Study in Scarlet Podcast: Introducing Sherlock Holmes and Watson
Welcome to the second Study in Scarlet podcast episode introducing Sherlock Holmes in the very first novel.
The “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick, Watson — two of the most famous characters in English literature — make their first appearance in A Study in Scarlet, which forever changed the way mystery novels were written.
Discuss: Check out the conversation starters below and our blog.
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What We're Talking About in our Study in Scarlet podcast --
Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea, Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison,
Carolyn Daughters 0:36
and I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a tea, or a gin and tonic,
Sarah Harrison 0:42
… but not a toxin …
Carolyn Daughters 0:44
and join us on the journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer.
Sarah Harrison 0:55
Carolyn, what have we been reading?
Carolyn Daughters 1:00
Well, Sarah, we’ve been reading A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Sarah Harrison 1:06
This is part two, is it not?
Carolyn Daughters 1:08
It is part two. We also have a podcast episode on part one, which is amazing.
Sarah Harrison 1:16
It’s the best thing you’ve ever heard.
Carolyn Daughters 1:18
Until now. Until part two of A Study in Scarlet.
Sarah Harrison 1:23
It’s nice that Conan Doyle actually split A Study in Scarlet up into two parts. It’s very convenient for us.
Carolyn Daughters 1:32
I felt it was very helpful and very convenient. This is the first Sherlock Holmes story, which is why we’re incorporating it into the list of books that we’re reading that we’re talking about as part of our book club and podcast. We get the consulting detective for the very first time. We meet Holmes, we meet Watson. They’re arguably two of the most famous characters in all of English literature. And they’ve transformed the way mysteries are written even today.
Sarah Harrison 2:04
This isn’t one more I have to ask, like, why is this important? They’re still making Holmes movies and TV shows. These characters have real staying power.
Carolyn Daughters 2:19
Yeah, they do. A Study in Scarlet is the story essentially of how this guy Sherlock Holmes solves the murders of Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson. We’ll get into our summary of part two and all the questions that are like captivating the two of us and we think will be interesting to you as well. Before that, we have a sponsor.
Sarah Harrison 2:51
We do. Today’s sponsor is Carolyn Daughters, who runs a brand building and communications consultancy. She leads brand therapy sessions, teaches marketing courses for startups and small businesses, and leads daylong persuasive writing workshops. Carolyn and her small team empower startups, small businesses, enterprises, and government agencies to win hearts minds, deals, and dollars. You can learn more at CarolynDaughters.com.
Carolyn Daughters 3:24
That sounds like a good idea to just check that out.
Sarah Harrison 3:27
Go there as soon as this is over. Or pause it.
Sarah Harrison 3:40
Go to the website, leave us some comments, nd you might be listener of the month.
Carolyn Daughters 3:46
We actually have one for this episode. And that listener is Angelin Donohue, from Gaithersburg, Maryland. And we want to thank Angelin for being a member of the Tea, Tonic and Toxin book club. We really appreciate Angelin, and we appreciate all of you who are reading these great books and listening to our podcasts. So, Sarah, if somebody wants to get a sticker as they should because they’re pretty cool.
Sarah Harrison 4:11
Yeah, Angelin’s gonna get a sticker.
Carolyn Daughters 4:13
Jhat do people have to do?
Sarah Harrison 4:16
Just about anything to let us know. You might be listener of the month. Leave a comment, ask a question, answer a question, end an email, like fifty things, whatever.
Sarah Harrison 4:53
Which you should because you want to get the next book for next month so you can read it ahead of time and this won’t just be a spoiler podcast.
Carolyn Daughters 5:01
It’s still fun as a spoiler podcast because you get to hear us talk about a range of things.
Sarah Harrison 5:08
All the things we think about.
Carolyn Daughters 5:10
You get to be in the brains of Sarah and Carolyn, and what more could anybody possibly want?
Sarah Harrison 5:17
I want nothing more.
Carolyn Daughters 5:18
Yeah. That’s really all I’m going for, too. All right, so part two of A Study in Scarlet. So we do have a part one, please do check out that podcast episode. And this is part two. And we’re going to start with a summary of what’s going in this case you haven’t read and you want to know.
Sarah Harrison 5:36
Yeah, part two is really different.
Carolyn Daughters 5:39
A Study in Scarlet is mostly told by an unnamed third-person narrator The story flashes back 34 years to 1847. A man named John Ferrier and a girl named Lucy are on the brink of death in a desert in the western US. A group of Mormons find them on their way to a new promised land. The leader, Brigham Young, offers to help them if they convert to Mormonism. They agree and they become part of a new community in Salt Lake City. Ferrier adopts adopts Lucy, who grows up to be a beautiful young woman and falls in love with a non-Mormon named Jefferson Hope. That name should be familiar to you.
Sarah Harrison 6:17
Yeah, always together, Jefferson Hope. Never Jefferson or merely Hope.
