"It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts."
-- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Second Stain"
There he goes again, insisting on facts.
It may seem obvious to us that a detective reasons backward, starting from firmly established facts. That's how Sherlock Holmes did it. But before him it was not always so. Many of his fictional predecessors operated largely by intuition, with the reader having no chance at all to solve the crime.
When I made a list of methods employed by Holmes in his adventures, beginning with A Study in Scarlet, one of the ones that stood out was on-scene investigation. He wasn't an armchair detective. Although he sometimes said later that he had it figured out before he left Baker Street, he still went to the scene.
Why was he so ambulatory? Because the only way to get the facts was to see, observe, and sometimes measure in person.
However, one aspect of Holmes that we often overlook in our admiration of the great detective is that he often offers a preliminary theory that turns out to be far from the mark, as in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" or "Silver Blaze." How did this happen? He didn't have all the facts before he theorized.
Like most of us, Sherlock Holmes sometimes forgot his own best advice!
This will be the last numbered Quintessential Quote. I decided to cut off the feature at the canonically significant number of 60. I will offer bonus quotes from time to time, but not on any regular basis and they will not be numbered. What's your favorite quote from Sherlock Holmes?