There is a never ending fascination with Sherlock Holmes deduction skills and this story is a great illustration.
The Adventure of the Norwood Builder was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, illustrated by Sydney Paget and published by The Strand in 1903. An interesting bit of trivia is that Conan Doyle lived in Norwood.
The story is the second tale from the “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” which is the series of stories Watson wrote after Sherlock Holmes returns from the “dead”.
Sherlock Holmes Story Review – The Adventure of The Norwood Builder
Sherlock Holmes: Fire Fire Fire!
“Fire!” we all yelled.
“Thank you. I will trouble you once again.”
“Just once more, gentlemen, and all together.”
“Fire!” The shout must have rung over Norwood.
With those words came the conclusion of a very interesting case for Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
The Adventure of The Norwood Builder begins with Holmes lamenting about the city of London becoming most uninteresting since the demise of Professor Moriarty; there being no stimulation for his mind.
Very quickly Holmes makes observations and relates to Watson and Mr. MacFarlane that “You mentioned your name, as if I should recognize it, but I assure you that, beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an asthmatic, I know nothing whatever about you”.
If one was a teacher of observation and deduction skills, The Adventure of The Norwood Builder is filled with many examples of Sherlock Holmes’ qualities that made him a great detective. There are many characters in the story that put Holmes mettle to the test, people such as Lestrade, Jonas Oldacre, and a surly housekeeper named Mrs. Lexington. Each one of these has a part to play in displaying Sherlock Holmes remarkable skill set.
Detective Lestrade feels that Homes’ methods are quite unorthodox, yet it is Holmes attention to detail that brings results. In the story Lestrade and Holmes take different paths in seeking out the truth. As an example Sherlock Holmes sets off to Blackheath to find information about Mr. MacFarlane’s family whereas Lestrade prefers to go to Mr. Oldacre’s home. Holmes returns to Watson frustrated, yet he knows the information he gathered is valuable and will have a bearing on the outcome of the case.
Later, Mr. Lestrade gloats to Holmes that he has proof of a thumbprint from the hallway that belongs to John MacFarlane implicating him as the murderer. Sherlock is skeptical as he has already made a thorough investigation of the hallway and home. Holmes deduces that the thumbprint in the hallway had been placed there by Mrs. Lexington to help deceive Lestrade.
Jonas Oldacre was a builder and this makes Sherlock curious as to the layout of the house. Holmes spends time investigating the entire house and noting any discrepancies. The time that Sherlock spent has a great bearing on the conclusion to the “murder” of Jonas Oldacre.
Knowing that the house is not what it seems to be, Holmes gathers Watson, Lestrade and constables in a hallway where they start a straw fire filled with smoke. “Fire” they all yell and suddenly a small door opens, Jonas Oldacre emerges and is immediately captured.
The following from A Scandal in Bohemia sums up this story
It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.