Carolyn Daughters 6:23
Lucy and Jefferson Hope plan to marry after Jefferson Hope returns from a job in Nevada. While he’s gone, Brigham Young tells Ferrier that Lucy has 30 days to marry either Enoch Drebber or Joseph Stangerson, sons of the Mormon elders. Drebber and Stangerson visit and debate who has a better claim to Lucy. Ferrier throws them out, and the men threaten revenge. The next day, Ferrier finds a note pinned to his blanket warning that he has 29 days left. Every day a new number shows up around the house to count down the 30 days. With only two days left, Jefferson Hope arrives and helps them escape. He goes off to hunt for food one day and when he returns, he finds an empty camp and a newly dug grave. Turns out Stangerson has murdered Ferrier, and Lucy was forced to marry Drebber. Jefferson Hope devotes his life to revenge. One day he learns the men have broken from the church and moved away. Jefferson Hope travels throughout the United States and Europe and finally finds the two men in London. At this point, we return to Watson’s narrative which carried part one of A Study in Scarlet. Jefferson Hope admits that he became a hansom cab driver in London, where he caught Drebber alone one day and forced him to take one of two pills, one harmless one poisonous Jefferson Hope took the other pill himself, leaving it to God to decide who would die. After Drebber dies, Jefferson Hope writes RACHE on the wall to mislead the police. When he realized Lucy’s ring was missing, he returned to the scene pretending to be drunk to avoid suspicion. He sees Sherlock Holmes’s ad in the newspaper and he has a friend disguise himself to get the ring back. He then enter Stangerson’s hotel room and tells him to choose a pill. Stangerson attacks him rather than choosing a pill and Jefferson Hope stabs him in self defense. Days later, Jefferson Hope dies of an aneurysm. Sherlock Holmes tells Watson how he solved the case. He tells him all the details and he also points to an article that credits detectives Lestrade and Gregson of Scotland Yard for solving the crime. Watson decides to publish his account of the case to set the record straight.
Sarah Harrison 8:51
Okay, we talked a little bit about Jefferson Hope’s name in the last episode, but I’m reading a lot of the stuff that you wrote here, where it just says Hope, and it makes the sentences so interesting. Hope stabbed him in self-defense. Hope dies of an aneurysm. Hope travels throughout the US and Europe. Hope goes after hunt for food. When we were talking about Bleak House and Dickens, the names were so meaningful, but it seems like we’ve almost evolved out of that with most of these books. But Jefferson, it’s hard to have the name Hope and not feel like that’s not on purpose.
Carolyn Daughters 9:44
I would think it’s on purpose.
Sarah Harrison 9:48
So do you feel like Conan Doyle’s really sympathizing with the character of Jefferson Hope in A Study in Scarlet even though he’s the murderer.
Carolyn Daughters 9:57
I feel like we are meant to whether Conan Doyle does or not. I feel like I did sympathize with him.
Sarah Harrison 10:09
I definitely did. I thought he was a great character. The fact that his name is Hope, but it’s like hope is revenge, which is a totally different name. His hope is revenge for like 20, 30 years. He’s hanging on, hoping to kill these guys.
Carolyn Daughters 10:31
He is the only hope of Ferrier and Lucy as the 30 days are counting down. Ferrier sends this letter out with these guys who are headed to Nevada. And with just two days left, Jefferson Hope arrives on the scene. He’s like, okay, we gotta get out of here in the thick of night and there’s sentinels around the house, so we’re gonna have to do this cautiously.
Sarah Harrison 11:00
I was actually a little surprised by that part since Ferrier was so tough. He was the only person in their whole wagon train to survive. And he carried Lucy in a sack on his back and just got to the point where they were ready to die and kneel down to pray. But then when it came, and he was in this rich Mormon settlement, he was really depending on Hope. I just thought he would bust his way out of there and shoot everybody. But I guess he became old.
Carolyn Daughters 11:34
I felt that was really odd too, and the days are passing away, and he’s not coming up with a plan,
Sarah Harrison 11:39
He’s not coming up with any plan other than wait for Hope.
Carolyn Daughters 11:45
Hope springs eternal. We can do this all day, folks.
Sarah Harrison 11:54
Like, when you’re getting down to the last day, I wouldn’t have let it get that far. I’d be like, we’re gonna dig a tunnel or something.
Carolyn Daughters 12:00
But also, I don’t know that I would have come up with that tunnel idea on the last day, I think I would have come up with it and then mapped it out and figured it out. And also Lucy doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of agency, because she’s just sitting around saying, Oh, God, I hope one of these two guys figures it out.
Sarah Harrison 12:18
It was really interesting, too, because Conan Doyle went to a lot of lengths in A Study in Scarlet to describe how independent she was, and a great writer, and did stuff on our own. But then, maybe it was hopeless. But the minute like this threat came down upon them, they’re like, well, Jefferson’s got to figure this out for us. You live there. He doesn’t live there. Why don’t you know how to escape from your own property?
Carolyn Daughters 12:45
I almost think Ferrier felt like he needed help. After all those years in this Mormon settlement, there seemed to be not even one friend he had, which shows the disconnect between himself and the community.
Sarah Harrison 13:03
The way they paint the community in A Study in Scarlet, too, you might say that almost any person in the community might have felt that way. It reminded me of Russia in the 80s. I was in Russia in the early 90s, and still to this day everybody has double-steel doors on all their apartments, and they whisper Putin’s name. It was an area characterized by not knowing who your friends were. Not knowing if you’re gonna get ratted out.
Carolyn Daughters 13:46
The Mormon community, as described in A Study in Scarlet in Salt Lake City, is like that.
Sarah Harrison 13:53
Yes. That’s how they structured it here.
