First published in 1904, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton is the seventh story collected in The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
What’s It About?
Charles Augustus Milverton is a master blackmailer, holding secrets over many of the great and good of society. Holmes is employed to free one of his victims from his demands, but his first meeting with Milverton doesn’t go particularly well…
Is It A Mystery?
Absolutely not. No question at all about whodunit, what they did, anything at all, really.
Is It Any Good?
Yes – a really enjoyable read. It’s fascinating to see Holmes basically at a loss as to what to do and having to resort to an amazingly unsubtle plan – which doesn’t really work. It’s a shame that Milverton is dealt with by a deus ex machina as there’s enough potential here for a longer story.
I can see why Steven Moffat has taken Milverton as the inspiration for the villain for the finale of Sherlock’s third series. Holmes as basically no way of touching him – at least with Moriarty, he could fight him. Holmes seems completely outclassed here.
Oh, and Milverton was based on a real blackmailer, Charles Augustus Howell, so I guess this was Doyle having a go at his memory (he’d been killed presumably by one of his victims). It’s be curious to know how many of Doyle’s readers would have known about him, given that he died twelve years previously.