Bloopers from Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a writer who took a lot of care to get his plots correct. One of the reasons, was that he borrowed heavily from the news of those times. However he had his fair share of bloopers even in the Holmes series. Here are a few bloopers that’s difficult to reason logically.

The biggest I can think of is the one surrounding the book The Valley of Fear and the story The Final Problem.

Here’s a passage from the book the Valley of Fear.

“Porlock, Watson, is a nom-de-plume, a mere identification mark; but behind it lies a shifty and evasive personality. In a former letter he frankly informed me that the name was not his own, and defied me ever to trace him among the teeming millions of this great city. Porlock is important, not for himself, but for the great man with whom he is in touch. Picture to yourself the pilot fish with the shark, the jackal with the lion — anything that is insignificant in companionship with what is formidable: not only formidable, Watson, but sinister — in the highest degree sinister. That is where he comes within my purview. You have heard me speak of Professor Moriarty?”

“The famous scientific criminal, as famous among crooks as — ”

“My blushes, Watson!” Holmes murmured in a deprecating voice.

“I was about to say, as he is unknown to the public.”

Here is a passage from the Final Problem.

“You have probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?” said he.
“Aye, there’s the genius and the wonder of the thing!” he cried.

The problem is that in no way the Final Problem can precede The Valley of Fear. This is because within a week of the above dialogue between Holmes and Watson, Moriarty meets his end in a wrestling bout with Holmes, where thanks to his Baritsu skills, Holmes kills Moriarty.

Defense statement: Dr Watson suffered from short term memory loss. Much like Ghajini.

In the Sherlock Holmes short story “The adventure of the Priory School“, while investigating the countryside in an abduction case, Holmes and Watson come across a bicycle track, Watson enquires on the direction the bicycle was travelling in, Holmes replies that the direction can be ascertained by the impressions made by the tracks made by the cycle.

“The more deeply sunk impression is, of course, the hind wheel, upon which the weight rests. You perceive several places where it has passed across and obliterated the more shallow mark of the front one. It was undoubtedly heading away from the school.”

There’s a flaw in this explanation. Since the rear wheel follows the front, it will always cross over the front wheel unless the cyclist circles around and crosses his own path.

Defense: None

In the classic story the Adventure of Speckled Band, Dr. Grimesby Roylott whistles to a deadly snake, called swamp adder of Indian origins. Snakes are deaf. AC Doyle was a man of medicine and it’s surprising that he never knew about this basic fact.


In the Study in Scarlet, Dr John H Watson by his own admission had a wound on his shoulder, apparently by a Jezzail bullet from the famous battle of Maiwand. In later stories he complains of war wounds on his leg.

Defense: It’s probable that Watson fell of his horse and broke his leg too.

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