Carolyn Daughters 13:56
Where even a small indiscretion, or whatever the church might consider an indiscretion, can be punished violently. Or you can be disappeared, or however it would be described where kind of like in Russia.
Sarah Harrison 14:19
It was a super surprising departure. Here I am reading about Sherlock Holmes in London, and then A Study in Scarlet starts describing this area in America. It’s naming the rivers and the mountain ranges, and I’m like, wait a minute. That’s where I live.
Carolyn Daughters 14:39
Because we’re in Denver. And so the second part starts straight in with this story and this description of this hellscape, which just so happens to be where we live.
Sarah Harrison 14:56
Yeah, so Colorado, Sierra Nevada to Nebraska. From Yellowstone River in the north to the Colorado in the South. That includes Colorado. Some of what’s usually considered the most beautiful parts of the country. So it really also surprised me, like wait a minute, this is where I live. But the way it described it was arid and repulsive. A land of despair. Nobody goes to this place. I just thought, well, that’s interesting.
Carolyn Daughters 15:31
It’s all about perspective, right? It’s one thing if you’re Lewis and Clark, but if you’re just a regular person, and you’re out in the middle of nowhere, and you’re wondering where your water and your food are going to come from, and you look at this landscape, you might think that this is terrible. Like this is the worst place I’ve ever seen.
Sarah Harrison 15:56
Well, it just made me think about how much of our aesthetic depends on the usability, for lack of a better word, or survivability. I think you might you might compare it to a person. Someone might seem really super attractive to you until they show themselves to be of a violent or dangerous nature, and then maybe they aren’t so much.
Carolyn Daughters 16:28
Or just your exposure to something. If you’ve never seen anything like this endless expanse. You could potentially walk for weeks and not come across a river. I mean, that’s right. So, in A Study in Scarlet Ferrier and Lucy are walking when they’re found by Brigham Young and the 10,000 Mormons, and they’re the last of this entire pioneer group who’ve all starved to death and were too dehydrated and died.
Sarah Harrison 17:05
Yeah, it describes the snowcapped and lofty mountains and dark and gloomy valleys. I think the valleys are really beautiful. Get out to the South Park area. Oh, wow. Gorgeous. But it reminded me too of The Moonstone, where they’re always describing like the beach near the house as this horrible landscape. Like, it’s disgusting, it’s the ugliest beach you’ve ever seen. Who would go there? In reading The Moonstone, I was like, beaches are pretty. And it always makes me think, Am I just less discerning in my taste that I think maybe 100% of beaches are pretty and so are all mountains. All mountains are beautiful. But maybe it’s not. Maybe there’s other things about mountains that make them beautiful.
Carolyn Daughters 18:02
I thought it was interesting, too, because when they formed this new community in Salt Lake City, the descriptions changed. Of course, there are mountains around Salt Lake City. It’s more livable, it’s more friendly, there’s some beauty to it. I think a lot of it has to do with this sense that they’re just dumped in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to go and no one to save them.
Sarah Harrison 18:37
Yeah, it’s a very uninviting wilderness, that’s for sure. When you can’t survive it, it becomes like grotesque.
Carolyn Daughters 18:45
It’s such an interesting way to start this part two of A Study in Scarlet. Part two is called The Country of the Saints. We leave England. We’re now shifted 34 years into the past. We have these new characters we don’t know anything about. And there’s a bunch of ways Conan Doyle could have told this story. The one way, of course, the way he did, where we get a new narrator and the story just abruptly shifts and the reader is wondering, “did they publish the wrong pages here? What’s going on?” Another way would be to work in chronological order where the entire book would have started in 1847 and worked its way forward. We get to the place where these two guys are in London and this guy Jefferson Hope directs them down. There’s this detective named Sherlock Holmes who solves the crime, the murders. Or we could have had Jefferson Hope telling his story after Holmes captures him at the end of part one. Part two of A Study in Scarlet could open with Jefferson Hope saying “let me tell my story.” Sure, we would love to hear your story Jefferson Hope. Instead, Arthur Conan Doyle makes this choice to shift narrators, shift 34 years, and really throw the reader for a loop. Sarah, how did you feel about the decisions made here structurally with the story?
Sarah Harrison 20:21
I felt like it worked, for sure. I became immersed in a totally different story. I was now reading a Western, which are also enjoyable. So I’m reading this Western, and I just got very invested in the characters of Ferrier and Lucy. Had it been done another way, if this was all just Hope telling his story, he couldn’t have gotten that right. He wasn’t there when Ferrier carried Lucy in a sack and she found out her mother was dead. Telling it this way got you invested in the two original murders of Lucy and Ferrier.
Carolyn Daughters 21:07
Lucy dies of a broken heart or grief.
Sarah Harrison 21:09
It was just awful. You just were so happy they lived first of all. They were immediately likable. And then happy they lived and they grew rich. And then, man, if they didn’t get killed again. You’re rooting for Jefferson Hope to travel around the world and kill these guys.
Carolyn Daughters 21:34
Which is super interesting, because almost every point in time I was on Jefferson Hope’s side. Just like I was on Ferrier’s side when he adopts Lucy, who’s not his biological child. She’s just the last living pioneer along with himself of this group that has all died off. And he says I will adopt her and she will be my daughter, Lucy Ferrier. She grows up into this beautiful young woman, and she’s approaching marriage age. And everything just goes to hell in a handbasket.
