I'm doubling up on chapters for this post because there was no way I could stop reading at the end of chapter 11. Forget it. Not happening. And I don't have a lot to say about chapter 11 anyway, other than "finally!"
Okay, not true, I do want to touch on Watson's visit to Laura Lyons a minute. Isn't his description of her intriguing? That at first he thought her "a very handsome woman" (p. 654), and went into some detail about her beauty. But that after he left her, he decided "there was something subtly wrong with the face" (p. 654). He uses words like "coarse," "loose," and "hard" in his second description, a major contrast to the "exquisite," "dainty," and "rich" he used initially. Again, Watson's a pretty shrewd observer of people, willing to change his first impression when need be.
But enough about Laura Lyons. Because we finally find out who the mysterious man hiding on the moor is, and this is where the whole book kicks into high gear, going from enjoyable to superb.
Sherlock Holmes is back.
Yes indeedy, this is where I grin and bounce up and down as I read. I may or may not also chortle aloud.
Of course, he's not really "back" because he's been here for some time. Which is why Watson's been just quoting his letters and diary for the last couple of chapters, as otherwise his hindsight knowledge that Holmes was there all along would color his narrative. Also, Doyle wouldn't have been able to use the mysterious man on the Tor as a red herring, but who's counting.
Oh, Holmes. How I love you, with your "cold, incisive, ironical voice" and "catlike love of personal cleanliness," your "grey eyes dancing with amusement" (p. 663). This is the moment where I first fell in love with you. You're secretive, you've been living alone on the moor without even your best friend knowing -- I always want to be you here. Or have been hanging out with you, all unknown to the world, behind the scenes making plans and drawing nets in on our adversary.
In fact, this is why I love Laurie R, King's novels about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes: Russell gets to do exactly what I've yearned for decades to do, namely, work with Holmes and accompany him on his adventures.
Okay, anyway, back to the book. I love the exchanges between Watson and Holmes, Holmes complimenting Watson on his reporting, even calling him invaluable :-) And smoothing his ruffled feathers when Watson reproaches him for lying and tricking him. Holmes, of course, is right that Watson would have wanted to be helpful and bring him things and given the whole game away, and Watson sees that. If anyone ever accuses Holmes of being unkind or uncaring or inconsiderate, point them to all the nice things he says to Watson here. (And if they claim he's just saying what's necessary to make Watson be quiet, hit them in the head with your copy of this book. Repeatedly, if necessary.)
So now we know that Stapleton is behind all the murder and mayhem and danger and so on. And then we have the horrible, chilling death of Selden, the convict. Even though I knew it wasn't Sir Henry, I still got all goose-bumpy over Holmes and Watson find his body, because neither of them know it's not Sir Henry, and their anger, guilt, and grief is so compelling.
Only three more chapters!
"You would have wished to tell me something, or in your kindness you would have brought me out some comfort or other..." (p. 664).
"It is murder, Watson -- refined, cold-blooded, deliberate murder" (p. 666).
Possible Discussion Questions: What's your attitude toward red herrings, as a rule? How about in these chapters, with both the mysterious man on the moor and the dead convict serving to mislead us for a time?