Every Sherlock Holmes story is, by definition, a detective story. But not every one is a mystery, in the sense of a puzzle to be solved. In fact, some of my favorite Holmes stories -- "His Last Bow" and "The Adventure of Charles August Milverton" -- aren't mysteries but adventure stories.
In recently re-reading the Canon, however, I struck by how many of the tales classic are mysteries, and very good ones. I've already commented on how many tricks of the mystery-writer's trade were pioneered by Arthur Conan Doyle. But he also adapted to good effect the gambits of others.
One of my favorites of those is the locked room mystery, which goes back to the very first true detective story, Edgar Allen Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." In this convention, the murder appears to have been committed in a locked room, often to create the impression of suicide, accidental death, the impossibility that a certain person could have committed the crime, or murder by supernatural means.
Sometimes the "locked room" term is applied to situations where a room is not literally locked but under surveillance or apparently inaccessible for some other reason.
It may not have occured to you, but a surprising number of Holmes stories are locked room mysteries: "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," "The Adventure of the Empty House," "The Crooked Man," The Valley of Fear, and "The Adventure of the Dancing Men."
In a twist on this classic situation, chapter seven of my new mystery novel, Holmes Sweet Holmes, is entitled "The Unlocked Room Mystery"!
As you may know, the all-time master of the locked room mystery was A.C.D. biographer John Dickson Car. In his novel The Three Coffins, his detective Dr. Gideon Fell holds forth for an entire fascinating chapter called "The Locked Room Lecture," in which he catalogues all the different ways locked room murders have been accomplished in fiction.
My favorite part of that chapter is when Dr. Fell candidly admits, "We're just characters in a book." I had to read that sevetal times before I could believe my own eyes!
What's you favorite locked room mystery, Sherlockian or otherwise?
Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.