Sarah Harrison 22:13
It was terrible. I feel like the structure of A Study in Scarlet really worked to get us invested. I don’t know another way that would have been better.
Carolyn Daughters 22:26
I really loved it. A Study in Scarlet is a fast read. In case you’re looking for a fast, rewarding page-turning read, I think this fits the bill. And it is so cool, and it’s done really well. For a brief moment with the Part Two I thought I wasn’t going to be as invested in part two as I was in part one. Part one was all about Sherlock Holmes figuring out this and figuring out that. We lose sight of Sherlock Holmes and Watson for a good chunk of part two, more than half of it. And it still works.
Sarah Harrison 23:02
Yeah, it was really good. It was a really interesting twist.
Carolyn Daughters 23:11
So let’s talk briefly about the elephant in the room. The Mormon faith is a star player in A Study in Scarlet.
Sarah Harrison 23:19
Yeah, totally surprising. Of course, Brigham Young is a historical character, but I tried to Google Stangerson and Drebber. I wondered, were those actual elders, is this real? I didn’t get very far in my Googling, but most of the internet is grumpy about Arthur Conan Doyle’s portrayal of Mormonism.
Carolyn Daughters 23:42
Yes. It’s quite possible, probable even, that this is not a fact-based telling of what the Mormon faith was in the 19th century. Are there glimmers of truth? Possibly, but it’s not for Sarah and me to say,
Sarah Harrison 24:00
No. But you did pull out a really interesting quote. When they’re brought in front of Brigham Young, they don’t even decide they’re gonna save Lucy and Ferrier. They’re like, we’ll bring you to Brigham Young to decide. And he says, “if we take you with us, it can only be as believers in our own creed. We shall have no wolves in our fold better far that your bone should bleach in this wilderness than that you should prove to be that little speck of decay, which in time corrupts the whole fruit.” What made you highlight that quote?
Carolyn Daughters 24:38
To me it’s so interesting. If you just want to decry a religion in in black and white terms, you would just say “You can become Mormon and join us or you can stay here and die.” But he doesn’t say. He actually has a rationale for why he’s not going to bring them unless they commit to being members or unless Ferrier, the adult, commits to being a member of the Mormon faith. It’s this idea that one spoiled fruit will spoil the entire community, essentially. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. If you have a voice of dissent … now we get into authoritarian governments and the voice of dissent is the most dangerous thing in the world, because one voice of dissent is heard by two people. And those people spread the voice of dissent. And suddenly, the dissent grows. So there is danger in having a nonbeliever as part of the community for sure. And yet, it just doesn’t seem like a very Christian thing to do.
Sarah Harrison 25:54
Right. Well there’s often in the scriptures these dichotomies that pull against each other. And I think he correctly interprets one. There’s the principle of a little leaven leavens the whole lump, just a little thing spreads very far. But then there’s also the Christian principle that you should be in the world and not of the world, which goes completely against a separatist society. So you have these dichotomies that pull against each other. Both of them are true in their way, but one alone is not true. You almost need the other side pulling against it to find the balance. I think that’s the part that feels off, even to just take religion out of it, it feels off to humanity to be like, “Hello, fellow humans, I will leave you to die unless you agree with me. I’m sure I’d be happy for you to do that if our roles were reversed.” It strikes the wrong chord.
Carolyn Daughters 27:04
And then when Lucy becomes of marriage age … she’s five when the novel starts and roughly 13 years go by, so say she’s 17-18 years old. And she gets engaged to this guy, Jefferson Hope. He’s called a Gentile, which in A Study in Scarlet I think means non-Mormon. He is a miner, and he heads down to Nevada for a couple months and says, “We’ll get married when I come back up and in two months.” Brigham Young goes to visit Ferrier, and he says, “Your daughter Lucy is basically a prime heifer.”
Sarah Harrison 27:55
And I heard she’s getting married.
Carolyn Daughters 28:01
He basically calls Ferrier out, saying you’re not married. You should have multiple wives. You have no wives. Your daughter is of marriage age. She’s going to marry the son of one of the elders. And she has 30 days to pick between these two guys. Ferrier basically freaks out a little bit. Like, oh, my gosh, what do I do now?
Sarah Harrison 28:28
Yeah. And within reason.
Carolyn Daughters 28:33
Basically, he has no choice. We hear from his perspective from the third-person narrator. I’m American. I don’t have to give my daughter up to one of these two guys.
Sarah Harrison 28:48
It’s positioned as a choice, but they both sucked. They came in and had this terrible conversation about who should get her between themselves. It certainly wasn’t like a wooing of her or anything.
Carolyn Daughters 29:05
Right. And Ferrier’s going to be sad to lose his daughter no matter what. But her choice is Jefferson Hope., and Ferrier is not a fan of polygamy. So maybe he’s not married because he’s mourning a wife that he had. We don’t really learn why. But he’s not interested in getting married again. And he’s certainly not interested in having multiple wives or having his daughter become part of a harem, as he I think he calls it. But Brigham Young thinks he’s being fairly liberal. He says, She’s young, and we would not have her wed gray hairs, neither would we deprive her of choice. She can pick Drebber or Stangerson, either one is great. He says we elders have many heifers, but our children must but also be provided. So in his mind, here’s this choice. And then these two guys show up at the house.
Sarah Harrison 30:08
He even used the word “heifer.”
