Everyone’s heard of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, but how much do you really know about the residents of 221B Baker Street? In addition to four novellas (one of which we covered at GUY.Com), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote five collections of 56 short stories starring the world-famous detective and his faithful associate. We’ll be spotlighting 20 of them, to get you caught up just in time for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. All of these stories are public domain, so find a free copy online and read along!
The Five Orange Pips
Found in: “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”
The Case: Elias and Joseph Openshaw were a pair of former Brits who came to the Confederate States of America and found great success in business there. Shortly after the end of the American Civil War, the two brothers returned to Great Britain only to receive an envelope with five orange seeds and the letters “K.K.K.” They were each found dead only a few days later, killed in such a way that their deaths looked like fatal accidents.
Over two years later, a similar envelope has been sent to Joseph’s son, John Openshaw. Confused and scared for his life, John takes his envelope and his story to Sherlock Holmes.
The Solution: *John is killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are themselves killed in a shipwreck at sea.*
Impressions and Fingerprints: The entire story is filled with some great imagery. Even before the mystery begins, Conan Doyle describes a raging storm in exquisite detail. This story is also notable in that Sherlock Holmes shows a great deal of compassion toward his client and a tremendous amount of regret for how he manages the case. It’s extremely rare for Holmes to show this much emotion about anything, much less his clients.
Also, this is Sherlock Holmes vs. the Ku Klux Klan. The craziness of the premise speaks for itself.
Is it worth it? This mystery depends entirely on the mystique of the Klan and the obscurity of the letters “K.K.K.” The Klan’s public image has become very mundane in the decades since, and everyone knows what the triple K stands for, so it should go without saying that this particular story has aged very poorly. It also doesn’t help that the case ends in such an extremely unsatisfying manner.
This is a Sherlock Holmes story in which Sherlock Holmes never even gets a chance to affect the plot. Don’t be fooled by the premise, this is one to avoid.
Part 20: "The Last Bow" Part 19: "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place" Part 18: "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" Part 17: "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" Part 16: "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" Part 15: "The Adventure of the Empty House" Part 14: "The Final Problem" Part 13: "The Naval Treaty" Part 12: "The Crooked Man" Part 11: "The Reigate Puzzle" Part 10: "The Greek Interpreter" Part 9: "The Musgrave Ritual" Part 8: "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" Part 7: "Silver Blaze" Part 6: "The Five Orange Pips" Part 5: "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" Part 4: "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" Part 3: "A Case of Identity" Part 2: "A Scandal in Bohemia" Part 1: "The Red-Headed League"