“There was a legend in our village in India, a tale of a monster designed to keep children careful in the forests, and used for all manner of things from making them adhere to a bedtime schedule to returning home at an expected time to finishing a plate of food…The description varied from family to family; sometimes it was a lizard with an angry spotted collar, sometimes a striped spider. Most often, however, it took the form of a snake. Always, it had long curved fangs and terrible breath. Sometimes it bit an arm, sometimes a leg, sometimes it would carry off whole children in its haste to wrench them from their families…
“The name of this creature, of course, was the Speckled Band.”
You know the story. The whistle in the night. The crumbling mansion. The gypsy camp. The cheetah and the baboon kept wild on the grounds. The bell-pulls that lead to nowhere, and the “swamp adder” that scurries down them to attack young women. Dr. Watson described it all in the measured tone of the medical man.
But there was a story Dr. Watson did not know. A story of privation, hidden fortunes, illegitimate children, the origin of the cheetah and the baboon, and dear, lost India. This is the story of Helen Stoner.
For the third installment of The Science of Deduction, Hannah Lackoff presents a feminist gothic in the tradition of Wide Sargasso Sea. Using Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own descriptions and dialogue, Lackoff writes the story behind one of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous cases, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.”
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