Thu 16 Apr 2009
On mystery writer’s Rafe McGregor’s blog today is a post called “The Speckled Band: The Worst Sherlock Holmes Story?”
I imagine that everyone over a certain age has read the story, and (I hope) many under that certain age. In order to discuss the story, though, certain elements of the plot have to be mentioned, so [WARNING: PLOT ALERT AHEAD].
I’d read this or a similar list of errors before, but here are at least some of them:
1. Snakes don’t have ears, so they cannot hear a low whistle.
2. Snakes can’t climb ropes.
3. Snakes can’t survive in an airtight safe.
4. There’s no such thing as an Indian swamp adder.
5. No snake poison could have killed a huge man like Grimesby Roylott instantly.
Rafe asks how detrimental these erroneous pieces of the plot are to the enjoyment of the story, to which some people have already replied. To me, the answer is “not very.” Holmes as a character is well beyond belief anyway, a wish fulfillment superhero in many ways — isn’t he? think about it — that quibbling over “small points” like the above is like asking how come Superman is so vulnerable to Kryptonite.
You might ask me tomorrow, though. I might have my science pants on by then, and I could easily have changed my mind.
I can tell you this, though. The story scared the heck out of me when I read it as a kid, which was probably when I was around eight years old. And was I relieved to know, whenever it was, that snakes can’t climb ropes? You bet.