Carolyn Daughters 30:14
They show up and they start debating which one of them has a greater right to marry Lucy.
Sarah Harrison 30:22
Which is funny in that isn’t later in A Study in Scarlet they both left the Mormon faith. Both Drebber and Stangerson went out and left the faith and traveled the world together.
Carolyn Daughters 30:37
The way Mormonism is depicted in A Study in Scarlet is quite problematic in some ways. It’s like the wild west out there. We live in the land of freedom, if, you know, if we want to say that’s what the United States is and was at the time. And yet there’s this community where the rules or the laws of the land don’t apply, essentially.
Sarah Harrison 31:08
America has that weird history that’s super interesting. Even in the early colonies, you’d get these little colonies. And they’re like, Well, this is where we’re gonna go, because we don’t get along with those groups. And then you get this group there. Nobody just got on. They just wanted their freedom to be their own little groups to themselves and make their own rules. And then as America expanded, you had to go further and further afield.
Carolyn Daughters 31:34
And then finally, the west was won. There was just nowhere else to go. I think so. Right. At one point in time, you could come to this strange continent, this strange place, you could head west and keep going west and keep going west. And there were lands to explore and lots of adventure. And now, the west has been one,o where’s our new frontier. Arguably, outer space.
Sarah Harrison 32:08
When I worked in Alaska, I remember this guy came up to work in Alaska. He was from Montana. He was complaining that Montana was getting too crowded. And so he wanted to go where there were even fewer people.
Carolyn Daughters 32:29
So there would be fewer people in Alaska.
Sarah Harrison 32:35
Alaska is wild. So folks, if you’re looking to start an enclave with your own rules, you may find it in Alaska. Yeah. A lot of this reminded me of Alaska. Actually, the survivability of the land. And this beautiful country that’s completely deadly. It’s still so deadly.
Carolyn Daughters 33:08
These two guys Stangerson and Drebber show up at Ferrier’s house. One guy’s got his feet kicked up on the table, and they’re debating which one of us is the better husband for Lucy. Ferrier won’t have anything to do with it. He throws the two guys out of the house. Well, they decide that they’re going to enact revenge and so they do this countdown, which I think is pretty ominous.
Sarah Harrison 33:46
It is. And they were sneaky. On the very first day there was a note pinned to his blanket, 29 days are given you for amendment and then — And every single day there was a number somewhere counting it down. And they couldn’t figure out how the numbers got in there. It was almost a locked room mystery in itself.
Carolyn Daughters 34:12
Yes, I know. I was like, how are they doing this?
Sarah Harrison 34:15
They never revealed it. Servants slept in another place. Who’s getting in there putting notes in the locker room?
Carolyn Daughters 34:25
Could you imagine waking up with this note pinned to your blanket — 29 days
Sarah Harrison 34:32
Yeah, so he gets his gun ready.
Carolyn Daughters 34:36
Just to backup slightly, the first name that we get that we recognize as readers is Jefferson Hope. Because we know Jefferson Hope was captured by Sherlock Holmes at the end of part one.
Sarah Harrison 34:56
You know, I didn’t notice it.
Carolyn Daughters 34:58
I did because In such a distinctive name. Jefferson Hope.
Sarah Harrison 35:05
You’re right. I guess I forgot about it once I started reading this western. Huh? I’m not a good reader, folks. I apologize. It was right there.
Carolyn Daughters 35:19
The first clue that we’re reading something tied to the first part of A Study in Scarlet, and that we weren’t accidentally given some weird copy of the book, was the reference to Jefferson.
Sarah Harrison 35:33
I’m sure that’s how it’s supposed to work. But I just got so immersed in the second part, I forgot about the details.
Carolyn Daughters 35:39
The two names are Drebber and Stangerson, who we know were the two guys who were murdered.
Sarah Harrison 35:43
I had to go back and look that up. So it was! That’s how immersed I get.
Carolyn Daughters 35:50
Yes. Now, when you’re reading part one, I will say I had no idea any of this story from part two took place. For me, there were no hints,. But when I see those names, I’m thinking, okay, so there’s intention here. Something’s going on. What does is this mean?
Sarah Harrison 36:11
I was just rooting for Ferrier and Lucy to live. But I should have known better if I’d been paying attention to everyone’s names.
Carolyn Daughters 36:18
We would have known better if we knew that Jefferson Hope is trying to hunt these two guys down in London. We know it can’t have gone well. And then there’s foreshadowing where at some point they’re escaping and they’re there several days out. And Jefferson Hope begins to think, they’re out of reach of this terrible organization. These guys can’t catch us anymore. And then the narrator tells us he little knew how far that iron grasp could reach or how soon it was to close upon them and crush them. As a reader, knowing Jefferson Hope committed these murders. I’m like, oh no! And then he leaves the campsite.
Sarah Harrison 37:06
To go hunting. They were out of food.Again, I expected a little more from Ferrier. Or like a watch or why did they start a fire? I always get mad at movies. And I’m like, why are you starting a fire? You’re just alerting everyone to your presence. Be sneakier, please.
Carolyn Daughters 37:25
And it’s always one they’ve been lost for six hours and the temperature’s nice. And they’re starting to fire to make some food. And I’m like, it’s been six hours. Just chill.
Sarah Harrison 37:35
Be on your guard. It was really sad.
