The Redheaded League by Arthur Conan Doyle

While every girl longs to have luxuriant black mane, who would have thought that an old Pawnbroker would be entitled to a free pension of £200 a year courtesy his red hair!

Apparently, Arthur Conan Doyle certainly did as he wrote an amusing story about Redheaded League more than a century ago, bringing us to the second short story of collection Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

sherlock-holmes As usual, the story begins on an interesting observational note. Dr. Watson pays a visit to Holmes on an autumn morning and finds him in deep conversation with a stout, florid faced portly old man with bright red hair. By now, Dr. Watson seems to have settled into the role of the chronicler perfectly and he himself tries to observe and understand the peculiar client and his extraordinary case.

The client named Jabez Wilson is in a strange situation. Till two months ago, he was a peaceful businessman. But, then an advertisement changed his life.

The ad invited red haired people to join Redheaded League and get paid a handsome amount of 8 pounds per week. Wilson did joined up and received his dues for eight weeks but then all of a sudden the Redheaded League is dissolved, drying up the good fortune of old man.

While Wilson laments the loss of easy money and wants to find out the prankster who played such a poor tasted though expensive joke on him, Holmes is interested in finding out the real motive behind the fake ad and League. And, thus continued the strange story worthy of Sherlock’s full attention.

The story reminded me of a similar ad trick played by Tuppence in Agatha Christie’s Secret Adversary. Perhaps Holmes has inspired many great writers and Agatha is no exception.

In Redheaded League, Dr. Watson is in his true elements. He himself makes keen observations and is slowly growing as a formidable shadow of Holmes. Though no one can beat Sherlock’s astute logic and science of deduction. And, here again he notices facts and forms correct theories before anyone else can even think in the right direction.

By now, I have become a fan of Sherlock’s sharp tongue and his quick mind. Loved the way he quotes from famous German and Latin literature. If only Arthur had included the meaning of these great quotes side by side a la Ken Follett, I would have loved the story even more.

Another interesting fact is that proper dates are mentioned in this story as was done in A Scandal in Bohemia, highlighting the chronicler genre and giving a specific time period for reference.

Though, I did notice a slight incongruity in the dates. According to Wilson, the ad appeared on 27-04-1890 and he was immediately enlisted and paid for eight continuous weeks before the league was finally dissolved. But, Wilson specifically shows a board proclaiming that the League is dissolved on 09-10-1890. I just could not understand why there was a sudden gap of four months?

May be it is a typo. But, I had noticed some silly mistakes in Sign of Four as well and I find it really hard to digest that the man of Arthur’s caliber who created one of the sharpest genius could make such errors. And, considering his sharp intellect, I suspect if ACD played some trick with us poor readers by leaving glaring errors for us to pick through. If you have noticed any such thing in the works of great writer, please pour in the Comments, I am all ears.

To sum up, Redheaded League was entertaining to the core and the first Sherlock mystery that did not involve a murder. Just pure good fun.

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