The Blue Carbuncle is very different from all the other stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, because there is no client here.
Sherlock Holmes accidentally stumbles upon a hat and a goose - and there - he's suddenly in the middle of a mind-blowing mystery!
As usual, Sherlock Holmes’ deductions are splendid, there’s quite some exciting drama towards the end - and there’s also a mystery that's pretty bamboozling...
...Take a look at my ratings of the story:
It all begins when Sherlock Holmes’ friend Inspector Peterson sees some men attacking a guy who has a hat and a goose.
Now when you’re a police inspector - attacking men run off when you enter the street. So that’s what these men do, they run off!
When Peterson finally comes to the scene of action - all he finds is the goose and the hat. Even the guy being attacked is gone.
The original drawing is by Sidney Paget. I've touched it up a bit.
When you have a friend like Sherlock Holmes, obviously you bring
any new mysterious objects you find to him. So Peterson shows Mr. Deduction (a.k.a Holmes) the hat and keeps the goose.
Now Sherlock Holmes loves researching the smallest of problems and as he’s studying the hat and making some stunning deductions about the owner, Peterson is back again.
He's brought in some news: the goose has a precious blue stone in its crop!
To make matters more interesting - this blue stone is the precious stone - the Blue Carbuncle - that the Countess of Morcar had lost some time ago.
Sidney Paget's illustration of Peterson showing Holmes and Watson The Blue Carbuncle
So that’s how the mystery begins. Here’s a goose that was found on the street - and it hides inside it one of the most precious jewels of England - the Blue Carbuncle?
How on earth did this happen? Who put the gem there and why?
When I read about a gem inside a goose, I was stunned too, and I couldn’t really think of anyway in which this could have happened!
This is what our story is about: Moniseur Holmes - the clever dude - figuring out who put the gem in the goose, who stole the gem and what the deuce happened!
When Holmes looks at that hat found by Peterson, he makes some stunning inferences that leave you saying - “Wait! But how did Holmes deduce that about the man who owned the hat?”
He deduces for instance that…
Wow. All these deductions from a simple hat?
Watson is shocked and so was I when I read all of this.
Of course it's one of the magical moments of the story.
As Sherlock Holmes tries to find out all about the goose that contains the gem, he comes across a shopkeeper - Mr Breckenridge.
This guy refuses to tell Holmes where he bought the goose from.
Now, a normal guy would give up or may be pick up a fight with the shopkeeper for not telling him where the goose came from.
But not Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes lays a bet with the shopkeeper - debating whether the goose he sold was a country goose or a town goose.
This excites the shopkeeper who's like 'Let me prove to this haughty dude that I'm right."
This shopkeeper eagerly sifts through his records to prove to Sherlock Holmes exactly where the goose came from - to win the bet.
My point is: I love the way Holmes takes it easy and thinks of this innovative way to find out information.
He's not like: "This guy is not telling me stuff so I'll force him to tell me."
Nope. He understands human nature so well - that he does not try to force anything. He simply tries out a new way which is pretty simple but completely out of the box.
I like that.
When Sherlock Holmes finally encounters the thief - the dude who caused all the ruckus, he comes up with a clear, 'in your face' line that I love.
It's a bit boastful. Some would call it arrogant. But I find the line to be endearing.
When James Ryder (the thief) asks him who the heck he is and why he'd care about the goose, Sherlock Holmes says,
I think that reply is quite powerful because he is speaking the truth. I love this reply.
This is a fascinating aspect of Holmes’ personality: He’s never too concerned about what is legal and what 'he should be doing'. He’s more interested in doing what he thinks is right.
James Ryder is the guy who’s stolen the Blue Carbuncle.
Sherlock Holmes has this guy in front of him. He’s got all the proofs to send Ryder to jail. But when he sees that Ryder truly repents what he's done and won’t steal ever again - he forgives him.
He lets him go when he sees genuine remorse in the guy.
I've edited the original Sidney Paget illustration a bit there!
Here’s what he says, in fact, as he lets the thief go,
So that’s the compassionate + righteous side of Holmes. Hmm!
PS: What would I have done? Would I have let the thief go?
I don't think I can say conclusively that I would have let the thief go.
It would so depend on my perception of James Ryder and whether I did indeed feel the conviction that he wouldn't go bad again.
What would you have done?
Does the Blue Carbuncle really exist? What about the Countess of Morcar (the person who loses the gemstone)? Let's find out...
While the story is fascinating, what on earth is a blue carbuncle? Is it a diamond? Is it a ruby? What does it look like?
The word ‘carbuncle’ generally refers to any red gemstone that had been polished and shaped but NOT cut. Gems which have been given plane cuts to improve their appearance are not carbuncles.
The most popular (and precious) red gemstones are rubies. Garnets are other popular (but less expensive) gemstones - that the word ‘carbuncle’ generally refers to.
Here’s a picture of a ruby and a red garnet.
Now - our stone in question - what is it?
Interestingly, the Blue Carbuncle is a purely fictional stone. By definition, a carbuncle refers to a red gemstone. But the Blue Carbuncle is blue. Blue gemstones are sapphires - which are never referred to as carbuncles. Also, sapphires as a rule are less expensive than rubies - but our stone in the story is very valuable.
To stump everything, here’s another weird fact: Holmes refers to the Blue Carbuncle as, “crystallized charcoal.” Rubies, sapphires and garnets - don’t have any charcoal in them! Diamonds are crystallized charcoal - so was the blue carbuncle a diamond (but diamonds are NOT carbuncles!)?
So whoops! Here’s the verdict: There is no such thing as a blue carbuncle in the real world. ;-)
The Countess of Morcar - the woman who loses the mysterious blue stone, is in reality...
(hold your breath)
There is no special place called Morcar, so Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invented it.
‘Countess’ as you may know, was a position of nobility in Victorian England.
The Hotel Cosmopolitan is important in the story because that's where the blue carbuncle gets stolen from.
So well, is there such a hotel in reality?
There are many hotels with the name “Cosmopolitan” in the world but interestingly, there is no Hotel Cosmopolitan in London. This is also an invented name!
There is Hotel Cosmopolitan, Toronto, Canada, Hotel Cosmopolitan, Hong Kong and there’s also one in Bologna, Italy and Fira, Greece.
The Blue Carbuncle was first published in the Strand Magazine in January, 1892.
I still get the jitters when I think of it. I mean this awesome story was published more than 120 years ago?
120. That's a long time ago.
Take a peek at the original version here. Yes, this is what the story looked like to the first Holmes readers.
Want to read The Blue Carbuncle right now (if you haven't read it, that is)?
I'd definitely recommend it.
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