The Adventure of Crooked Man is among Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories about Sherlock Holmes. The short story is the twentieth of the Sherlock Holmes stories, written for the Strand Magazine edition, after The Adventure of the Reigate Squire. The story was later republished and included in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes omnibus in 1893. The Adventure of the Crooked features significant similarities and differences in mystery structure, themes, plot with The Study in Scarlet, The Adventure of the Second Stain, and The Naval Treaty.
In the story, the commander of the Royal Mallows Regiment in Aldershot Colonel Barclay is murdered and his wife Nancy is the key suspect. Two days prior to the murder, Mr. and Mrs. Barclay come home and get into a fight. The servants who witness as they eavesdrop through the small living room’s door hear the Colonel scream, followed by silence. Doyle writes, “Those were scraps of her conversation, ending in a sudden dreadful cry in the man’s voice, with a crash, and a piercing scream from the woman” (Doyle). When he enters the room, the coachman finds Mrs. Baclay passed out on the couch and her husband dead on the floor. The coachman’s first instinct is to open the door for the other servants to enter but the key used for that door is missing. Mrs. Barclay is the immediate suspect since a club is found near her body.
After Holmes examines the house, he finds footprints of a strange creature and an unknown male. Holmes deduces that the colonel either fainted with surprise and then hit his head on the chimney tracks once he saw the intruder, or the intruder killed him and took the key. The story’s mystery is therefore determining who the crooked man is and the strange animal. To solve the mystery, Holmes interviews several people, among them Miss Morrison, who leads him to Harry Wood, Barclay’s former army colleague who holds a vendetta against Barclay for what he considers betrayal that leads to his imprisonment.
Upon escaping the imprisonment whose conditions deform him, Wood travels back to England, meets Nancy in Aldershot, and tells her of his fate. Nancy approaches her husband for an explanation leading to a heated argument. Holmes states, “I have already heard of your meeting with Mrs. Barclay, and your mutual recognition” (Doyle). Holmes manages to establish that Wood suddenly appears during the argument, which shocks the colonel who faints and dies during the fall. Holmes also determines that the strange animal is a mongoose and Wood’s companion.
Sherlock’s stories feature significant similarities and differences. The stories are written in the first person, meaning that the narrator is Watson although not the main character. The literary technique allows the readers to observe Sherlock throughout the story but not know what he thinks until the end when the mystery is solved. In a study in Scarlet, for instance, the reader is introduced to Holmes and his character by Watson. Doyle writes, “a little queer in his ideas – an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know, he is a decent fellow enough…(Doyle). Similarly, in the adventure of the Naval treaty, Watson is the narrator who begins recognizing Holmes’s role in the success of three cases.
Watson states, “The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was made memorable by three cases of interest, in which I had the privilege of being associated with Sherlock Holmes and of studying his methods” (Doyle). In The Adventure of the Second Stain, Holmes is also presented through Watson’s point of view and narration. While Doyle applies this technique in the three stories, he uses a different one in The Crooked man where Sherlock is narrating to Watson most of his findings in the investigation. Instead of Watson and readers observing Holmes, one can hear Sherlock and his thoughts but not keep him thus remaining in the dark about what he is thinking.
Sherlock Holmes’s mysteries are similar and different in different ways. The first similarity between the three stories is the structure where Watson introduces the story and mentions past cases solved by Holmes and him. A unique individual approaches them and introduces a case needing solving with Watson describing the client. Though Holmes’s dialogue, the reader gets a more detailed description. The investigation starts with both characters visiting crime scenes. All cases feature red herrings (false clues), building tension and keeping the reader wondering what happens next as they (readers) attempt to solve the mystery. Both men set a trap and create the climax by catching the villain.
Lastly, the structure involves Homes explaining his methods and how he makes a conclusion. However, the stories differ in setting and scope of the investigation. Precisely, The Scarlet and The Crooked Man take a domestic scope and setting and have their backgrounds in England. The Scarlet takes place in an empty house in a London neighborhood while the Crooked Man’s setting is Watt Street. Contrarily, The Naval Treaty and The Adventure of the Second Stain have Holmes and Watson delving into international mysteries. For the Adventure of the Second Stain, Doyle writes, “There, Mr. Holmes, you take me into regions of high international politics (Doyle), showing that the case was beyond London’s scope. Similarly, the Naval Treaty focuses on international and political intrigue as he pursues the retrieval of a missing Naval treaty as requested by Percy Phelps.
Justice is a recurring theme in the four stories. Like in other stories, Doyle presents Sherlock as a reliever of existential trepidation instead of just a mystery solver. Holmes solves crimes agencies like the Scotland Yard and police fail to solve as clients look up to him as last hope. Holmes considers himself as a conduit for justice in the four stories as he allows his intellect and ambition to propel his quest to deliver justice. In Adventure of the Second Stain, Holmes attempts to maintain the virtue of the innocent and achieve justice by recovering the letter that proves Mrs. Hope’s innocence. In the Crooked Man, Holmes sees the missing key and animal footprints the police ignore as critical evidence and pursues them to exonerate Nancy. In the Study in Scarlet, Holmes bribes Constable John Lance to tell his side in the moments following Drebber’s death. Similarly, The Naval Treaty manages to save Phelp’s reputation by recovering the missing document, something the Scotland Yard had failed by gathering more evidence like in other stories.
Conclusively, The adventures of Sherlock Holmes present an individual seeking to restore order in a chaotic world by pursuing justice. Holmes goes the extra mile in his investigations, unlike other law enforcers, to deliver the justice he believes has been denied to his clients. Solving the cases is critical to the narrations because it assures the reader that the world can be a just place. As a firewall between despair and hope, Holmes shows where there is will mistakes can be corrected.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. The adventures of sherlock holmes. Wordsworth Editions, 1992.