Sherlockian Shorts – The Adventure Of The Three Students

First published 1904, The Adventure of the Three Student is the ninth story in the third collection of short stories, The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

What’s It About?

When visiting an unnamed (but clearly Oxford or Cambridge) university town, Holmes is approached by Hilton Soames, who is concerned that a student, one of three as you might guess, has broken into his room and copied an examination paper before a lucrative scholarship exam.

Is It A Mystery?

Surprisingly, yes, and it’s even got clues. Admittedly one piece of info explaining someone’s behaviour comes far too late to be fair, but this is one of the closest I’ve seen from Doyle to the traditional clued mystery.

Is It Any Good?

Given that I’d never heard of this one before, it was a genuine surprise. Admittedly, the scene when Holmes asks Watson and Soames who they think did it does rather signpost the thief – let’s face it, only Holmes is going to spot the real villain. There’s a rather nice ending to the tale too.

Anything Else?

This Holmes tale is one chosen to represent the Great Detective in Odhams weighty 1948 tome “Fifty Famous Detectives Of Fiction”, which makes a pleasant change from The Speckled Band or Silver Blaze. Most likely due to the fact that it resembles the traditional detective story. More on that book very soon on the blog, by the way…


  1. I know I must have read this one but I have no memory of it. Time to dust off my copy of The Return of Sherlock Holmes as it sounds interesting.


  2. Ronald Knox in his article “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes” makes the following criticism:
    “Is it likely that a University scholarship paper – nay, an Oxford scholarship paper, for the Quadrangle is mentioned in connexion with it – should be printed only one day before the examination? That it should consist of only half a chapter of Thucydides? That this half-chapter should take the examiner an hour and a half to correct for the press? That the proofs of the half-chapter should be in three consecutives slips? Moreover, if a pencil was marked with the name JOHANN FABER, how could the two letters NN, and these two only, be left on the stump? ”
    However, Knox is wrong regarding the pencil.. The initials were not on the stump but instead on a small chip evidently cut off the pencil when sharpened.


    • Um… It was a regular thing once upon a time. Then I stopped for no good reason. The idea was to do the Holmes canon in this way but thinking it might extend to short stories in general now


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