Whodunit?: Detective Stories

ISBN 13: 9780753461426

Whodunit?: Detective Stories

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9780753461426: Whodunit?: Detective Stories

Unexplained disappearances, daring thefts, perplexing mysteries, and the
greatest sleuths of all time combine in this page-turning read. From
Sherlock Holmes to Hercule Poirot, famous detectives puzzle their way
through a maze of alibis and motives in this superb selection of classic and
contemporary crime fiction.

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About the Author:

Philip Pullman is an award-winning writer who has won critical aclaim. His novel, Northern Lights (the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy) was published in the US as an adult novel under the title The Golden Compass. In the UK, Northern Lights won the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Fiction Award and the Children's Book of the Year Award, while in the US it was one of four honor children's books at the ABBY awards. Previous novels have included The Ruby in the Smoke, winner of the International Reading Association Award and recommended in the New York Times Parents Guide to the Best Books for Children, and Tiger in the Well, shortlisted for the Guardian Award. A former teacher, Philip Pullman writes in a garden shed at the bottom of his garden near Oxford, England. A passionate advocate of children's literature he has said " . . . stories are vital. There's more wisdom in a story than in volumes of philosophy, and there's a hunger for stories in all of us."

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One


The Speckled Band


By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


No collection of detective stories would be complete without Sherlock
Holmes. Everyone can recognize him, even in outline: the pipe, the
deerstalker hat, and the eager, sharp-featured profile are famous all over the
world and have been for more than 100 years.


Most of the stories are narrated by Holmes's great friend, Dr. Watson, and
this is one of the very best. It begins in their comfortable rooms in Baker
Street and culminates in a night of extraordinary suspense and horror as
Holmes and Watson wait in the darkened murder room for the appearance of
the speckled band, which has caused the horrifying death of a young woman.
But what can it be?


IN GLANCING OVER my notes of the 70-odd cases in which I have during
the last eight years studied the methods of my friend Sherlock Holmes, I find
many tragic, some comic, a large number merely strange, but none
commonplace; for, working as he did rather for the love of his art than for the
acquirement of wealth, he refused to associate himself with any investigation
that did not tend toward the unusual and even the fantastic. Of all these
varied cases, however, I cannot recall any that presented more singular
features than that which was associated with the well-known Surrey family of
the Roylotts of Stoke Moran. The events in question occurred in the early
days of my association with Holmes, when we were sharing rooms as
bachelors on Baker Street. It is possible that I might have placed them upon
record before, but a promise of secrecy was made at the time, from which I
have only been freed during the last month by the untimely death of the lady
to whom the pledge was given. It is perhaps as well that the facts should now
come to light, for I have reasons to know there are widespread rumors as to
the death of Dr. Grimesby Roylott that tend to make the matter even more
terrible than the truth.


It was early in April, in the year '83, that I woke one morning to find Sherlock
Holmes standing, fully dressed, by the side of my bed. He was a late riser as
a rule, and, as the clock on the mantelpiece showed me that it was only a
quarter past seven, I blinked up at him in some surprise, and perhaps just a
little resentment, for I was myself regular in my habits.


"Very sorry to wake you up, Watson," said he, "but it's the common lot this
morning. Mrs. Hudson has been woken up, she retorted upon me, and I on
you."


"What is it, then? A fire?"


"No, a client. It seems that a young lady has arrived in a considerable state
of excitement, who insists upon seeing me. She is waiting now in the sitting
room. Now, when young ladies wander about the metropolis at this hour of
the morning and wake sleepy people up out of their beds, I presume that it is
something very pressing that they have to communicate. Should it prove to
be an interesting case, you would, I am sure, wish to follow it from the
outset. I thought at any rate that I should call you and give you the chance."


"My dear fellow, I would not miss it for anything."


I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his professional
investigations and in admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions and
yet always founded on a logical basis, with which he unraveled the problems
that were submitted to him. I rapidly threw on my clothes and was ready in a
few minutes to accompany my friend down to the sitting room. A lady
dressed in black and heavily veiled, who had been sitting in the window, rose
as we entered.


"Good morning, madam," said Holmes cheerily. "My name is Sherlock
Holmes. This is my intimate friend and associate, Dr. Watson, before whom
you can speak as freely as before myself. Ha, I am glad to see that Mrs.
Hudson has had the good sense to light the fire. Pray draw up to it, and I
shall order you a cup of hot coffee, for I observe that you are shivering."