Carolyn Daughters 37:40
He comes back and sees the newly dug grave for Ferrier. Lucy’s gone. There’s hoof prints.
Sarah Harrison 37:48
I couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t just kill them. He had a month. I don’t know. How did she get back and get married so fast? It just happened. He came right back. I thought one guy alone should be able to catch up with this group of people and shoot some people.
Carolyn Daughters 38:11
Well, he didn’t have a horse. So he’s on foot. These guys all had horses and took their horses, I think He’s on foot I think he went back rapidly, but it took him several days. Maybe it took these guys a fraction of that time. And they got to Salt Lake City, and they were like, “congratulations, it’s your wedding day.” Here you are, get married.
Sarah Harrison 38:40
Or like capture her out of there. She lived for a month. Couldn’t he kidnap her out of there?
Carolyn Daughters 38:47
But she was already married. I don’t think he was gonna kidnap a married woman.
Sarah Harrison 38:51
That’s crazy. It’s not a legit marriage. Even America wouldn’t have said it was a legit marriage. She was like the seventh wife of Drebber or something.
Carolyn Daughters 39:02
One had four wives. The other had seven wives, something like that.
Sarah Harrison 39:10
He busted in when she was dead and took her wedding ring. Bus in when she’s alive. Get her out of there.
Carolyn Daughters 39:17
I felt that way too. And then he keeps trying to kill them and has all this difficulty which made not a lot of sense. Why is it so hard to kill these two guys? But he can’t. And he’s out in the hills and waits for them to come out on the paths outside of the city. And he will try to drop a boulder on them or something, and he just can’t do it.
Sarah Harrison 39:42
Yeah, the boulder missed, and then they were wise to him and wree never anywhere alone together for the rest of their lives for the next 30 years.
Carolyn Daughters 39:53
Right and Jefferson Hope’s health turns poor and so he goes back to Nevada to work to earn money and to improve his health. Then he comes back and Drebber and Stangerson are gone. They’ve left the Mormon faith, they have left Salt Lake. So now he has to chase them all over the United States and the world.
Sarah Harrison 40:18
All over the world. Which he does.
Carolyn Daughters 40:22
Which is how we get back to Sherlock Holmes.
Sarah Harrison 40:27
It was interesting too, like the way he killed them was to me bizarre. It was like the two pills, one is poison and one isn’t. And they get to decide which pill they’re gonna take. It’s very much like drawing straws or leaving it to divine justice. After all that chasing them around the world to let them potentially stay alive and kill yourself. That was very interesting to me.
Carolyn Daughters 40:54
I think that was part of Jefferson Hope’s justice is to not simply kill someone in cold blood. It was instead to give them what he considered a fair fighting chance.
Sarah Harrison 41:07
He was saying, “I’m not even killing you. I’m just executing divine justice on you by making you take a pill and then God’s going to decide whether you live or die.” Or whether I live or die.
Carolyn Daughters 41:25
There is that choice made by Drebber. Drebber takes a pill and he chooses poorly. And then with Stangerson, Stangerson says he won’t take a pill and he attacks Jefferson Hope. So there’s these two pills right in this pillbox. And one is poison and one is not. And so Sherlock Holmes tested on the poor infirm dog.
Sarah Harrison 41:56
Well, he didn’t initially theorize that one pill wasn’t poison. He was actually surprised for a minute before his genius realized, of course, one is poison and one isn’t. I was glad to see him thrown for a loop.
Carolyn Daughters 42:14
It is. It’s rewarding. When there’s the superhero who has no Achilles heel or no flaw or weakness, to me that’s really boring. They’re infallible. I like to see Sherlock Holmes thrown for a loop a little bit here and there.
Sarah Harrison 42:36
I think that’s why most people prefer Batman to Superman. Although I love Superman. He’s great.
Carolyn Daughters 42:42
I actually don’t prefer one to the other. I’m not a huge fan.
Sarah Harrison 42:48
But that’s usually the reason cited. Superman is perfect. And Batman is a mess.
Carolyn Daughters 42:54
Superman has kryptonite, right? He’s superhuman, whereas Batman is really quite human right.
Sarah Harrison 43:02
Batman needs to go to therapy. But everything is just Sherlock saying. I knew it was exactly how I thought it would be from the beginning.
Carolyn Daughters 43:21
It’s good to see Sherlock Holmes’s intellect challenged every once in a while. They don’t want it to come so easily to him that he’s bored. Boredom is the bane of Sherlock Holmes existence. He says at one point early in A Study in Scarlet that there’s no crime or criminals worth studying, that even the detectives Lestrade and Gregson are commonplace and dull. And yes, they have a lot of energy, but that’s really all they have going for them. That dull absence of challenge is terrible to him. You want to see the light in his eyes. You want to see him staring off into space trying to figure stuff out. I think that’s good. It’s good for Sherlock Holmes. It’s good for the reader. Because we don’t want this perfect guy who just marches in the room and is like “done.”
Sarah Harrison 44:20
I usually ask in the different books, “is this a mystery I could have figured out?” In this case, absolutely not.
Carolyn Daughters 44:30
Although Sherlock Holmes talks about this. He calls it reasoning backward. He says “the grand thing is to be able to reason backward. If you describe a train of events, most people tell you what the result would be. They can put events together in their minds and argue from beginning to end that something will come to pass. But there are a few people who would be able to evolve their thinking backward. So you know what happens and what are the steps that led to that thing happening?” And that’s the analytical ability that Sherlock Holmes possesses. And he says, one in 50 people have this ability, essentially.
