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"The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in August 1891, with illustrations by Sidney Paget. Conan Doyle ranked "The Red-Headed League" second in his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories. (Wikipedia)

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Finished the story yesterday and although I enjoyed it was not quite as impressed as with The Sandal in Bohemia. Although the "punch line" of the stories can often be partially guessed before the end felt that with this story it really was very obvious. When Holmes looked at the buildings behind the pawn shop and discovered that one was a bank I felt that there really was very little surprise to the outcome. Also thought that the reason for getting the pawn broker out of the shop during each morning a little daft. I suppose that the time of the writing of the stories has to be taken into account. In many ways Holmes and Watson a bit boys own stuff.

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I'd have to agree with you that this was a less complicated puzzle than most of the Holmes stories. But"the more bizarre a thing is, the less mysterious it proves to be". I think the point was the daftness of the Red-headed league. And like most scams it relies on the greed of the mark to work. His greed was evident from his profession, and his lack of conscience over paying half wages. 'Twas their greed that did them in, for if they'd just kept paying Jabez he'd have never gotten suspicious and gone to Holmes.

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I liked this story, even though I agree that it was obvious.  I kept thinking that the con artists must be laughing to themselves about how gullible he was.  In fact, that's what didn't ring true for me--it wasn't like he had just lived in his poky little pawnshop his whole life.  Holmes spots a Chinese tattoo of a fish on his wrist and I would think that a life that led to that kind of tattoo at that time would make a person less gullible.  This was the weakest part of the characterization and was done just so that Conan Doyle could show how clever Holmes is.  

 

Anyway, very early on, we learn that business has been getting worse and worse for him, so I did feel a little sorry for him.  He could have looked at a good assistant willing to work half wages as being "too good to be true," but instead believed "don't look a gift horse in the mouth."  And to think that Vincent Spaulding lived there with him makes me feel a bit sorrier for him.  But he really wasn't very injured--he came out ahead financially--so I decided not to feel too very sorry for him.

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I agree that you could not feel too sorry for Jabez as in the end he did not lose by the deception.  As had been stated elsewhere by Holmes the more difficult cases to solve are those that seem the most ordinary.  It is those with the more outlandish details that often turn out to have the simplest conclusion.

 

Have to agree also that the fact that Jabez did not admit to himself that it was odd that someone would work for half wages pointed either to his desperation at the position he was finding himself in or just to old fashioned greed.  As has been stated above the fact that he ran a pawn shop suggests that he was not adverse to taking advantage of peoples disadvantages.  I suspect that in the time that this story was written pawn shop owners were not thought of as the kindest of people.  

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Just finished this today and found it gave me some chuckles. it's an ingenious plot although the pawnbroker's assistant raised a red flag almost immediately with his photography and dashing off to the basement. Mr. Wilson was greedy but also naive for a pawnbroker who would necessarily have to be on the lookout for paying more for an item than it was worth. However, the promise of easy money was just too much to resist which makes the whole plot work. Holmes, as usual, was his extremely clever self and figured out what was afoot.

The edition of the book I have from the library, BBC Books, has League misspelled on each page of the story, adds to the mystery. :)

 

I particularly liked the idea of paying someone to start copying the Encylopedia Britannica - at least Mr. Wilson was gaining some education from the "A's".  There was much to like about this quirky story.

Edited by momac

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Really enjoyed this one, because the 'red-headed league' con is so unusual, and I had no idea where it was going. (I was a bit slow on the uptake!). Then, of course, the plot is revealed (to those of us who are slow on the uptake!) and becomes predictable.

 

As others have already pointed out, so many of Conan Doyle's plots can be anticipated. Is this deliberate? Was his audience less aware than we are today of all the different combinations of 'who-dunnit' possibilities? Does it spoil our enjoyment of a story? What does a reader prefer: anticipation or surprise? Then again, how strong does a plot need to be, when the story is really about Holmes?  A lot of questions, good people. Sorry for that … :D

 

Dress code. For example: "He wore a rather baggy grey shepherds' check trousers, a not over-clean frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain …" Conan Doyle is very precise on matters of dress. I understand that this is an important element for Holmes's observational abilities, and I also imagine that it revealed a lot about a person to the reader of the day; but I find that it stops me in my tracks, as I have to make a mental effort to visualise unfamiliar, historical items of apparel. Do others have similar problems with this?

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I cannot say that I do get involved with imagining the dress of a person or the way that they look just have an overall perception of the type of character which is being portrayed.  As to the plot I do not find that it needs to be a surprise as such but I do like there to have been some form of ingenious thinking for Holmes to have arrived at his conclusion.  I am finding with some of the stories that similar clues are being used.  Although this is going to happen I do find it a bit of a disappointment when no new idea is presented to the reader.

