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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

No White Christmas for Holmes and Watson

Snow is heading our way here in the American Midwest. Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? You won’t find one on the Canon. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” that “Christmas story without slush,” has nary a snowflake.

The white stuff helps set the stage for the American backstories of both the first and the last novels of Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear. But it’s just weather and plays no real part. It’s also mentioned in passing in “The Final Problem,” where the Gemmi pass was “still deep in snow” and the torrent of the Reichenbach was “swollen by the melting snow.”   

The most significant canonical appearance of snow is in “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet.” In the second paragraph, we read: “It was a bright, crisp February morning, and the snow of the day before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the wintry sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed into a brown crumbly  band by the traffic, but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it fell.”

Again this is scene setting, but there is much more to the snow in this story than that. Holmes later reads footmarks in that snow as clearly as if they were written words. This he summarizes as, “but when I got into the stable lane a very long and complex story was written in the snow in front of me.”

May your holidays be happy, whatever the weather in your neck of the woods!

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