Sarah Harrison 45:12
Do you agree with that?
Carolyn Daughters 45:12
He is able to see this murder. And he sees the ring, he sees RACHE written on the wall, he sees the footprints and the evidence that there was a hansom cab that drove up with three old shoes and one new shoe. And so he puts all these things together. And he’s able to say, “Okay, from the stride, this guy must have been this tall, from the blood, he must have had a florid face.”
Sarah Harrison 45:53
It must have been from a bloody nose. It’s not like he got a wound or something.
Carolyn Daughters 46:00
And the widths of the wheels of the vehicle suggest it was a cab and not a private vehicle. He’s able to put together all of these different pieces in a way that most people, at least at the time, would not. The skills that he displays have become way more common in mystery novels and maybe even in in detection generally, since this book was written. At the time, this this was really quite uncommon I think, that somebody could do what he does.
Sarah Harrison 46:41
Yeah. I wonder how realistic it is. Because it’s one of those things that sound great. He’s running around measuring everything. So he’s measuring this guy’s stride around the room. What kind of room are you in? You can totally measure a stride. I’ve been in lots of rooms, and I can’t measure any.
Carolyn Daughters 47:05
But he’s also measuring outside in the garden. He’s taking all of this data that most people wouldn’t take. I mean, the detectives, one of them says it must be Rachel that’s being written on the wall, because they can’t think any further beyond that. And yet Holmes goes two steps further. One, he says, this is a German word for revenge. And beyond that, it’s just something to mislead the police. I don’t think that some guy was so bent on revenge that he took time to take his own blood and write this word like.,
Sarah Harrison 47:44
He should have written Rachel, I guess. So they were misled in a totally different direction.
Carolyn Daughters 47:47
They weren’t even picking up on the secret society.
Sarah Harrison 47:53
He had to tell them that they were going to be misled.
Carolyn Daughters 47:56
Yeah, he needed to leave some Cliff Notes. A little sticky note or something like hey, guys, this is a German word. So he’s several steps ahead of everybody. To me, it’s interesting, because I think the reader probably cannot figure out what Sherlock Holmes figures out. But I don’t know that we’re presented with all of the information. With Edgar Allan Poe and the Dupin stories, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” for example, we’re supposed to be impressed with what the detective accomplishes, and I was suitably impressed.
Sarah Harrison 48:40
Yeah, some of this stuff sounds like you could do it. Although I don’t know if it’s even true. I’d like to see the data on stride and height correlations. Is that really real? Has he analyzed that? And those types of things. Is that plausible. Is it actually plausible. That’s just how my brain works. It did make me want to try to play the game myself, I would say. I definitely like observing a scenario, seeing something happen and then taking my guess at what the situation is that brought that to pass. But I don’t know that I’ve thought about in terms of reasoning forwards or backwards. So I want to unravel that a little bit as we talk about A Study in Scarlet.
Carolyn Daughters 49:38
It does feel like the reasoning forward is far more common and far simpler. And the reasoning backward is quite challenging. And that’s the art of detection. As a population, we’re fascinated by that. First of all, we’re doing a podcast called Tea, Tonic and Toxin, which focuses on this. But true crime podcasts, all the CSI shows, the Law and Orders, and all 500 British mystery series. We’re fascinated by this reasoning backward.
Sarah Harrison 50:17
Yeah, figuring out crime.
Carolyn Daughters 50:22
You know, Holmes says this really interesting thing at one point in A Study in Scarlet. He says “what you do in this world is a matter of no consequence. The question is, what can you make people believe you have done?” That hit me. It really did in particular because in this newspaper at the end of the story, the newspaper basically says, Lestrade and Gregson were amazing. What amazing Scotland Yard detectives!
Sarah Harrison 50:50
Maybe Holmes can learn a thing or two from them.
Carolyn Daughters 50:55
Over time, maybe he can have a degree of their skill. Wow. I think that hit me because as humans we have all experienced where someone else gets the credit for the good things that we’ve done. Like we do something good and then someone else is like, Oh, yay, oh, that person’s amazing. And you’re like I did that.
Sarah Harrison 51:28
I mean the other side, too, is I think we’re always having to come up with ways to show that we’re good at something. Like what is a resume? What is a credential? We’re trying to give people these things to help them evaluate whether we’re good or not good. And how helpful those things are, or not helpful. Do they really tell the truth? Are they an actual reflection of our skill?
Carolyn Daughters 51:53
It struck me a little bit. The idea that it’s what you make people believe you’ve done. Years ago, I worked for a corporation, and I was hiring people and hired this guy to head up my editorial team. And his resume was golden. He was an amazing interviewer and he was the senior-level guy on the team. He didn’t know, it turned out, half the things on his resume. And so it’s really what I thought he knew versus what he knew. And I remember talking to the head of engineering at the time. And he said, Oh, we get tha. Half the engineers here don’t know what they say they knew on their resume. I know Java, C++, all this stuff. I’m gonna get all the lingo wrong, because I’m not cool like that. I don’t know the tech. Then come in, and they’re like, I don’t know what that is. And it seemed really commonplace, but it’s like what you know, versus what people think you know.
Sarah Harrison 53:17
I don’t think Holmes even believes that. Otherwise, why is he doing what he’s doing?
