The Winter meeting of the Greek Interpreters was held on Thursday, February 28th, 2013, at the Country Club of Lansing. A fine turnout of nearly 30 members enjoyed an excellent dinner, and spirited conversation. The story on which the evening’s quiz and discussion focused was “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”. A quiz was provided by The Chemist, recently returned from Australia.
Several challenges were proposed for future meetings. The Swamp Adder (aka Bill Ballenger) noted that a decade had passed since our members had last ranked the stories in the canon. After discussion, it was proposed that each member compile an ordered list of their twelve favorite short stories, their six least favorite stories, and a separate ranking of the four novels. These would then be collected at the next meeting and evaluated to produce a final ranking.
In 1927, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle selected what he regarded as his best Sherlock Holmes short stories for Strand Magazine of London. He set them down in descending order of merit as follows:
- “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
- “The Redheaded League”
- “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
- “The Final Problem”
- “A Scandal in Bohemia”
- “The Adventure of the Empty House”
- “The Five Orange Pips”
- “The Adventure of the Second Stain”
- “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”
- “The Adventure of the Priory School”
- “The Musgrave Ritual”
- “The Reigate Squires”
Later, considering his short stories about Sherlock Holmes written after 1927, and reconsidering some written before that date, Doyle added seven more favorites, again listing them in descending order of merit:
- “Silver Blaze”
- “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”
- “The Crooked Man”
- “The Man with the Twisted Lip”
- “The Greek Interpreter”
- “The Resident Patient”
- “The Naval Treaty”
A 1999 poll of Sherlockian experts from around the world, yielded rankings reported in the The Baker Street Journal, December 1999, pp. 511. These rankings may also be viewed by Country and by Invested BSI Members.
Following this proposal, The Stormy Petrel (aka Gil Wanger) suggested that those members who had not selected local investiture titles should be strongly encouraged to do so. The possibility of reissuing membership cards was also raised. Finally, Inspector Alec MacDonald (aka Mike DeGrow) challenged members to recall any personal instances in which they had employed Sherlockian logic and/or observation to solve an an intricate or difficult problem, no matter how trivial it might appear. These might then be described at a future meeting.
The ensuing discussion of The Boscombe Valley Mystery was spirited and wide ranging, with a number of inconsistencies being noted. For example, on the train Holmes told Watson he would take nothing for granted until he had personally looked into it. Nevertheless, he immediately tells Alice that James is probably innocent. Also, despite a reassuring barometer, Holmes would normally wish to view the crime scene before any additional evidence might be disturbed. The date of this story is not explicitly given, but Monday June 3rd places it in 1893 (four years later than Baring-Gould suggests). Consequently, Holmes’ comment to Watson about two middle-aged men flying westward at fifty miles an hour is not out of place. Holmes (born in 1854) would be 39 or 40, which in Victorian times would certainly be middle age. Finally, the dramatic manner in which the hotel waiter announces John Turner just as Watson is about to name him was viewed both as corny and clever.
The meeting concluded with a reading of Vincent Starrett’s “221B” poem, followed by our singing of The Anthem.