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Dress code. For example: "He wore a rather baggy grey shepherds' check trousers, a not over-clean frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain …" Conan Doyle is very precise on matters of dress. I understand that this is an important element for Holmes's observational abilities, and I also imagine that it revealed a lot about a person to the reader of the day; but I find that it stops me in my tracks, as I have to make a mental effort to visualise unfamiliar, historical items of apparel. Do others have similar problems with this?

 

 

Hi Ting:  Yes, the way Mr. Wilson was dressed did cause me to pause to visualize it and I was wondering why Holmes, who is so fastidious and pernickety, was quite at ease having someone in his home who seemed a bit scruffy.  I could picture Mr. Wilson with probably grease stains down his waistcoat although that's not mentioned.  Put me in mind of some of the cartoons of that era. It just gives you the picture that he is just a wee bit seedy, not a member of the 'upper crust' of society. 

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Hi Ting:  Yes, the way Mr. Wilson was dressed did cause me to pause to visualize it and I was wondering why Holmes, who is so fastidious and pernickety, was quite at ease having someone in his home who seemed a bit scruffy.  I could picture Mr. Wilson with probably grease stains down his waistcoat although that's not mentioned.  Put me in mind of some of the cartoons of that era. It just gives you the picture that he is just a wee bit seedy, not a member of the 'upper crust' of society. 

My problem is that I have to keep looking up all these names for things. Every story seems to have bits of clothing I can't identify. Maybe I'm just too young :yup: , yeah, that's what it must be! :D

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My problem is that I have to keep looking up all these names for things. Every story seems to have bits of clothing I can't identify. Maybe I'm just too young :yup: , yeah, that's what it must be! :D

Ting: I hope you're not suggesting that I am old enough to remember late 19th century clothing, cheeky monkey.  :lol: Although I can remember my grandfather wearing a waistcoat and I think he might have had a watch fob.  He was always dressed really well, he was a tailor and worked for a man who owned the tailoring shop.  One time he cut down my mother's astrakhan coat and made a coat for me, I was the only kid in the school wearing such an item, felt really special.  :)

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Ting: I hope you're not suggesting that I am old enough to remember late 19th century clothing, cheeky monkey.  :lol:

 

Ahh, momac, would I do that to you? :hmm:

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Dress code. For example: "He wore a rather baggy grey shepherds' check trousers, a not over-clean frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain …" Conan Doyle is very precise on matters of dress. I understand that this is an important element for Holmes's observational abilities, and I also imagine that it revealed a lot about a person to the reader of the day; but I find that it stops me in my tracks, as I have to make a mental effort to visualise unfamiliar, historical items of apparel. Do others have similar problems with this?

I am fortunate in having the volume of The Strand Magazine for July - December 1891, when the first six of these short stories were published, so have the advantage of the original Sidney Paget illustrations. I know exactly what Jabez Wilson wore, and what he looked like

I've known these particular stories, and Sidney Paget's illustrations, all my life all my life, and am going to have to look for  the next six stories in a version that uses the same illustrator as I'm going to think any other Sherlock Holmes is an imposter

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I love the dress descriptions, they add another visual layer for me and of course are usually important  for Holmes's deductions.

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...  like this

 

Really lovely to see the old drawings and not just b being reliant on the imagination.  Although I love my Kindle as it is so adaptable I do feel that something is lost when compared with the experience of reading a book.  Although the picture in my minds eye of Jabez Wilson was pretty hazy the picture seemed to really bring him to life.  Thank-you for that.

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I've just finished this and loved it. I knew the ending because I'd seen the TV episode but that didn't bother me.

 

Great illustration Meg, thanks for that. I wish my copy had pictures in it (and larger print!). Found a copy on iBooks and read that - it has page numbers!

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I liked this:-

 

"Our visitor bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow".

 

(But he doesn't go overboard on aristocrats either if you read 'The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor')

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I liked this:-

 

"Our visitor bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow".

 

(But he doesn't go overboard on aristocrats either if you read 'The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor')

 

Holmes does not seem to take much notice of a persons place in society but seems to judge people on the way that they make use of their abilities and opportunities rather than their social standing.  I seem to remember him giving the King of Bohemia a pretty good set down when talking of Irene Adler and the fact that the king thought it a shame that she was not from his level.  I often feel myself wanting to shake the hand of Holmes and almost say "good on you for that one" if you know what I mean.

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