Carolyn Daughters 53:25
For the challenge. For the love of it. Because he could probably become a police officer or police detective if he wanted. Or a private detective. London is filled with police detectives. London is filled with private detectives. He is the only one and only consulting detective.
Sarah Harrison 53:43
He clearly can’t believe that what you do is a matter of no consequence. He’s making totally different choices. It’s certainly true that what people believe you have done impacts you. I don’t think you can take that as your operating premise. And he doesn’t himself.
Carolyn Daughters 54:10
And there’s a sense of of honor and justice with several of the characters where Jefferson Hope gives these two men Drebber and Stangerson a choice. Here take one of these pills, one has poison, one does not. That’s his his sense of honor. And then also at one point, Sherlock Holmes says to Jefferson Hope, “tell me about your accomplice because I haven’t figured that part out.” And again, the reader’s like Yes, finally. Sherlock Holmes hasn’t figured it out. And Jefferson Hope says, “I can tell my own secrets, but I don’t get other people into trouble.” That’s his code of honor. And Watson has a code of honor at the end of A Study in Scarlet. He’s upset that the newspaper has published the Gregson and Lestrade have solved this crime. He says, “your merit should be publicly recognized. You should publish an account of the case. If you won’t, I will.” What did you feel about Watson in that moment? A Study in Scarlet basically concludes in this way.
Sarah Harrison 55:25
I just kind of felt like that’s the launch of Sherlock Holmes. Lke Jefferson Hope’s sense of morality honestly does really resonate with me. Wanting to see justice done, whether or not the law was going to do it. Wanting to allow that divine intervention. Not that is what I think is necessary, but it resonates. I get where he’s coming from. Not wanting to get his friends into trouble. I get where he’s coming from. Watson. I’m like, I don’t feel like that’s a moral imperative that Sherlock Holmes gets the credit.
Carolyn Daughters 56:11
But I think that’s who Watson is. You are my friend. I know things that other people don’t know. I don’t like when other people get credit for things that you have done. I’m going to set the record straight. I felt it was an honorable thing for Watson to do. And to be fair, Watson has some time on his hands. He can do this.
Sarah Harrison 56:35
Yes he does
Carolyn Daughters 56:40
Well, we have wrapped up another podcast episode on this lovely Sherlock Holmes story that I recommend everyone read. A Study in Scarlet.
Sarah Harrison 56:49
Yeah, it’s quite a short story. And next up is a book I started reading like three books ago. I got all mixed up because I did not look at teatonicandtoxin.com when I should have. It has the schedule, folks. It tells you what to read. It tells you what order. Don’t be a Sarah. Look at teatonicandtoxin.com.
Carolyn Daughters 57:13
Exactly. Sarah, what is our next book?
Sarah Harrison 57:17
The Big Bow Mystery. So far, so good. I really enjoyed it when I started it a while back.
Carolyn Daughters 57:23
Tell me something about this book. I have not started this book.
Sarah Harrison 57:27
Oh, that’s cool. Carolyn came up with our list here with all of the reasons why.
Carolyn Daughters 57:32
Apparently randomly since I haven’t read the book.
Sarah Harrison 57:36
It’s set in London’s working-class East end. The Big Bow Mystery is one of the earliest examples of a locked room mystery. And in fact, they do cite Poe in it. In this short 1892 novel, two detectives race to solve a murder. An innocent man is condemned and only at the very end is the startling solution revealed. It’s a fast read. Three to four hours.
Carolyn Daughters 58:06
And a page turner from what I’ve heard.
Sarah Harrison 58:09
Yeah, so far. I would agree with that assessment. I’m looking forward to completing it. I can’t read more than one book at a time. Honestly, it’s terrible.
Carolyn Daughters 58:20
The Big Bow Mystery. Israel Zangwill. A locked room mystery. It’s what we’re going to read next Everyone, please get reading because our list is pretty darn good, I have to say, and I have enjoyed reading everything that we’ve read thus far.
Sarah Harrison 58:37
I have as well. And if you have things you want to add or think our list is incomplete, please by all means comment on teatonicandtoxin.com or on Facebook and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. And if you can think of a cool closing sentence, post it on the Facebook. And maybe we’ll use it and you’ll win a sticker.
Carolyn Daughters 59:10
Yes. If you come up with our closing sentence, which apparently we’re desperate for, you will definitely get a sticker.
Sarah Harrison 59:18
Keep being mysterious. No, not that one. Okay, give us some ideas. Thank you, listeners.
November 19, 2023
Playwright, artistic director, and Renaissance woman Emily Schwartz joins Sarah and Carolyn to dish all things Agatha Christie. On a completely (un)related note, Emily, Sarah, and Carolyn have boarded the Simplon-Orient Express train in search of adventure. Listen in. And stay tuned …Listen →
November 6, 2023
Sarah Harrison and Carolyn Daughters interview Recipes for Murder author Karen Pierce about all things Agatha Christie -- her books, her life, the adaptations of her work. Let’s just say this amazing Christie superfan knows her stuff.Listen →
October 28, 2023
Sarah Harrison and Carolyn Daughters interview detective-fiction devotee, food lover, and Agatha Christie superfan Karen Pierce about her amazing new cookbook, Recipes for Murder. With 66 dishes from Christie's novels, what's not to love?Listen →