First published August 1891 in The Strand magazine, The Adventure of the Red-Headed League was the second Holmes short story to appear and is the second story in the first collection, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.
What’s It About?
Holmes and Watson hear the tale told to them by the red haired pawnbroker, Jabez Wilson, concerning the Red-Headed League – who have employed him for four hours a day to copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannia in their office. While at first they find the story amusing, Holmes soon realises there is a darker motive at play.
Yes, for once, it’s a proper, clued mystery. It does necessitate Wilson being an idiot (a fact pointed out by Holmes) but there’s everything here for the reader to work out what’s going on (although it’s not a whodunit).
Is It Any Good?
Yes, definitely. It’s Doyle’s second favourite Holmes tale, and, from my randomised trawl through the tales, it’s my favourite so far.
I think it’s one of the better known Sherlock Holmes tales – it’s even referenced in the classic “Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes” (no, me neither). Interestingly the Jeremy Brett tale levers Moriarty into the tale, making this one of the crimes that he consulted on – there’s obviously no mention of it here, as Doyle hadn’t dreamt up the Napoleon of Crime yet.
NB For the full index of my Sherlockian Shorts, please follow this link.