"It is not cold that makes me shiver," said the woman in a low voice,
changing her seat as requested.


"What, then?"


"It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror." She raised her veil as she spoke, and we
could see that she was indeed in a pitiable state of agitation, her face all
drawn and gray, with restless, frightened eyes, like those of some hunted
animal. Her features and figure were those of a woman of 30, but her hair was
shot with premature gray, and her expression was weary and haggard.
Sherlock Holmes ran her over with one of his quick, all-comprehensive
glances.


"You must not fear," said he soothingly, bending forward and patting her
forearm. "We shall soon set matters right, I have no doubt. You have come in
by train this morning, I see."


"You know me, then?"


"No, but I observe the second half of a return ticket in the palm of your left
glove. You must have started early, and yet you had a good drive in a
dogcart, along heavy roads, before you reached the station."


The lady gave a violent start and stared in bewilderment at my companion.


"There is no mystery, my dear madam," said he, smiling. "The left arm of
your jacket is spattered with mud in no less than seven places. The marks
are perfectly fresh. There is no vehicle save a dogcart that throws up mud in
that way, and then only when you sit on the left-hand side of the driver."


"Whatever your reasons may be, you are perfectly correct," said she. "I
started from home before six, reached Leatherhead at twenty past, and came
in by the first train to Waterloo. Sir, I can stand this strain no longer; I shall
go mad if it continues. I have no one to turn to—none, save only one, who
cares for me, and he, poor fellow, can be of little aid. I have heard of you, Mr.
Holmes; I have heard of you from Mrs. Farintosh, whom you helped in the
hour of her sore need. It was from her that I had your address. Oh, sir, do you
not think you could help me, too, and at least throw a little light through the
dense darkness that surrounds me? At present it is out of my power to
reward you for your services, but in a month or two I shall be married, with
the control of my own income, and then at least you shall not find me
ungrateful."


Holmes turned to his desk and, unlocking it, drew out a small casebook that
he consulted.


"Farintosh," said he. "Ah, yes, I recall the case; it was concerned with an
opal tiara. I think it was before your time, Watson. I can only say, madam,
that I shall be happy to devote the same care to your case as I did to that of
your friend. As to reward, my profession is its reward; but you are at liberty to
defray whatever expenses I may be put to, at the time that suits you best.
And now I beg that you will lay before us everything that may help us in
forming an opinion on the matter."


"Alas!" replied our visitor. "The very horror of my situation lies in the fact that
my fears are so vague, and my suspicions depend so entirely upon small
points, which might seem trivial to another, that even he to whom of all others
I have a right to look for help and advice looks upon all that I tell him about it
as the fancies of a nervous woman. He does not say so, but I can read it
from his soothing answers and averted eyes. But I have heard, Mr. Holmes,
that you can see deeply into the manifold wickedness of the human heart.
You may advise me how to walk amid the dangers that encompass me."


"I am all attention, madam."


"My name is Helen Stoner, and I am living with my stepfather, who is the last
survivor of one of the oldest Saxon families in England, the Roylotts of Stoke
Moran, on the western border of Surrey."


Holmes nodded his head. "The name is familiar to me," said he.


"The family was at one time among the richest in England, and the estate
extended over the borders into Berkshire in the north and Hampshire in the
west. In the last century, however, four successive heirs were of a dissolute
and wasteful disposition, and the family ruin was eventually completed by a
gambler, in the days of the Regency. Nothing was left save a few acres of
ground and the two-hundred-year-old house that is itself crushed under a
heavy mortgage. The last squire dragged out his existence there, living the
horrible life of an aristocratic pauper; but his only son, my stepfather, seeing
that he must adapt himself to the new conditions, obtained an advance from
a relative that enabled him to take a medical degree and went out to
Calcutta, where, by his professional skill and his force of character, he
established a large practice. In a fit of anger, however, caused by some
robberies that had been perpetrated in the house, he beat his native butler to
death and narrowly escaped a capital sentence. As it was, he suffered a long
term of imprisonment and afterward returned to England a morose and
disappointed man.


"When Dr. Roylott was in India, he married my mother, Mrs. Stoner, the
young widow of Major-General Stoner, of the Bengal artillery. My sister, Julia,
and I were twins, and we were only two years old at the time of my mother's
remarriage. She had a considerable sum of money, not less than a thousand
a year, and this she bequeathed to Dr. Roylott entirely while we resided with
him, with a provision that a certain annual sum should be allow...

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