange pips to the police, but the sailboat the KKK was operating from is discovered to have sunk.
“The Man with the Twisted Lip” involves the disappearance of businessman Neville St. Claire. His wife hires Holmes, claiming she saw Neville’s face in an opium-den window. While inspecting the den, Holmes finds a beggar inside the room next to Neville’s clothing. Neville’s coat is found packed with coins outside the window near the River Thames. The beggar is arrested, and a few days later, Neville’s wife receives a letter from her husband. Holmes proves Neville was the beggar in disguise, living a double life that afforded him more wealth than his day job.
“The Adventure of Blue Carbuncle” picks up when a blue carbuncle is stolen from a hotel, resulting in the arrest of an ex-con. When Holmes’s friend discovers the gemstone stuffed in the throat of a Christmas goose, Holmes tracks down the bird’s owner, determining he isn’t the culprit after presenting him with a different goose. Holmes investigates a tight-lipped dealer, but when Holmes notices another man asking the dealer similar questions, Holmes learns the man is the hotel manager. The manager confesses to the crime, but Holmes lets him free on the grounds that prison could lead to further criminality.
“The Adventure of the Speckled Band” finds Helen Stoner afraid of being murdered by her stepfather. Helen moves into the bedroom of her sister, who was killed before her wedding two years earlier. Holmes learns that, as long as neither daughter marries, Helen’s stepfather will inherit his full annuity. Holmes and Watson investigate at night, during which a snake enters Helen’s bedroom through a ventilator. Holmes beats the snake with a rod. The snake slithers into the next room and murders Helen’s stepfather.
“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” commences following Watson’s surgery to repair a chopped-off thumb. Engineer Victor Hatherley relays how he suffered a similar fate to Holmes and Watson. Hired to press fuller’s earth into bricks, Hatherley is attacked by his boss, who severs his thumb with a cleaver, when Hatherley discovers the press is actually used to counterfeit coins instead of making bricks. When Holmes arrives at the press location, he finds the place ablaze and the gang already gone.
“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” begins with the disappearance of Hatty Doran, the new bride of Lord St. Simon. When Hatty’s wedding dress and ring are found floating in the Serpentine, Holmes investigates. Holmes determines that Hatty is at a nearby hotel with a male commoner who had picked her up and left the bouquet at her wedding ceremony. The commoner turns out to be Frank, Hatty’s husband whom she thought had died in America. Holmes discovers their ruse just as they plan to confess to Lord St. Simon.
“The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” starts when, after hearing a noise, a banker finds his silent son, Arthur, holding a damaged beryl coronet inside their home. From the footprints found in the snow outside, Holmes deduces the banker’s niece plotted to steal the coronet with a blackguard. Arthur interrupted the crime midway, damaging the coronet in the ensuing scuffle. Out of love for his cousin, Arthur refuses to identify the culprit.
In “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” Holmes is summoned by the newly appointed governess Victoria Hunter. Following eerie occurrences, Holmes deduces that someone has been imprisoned in the sealed-off wing of the house. When Holmes and company enter the wing, the room is empty. The prisoner is revealed to be the daughter of Hunter’s boss, who paid Hunter to impersonate the missing girl so that her fiancé would think she had lost interest in marriage. Still, the employer’s daughter reunites with her fiancé and marries him.