The Bruce-Partington Plans is…

My Favourite Story From ‘His Last Bow’

It is fortunate for this community that I am not a criminal.

The Bruce-Partington Plans is one of my most favourite Sherlock Holmes stories ever.

The reason: Thatone hair-raising deduction Holmes makes that turns the case on its head.

You know those moments when you’re reading a book and you suddenly get a jerk and think: “Now this is something. Oh my God. Wow.”

That happened to me when I first read the story. That’s why it’s right up there on my list.

It’s also got some witty/funny/sensible Sherlock Holmes quotes – for instance:

Quotes from The Bruce-Partington Plans

So well, here are my final ratings for this story…

Average Rating: 9/10

As you can see – it’s good at many levels. Drama – check. Nice mystery – check. And deductions – check again.

What’s the Mystery/Problem Here?

Cadogan West is a man who’s really making news in London: he’s been found dead with some really important papers in his pocket!

These papers are seven out of the ten papers related to the Bruce-Partington Submarine – the papers are crucial for Britain’s security…

Where are the other three papers? They’re lost!

Now look at some interesting facts here:

There’s no blood near Cadogan West’s dead body. Why?

Cadogan West’s body is lying near a railway track – but no one saw him jump out of the train. Why?

This Cadogan West dude suddenly left his girlfriend while they were walking and ran – on the night he died. Why?

Again – where the heck are those 3 super-important papers which are not in Cadogan West’s pocket?

How did Cadogan West get the keys to the safe which had the plans – when only one person had access to those keys?

Too many unanswered questions. Plus – Britain’s national interest is at stake. Of course, Holmes is the saviour. 😉

I love, love and well – really like one particular deduction that Holmes makes in the story. That deduction about some “points“…

Holmes examining the railway track in the story

Spoiler Alert: Not read the story yet? Skip this section and move on to ‘Cool Trivia’!

Magical Moments From
The Bruce-Partington Plans

1 The Moment When Sherlock Holmes Deduces That the Body Fell From the Roof

Now when you find a man dead near a railway track, it is easy to assume that this guy jumped out of the train. Or maybe, he was pushed out of the train?

But then, Sherlock Holmes spots three interesting things:

– The man doesn’t have a train ticket in his pocket.

– There are no blood stains near the man – at all.

– The man – Cadogan West is lying very near a railway point – a point where many railway lines intersect.

Now here’s what Holmes figures out: this man didn’t jump out of the train. His body fell from the roof of the train!

After all – that is the only explanation that can cover all the facts!

When the train crossed the railway “point”, it gave a jerk, and the man’s body fell down from the roof. The man doesn’t have a ticket because he never sat inside the train. There is no blood, because he did not die there – his body fell there from the roof.

love this deduction.

Like many of Holmes’ deductions it seems simple enough in the end – but requires quite some “out of the box” thinking.

Definitely a magical moment!

2 The Moment When Sherlock Holmes Deduces How the Body Was Placed on the Roof!

Holmes and Watson are sitting in a restaurant, when Holmes confides in Watson:

“I had a vague memory that as I have travelled by it (the underground), I have occasionally seen windows just above my head. Now, suppose that a train halted under such a window, would there be any difficulty in laying a body upon the roof?”

“It seems most improbable.”

“We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Now that’s intriguing: How was the dead body placed on the train’s roof?

Holmes deduces that the body must have been “carefully placed” on it because the roof is curved – and the body would fall if not placed well.

 How could the body be carefully placed? That is only possible if there’s a railway-side house with a window – from where the body could be placed on a train.

And when Holmes finds out that a leading international agent who’s just left the country, lives in exactly such a house with a window right next to the railway tracks – the mystery’s solved!

Here’s an interesting graphic that shows Holmes’ train of thought. I love the clarity here!

List of Holmes' deductions in the story

3 The Moment When Holmes Lays a Trap For the Culprit

When Sherlock Holmes and Watson arrive at the murderer’shouse, they don’t know what to do next. After all, there’s no one in the house!

That’s when Holmes observes some advertisements in the newspaper through which the spy-murderer and his friend in London spoke to each other. (People often did that in those days).

Quick-witted as usual, Holmes adds his own advertisement in the newspaper saying:

 “To-night. Same hour. Same place. Two taps. Most vitally important. Your own safety at stake.

That calls the “friend in London” home!

I think that is intelligent on Holmes’ part. A ‘happening’ moment in the story.

