Sherlockian Shorts – The Gloria Scott

First published in 1893, The “Gloria Scott”, or The Gloria Scott, or even The Adventure of the Gloria Scott is the fifth story in the second collection of short stories, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

What’s It About?

Holmes relates to Watson a tale from his youth – which includes the reason he considered becoming a detective – concerning a college friend and the letter that scared his friend’s father to death (although not before writing a long confession).

Is It A Mystery?

Not really. Yes, there’s some question as to the story behind the letter, but it’s hardly the sort of thing that can be worked out, even by Holmes. So, yes, there’s a mystery, but only in a “what happened years ago” way.

Is It Any Good?

A decent enough read, but doesn’t really feel like a Sherlock Holmes story. When the truth comes out from a long letter written by the friend’s father when he was apparently dying (slowly, as it’s a very long letter – even more impressive when apparently he never regained consciousness!), rather from any hint of deduction, it’s rather frustrating. It simply doesn’t feel to me like a detective story.

Anything Else?

As origin stories go, it’s pretty straightforward – “Hey, Mr Holmes, you seem to be good at deducing things, why not be a detective”. But it’s an atypical outing for the great detective, mainly as, apart from some typical out-of-nowhere deductions, he doesn’t really do anything.

An unfortunate choice to return to my Sherlockian Shorts with. Maybe I’ll have a look at some more…


  1. I agree about the Gloria Scott. It is unfortunately uninspired. The secret message is a letdown and the whole contradiction with the confession is too remarkable for words. But that backstory is so brilliantly told that I think it’s worth reading anyhow. This is a story like THE YELLOW FACE, which is unremarkable in its mystery aspect, but well-worth reading for something else.


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