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In what ways is "The Speckled Band" a good example of a classic murder mystery story?

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19th November 2003 In what ways is "The Speckled Band" a good example of a classic murder mystery story? A classic murder mystery is made up of a number of typical elements. Among these are the principal characters central to the story: an unscrupulous villain, a shrewd detective who often outwits the police, usually accompanied by his less proficient sidekick, and a hapless victim/s. Throughout the course of the story, which is dominated by a process of investigation, clues and sometimes red herrings are dropped as to who the suspects are. During the narrative there is heightened tension, usually followed by a dramatic climax and unexpected surprise when the mystery is solved and the truth - not always realistic - is revealed. Much of the mystery element of a murder story is derived from the physical setting, as in spooky houses or the desolate moors in Conan-Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles. Unusually, though very successfully, The Speckled Band is narrated by Holmes's sidekick, Dr Watson, a trusted and amiable man. Throughout the story we are dependent on Dr Watson for information to bring us closer in; if he is in the dark, we have the reassurance that so are we, and if we are not, then we have the triumph of knowing the truth before Dr Watson. ...read more.


He is eccentric and behaves in a very uncivilised manner for that time: he has Indian animals as pets and gypsies as friends, putting him outside some of the acceptable boundaries of Victorian society. Physically, he is described as having a huge stature and "a face marked with every kind of evil passion." He is a typical villain and a bully, who, as in all classic murder mysteries, comes to the nasty end, which he undoubtedly deserves. There are many other ways in which The Speckled Band is a perfect illustration of this genre. The character of Sherlock Holmes is very clever and logical, an imaginative genius. Like a classic detective, he is observant and thorough and has incredible powers of deduction. When the murdered woman's sister, Helen Stoner, arrives to meet Holmes, he concludes simply from looking at a few' splatters of mud on her left sleeve that she has come by dog cart, as well as train. Miss Stoner is taken aback by this observation yet can't help being impressed by the man's calm self-confidence. Throughout the story we never see Holmes suffer from fright, suggesting he is adventurous and courageous in his investigations. This is very typical as it adds suspense for the reader who never knows what frightful situations the great detective may find himself in. ...read more.


We are then taken through the long hours in the "absolute darkness", listening to every sound that echoes in the night, until the pitch black is suddenly sliced by a "momentary gleam of light". At the same time there is a smell of burning and the silence is broken by a gentle hissing sound. Like the famous detective and his companion, all our senses are alert as we brace ourselves for some ghastly revelation. We are further held on tenterhooks by Holmes's face, "deadly pale and filled with horror and loathing", as he lashes out at some invisible foe. This is followed by a blood-curdling cry that carried all the way to the village, "raised sleepers from their beds" and "struck cold in their hearts". Like all classic murder mysteries, the story has reached a thrilling climax, to be followed by the detective's explanation of events, here learned from the account that Holmes gives to Watson. The detective runs through the case, pointing to where he at first went wrong before demonstrating his remarkable powers of deduction. For example, he initially came to an "entirely erroneous conclusion", showing "how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data". This is followed by a detailed description of what actually happened. As classic detective, Holmes leaves the reader impressed by his skills and surprised by the truth that is eventually revealed. LUCIA REED ...read more.

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