4 The Moment When Holmes Calls Himself an Ass!

Sherlock Holmes reacts when he finds out who the villain is!

Now generally, Sherlock Holmes rocks.

I mean he’s the guy who knows what will happen an hour before it actually happens. You know, he ‘know it all’ guy.

So obviously, it’s fun when he calls himself an ass. 😉

Which he does when he sees that the ‘man in London’ coordinating with the murderer-spy Obserstein is…

…a person he’d met a few days ago.

It’s funny to watch Holmes have his, “Oh fish! THIS is the guy? I’m an ass.” moment.

The Bruce-Partington Plans: Cool Trivia!

1 The Bruce-Partington Plans is 2nd on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Second “Favourite Stories List”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made two lists of his favourite Sherlock Holmes stories.

Now, the Bruce-Partington Plans was not a part of the first list but…it was number 2 in the second list. Which is quite cool considering there are a total of 56 stories!

Here’s the second list of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s favourite Holmes stories.

Conan Doyle - list of 7 favourite stories

2 Does Aldgate Station Exist in Reality?

Aldgate Station is the place near which the dead body is found in The Bruce-Partington Plans.

Does it exist today?

It absolutely does!

Here’s a map that shows Aldgate Station and other interesting places mentioned in the story!

List of important places in The Bruce-Partington Plans

3  What About the Woolwich Arsenal – What’s That Place in Reality?

The Woolwich Arsenal is very important in The Bruce-Partington Plans. Why?

Because that’s the place from which the Bruce-Partington plans are stolen!

So what is this place in reality?

The Woolwich Arsenal or Royal Arsenal was this place that manufactured different types of arms and also conducted research related to guns. It used to be one of the most famous war-material manufacturing units and research centres in the world.

Today, however, the arsenal’s closed. It’s been converted into a museum and replaced by residential and commercial buildings.

By the way, here’s an interesting fact about this ex-arsenal: It was the workers of this arsenal who formed the football club Arsenal FC in 1886!

Another tit-bit: the Royal Arsenal employed around 13000 people in 1910 and around 80000 people during World War I. Ahem. That’s huge.

4  What was the “Agony Column” in Newspapers?

The agony column is mentioned in many, many Sherlock Holmes stories. It plays an important part in The Bruce-Partington Plans as well.

Now, when I read about these columns – I was like: what exactly is an agony column? I mean, I haven’t seen any in today’s newspapers.

Agony columns were apparently a bit like today’s classified ads. However, they included many other interesting things too. For instance, they contained:

* Secret messages between criminals and lovers! –

“abdfejegeujbgrbgg” or “I love you more than I know!”

* Public announcements – “This dude’s giving a lecture, please attend…”

* Money requests – “Will anyone lend me 50 pounds?”

* Apologies – “Sorry for not replying to your letter then. You know who I am!”

* Matrimonial ads – “This nobleman wants a bride. Anyone game?”

* Ads to find lost people – “You’ve been absent for 3 days. Please come back.”

This was basically a column where you could communicate with anyone in London, and relay any message.

Of course, this column must have been quite interesting for someone like Holmes. Even I’d have found it to be interesting!

Take a peek at some real agony column entries in The Times. Quite intriguing. 🙂

The Times: Agony Columns

Thanks to Alice Clay for these excerpts!

5 Was Britain Really Developing a Submarine in Those Days?

The Bruce-Partington Plans are documents related to building…a submarine – the Bruce-Partington submarine, to be precise.

Were submarines really popular in 1912, when The Bruce-Partington Plans was first published?

Well, actually submarines were hardly more than experimentalmachines before 1900. I mean, they were cool but not really effective in war.

However, just around the time when The Bruce-Partington Plans were published, submarines were entering a new phase across the world: they were actually becoming serious vehicles in war. One important innovation was – diesel-electric engines in submarines.

At that exact time, Britain  was laying out the plans for its advanced E series of submarines.

Submarine HMS E-1

So, the “Bruce-Partington” Plans may actually be the “E-1” plans.

The E-1 submarine was finally released on November 9, 1912. The “E-series” of submarines was very, very important for Britain in World War I.

How different was the coveted E-1 submarine from today’s submarines? Here’s an interesting table that compares “E-1”, launched in 1912 to USS North Dakota, first launched in 2013.

Quite a few differences there…

Want to read The Burce-Partington Plans again? Or, you mean to say you still haven’t read the story yet? Give it a read here:

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