Sherlockian Shorts – The Musgrave Ritual

First published 1893 in The Strand magazine, The Musgrave Ritual (or The Adventure Of The Musgrave Ritual) is the sixth story in the second collection, The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes.

What’s It About?

Holmes recounts to Watson an adventure from early in his career, as a university acquaintance enlists his help in deciphering both an old family riddle and the behaviour of the family butler.

Is It A Mystery?

Not really. The riddle can’t be really be solved by the reader and while there is a disappearance, there’s not much of a surprise there.

Is It Any Good?

According to Doyle, it was the 11th best Holmes story – another poll ranked it higher still, as 6th. Me, I thought it was a bit pants, the epitome of Holmes as a know-it-all show-off, deducing things that the reader has no chance of knowing. It’s no The “Gloria Scott” but not great.

Anything Else?

The one spark of interest for me was the setting, namely just as Holmes is starting out as a detective. Is it blasphemy to suggest that Jonathan Barnes did a better job in the opening part of The Ordeals Of Sherlock Holmes? Probably, but he did.

It’s actually a companion piece of sorts to The “Gloria Scott” which immediately preceded in publication, I think – both detail early Holmes adventures. I think that if I was an avid follower of the series in the 1890s, I might have stopped with two duffers in a row.

NB For the full index of my Sherlockian Shorts, please follow this link.


  1. Though the story The Musgrave Ritual is average in my opinion, it has been adapted in a very dramatic and interesting manner by Russian TV in their Sherlock Holmes series (2013) with several variations.
    The series consists of 8 episodes of which The Musgrave Ritual is the 5th episode There are interesting variations in the series itself like Sherlock Holmes being 15 years younger than Dr. Watson and their partnership being on equal terms complementing each other.
    All the 8 episodes with English subtitles are available on You Tube.


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