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Who Wrote ‘The Adventure Of The Mazarin Stone'?
About the Author: Bruce Harris has written three books about Sherlock Holmes. The most recent, IT'S NOT ALWAYS 1895, A SHERLOCK HOLMES CHRONOLOGY, was published in 2022.

“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” (MAZA) is one of two stories in the Canon written from a third person point of view.[1] The unlikely POV has served as fertile ground for Sherlockians. William S. Baring-Gould[2] and Leslie S. Klinger[3] summarize the arguments for and against Dr. Watson as MAZA’s author. Determining the story’s author is not straightforward. Marshall Berdan, for example, changed his mind, originally thinking Mrs. Hudson wrote the story in favor of Dr. Watson.[4] In the mid-1970’s, David Chiszak, Rozella B. Smith, and Lorna Simonsen subjected MAZA to Chi Square statistical analyses to determine if MAZA’s words significantly differed from two arbitrarily selected stories, “The Yellow Face” and “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot.” Among the trio’s findings, “… MAZA contains sentences which are less complex than those comprising YELL and DEVI.”[5] While the authors’ findings are not conclusive, the foregoing suggests someone other than Watson authored MAZA. Someone with writing skills, albeit a person whose style is different than that of Watson’s. Someone able to write succinctly, using fewer conjunctions and more simple sentence structure. Someone familiar to Watson, Holmes, and the underworld. A newspaper columnist, for example? Someone, like Langdale Pike:

Langdale Pike was [Holmes’s] human book of reference upon all matters of social scandal. This strange, languid creature spent his waking hours in the bow window of a St. James’s Street club and was the receiving-station as well as the transmitter for all the gossip of the metropolis. He made, it was said, a four-figure income by the paragraphs which he contributed every week to the garbage papers which cater to an inquisitive public. If ever, far down in the turbid depths of London life, there was some strange swirl or eddy, it was marked with automatic exactness by this human dial upon the surface. Holmes discreetly helped Langdale to knowledge, and on occasion was helped in turn. [“The Adventure of the Three Gables”]

It’s no coincidence that Pike has dealings with the bruiser Steve Dixie in 3GAB as well as the boxer Sam Merton in MAZA. In addition, Pike’s propensity to hang out in a bow street window is telling, given MAZA’s enigmatic Baker Street bow window. Franklin Rhode makes the case that Langdale Pike was none other than the playwright,[6] journalist, poet, and criminologist, George R. Sims.[7] Both Sims and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were members of the dining society, known as the Crimes Club. Carrie Salina Parris writes, “Inspired by famous crimes and trials of the late Victorian era when they had been young men, the members of the Crimes Club came together in the early years of the twentieth century …”[8] Count Negretto Sylvius and the theft of the Mazarin stone would no doubt appeal to the likes of Sims, aka Langdale Pike.

 MAZA’s structure is worth a closer look. Mystery writer Susan Vaughan dissects the different levels of POV.[9] She writes, “Objective (external) POV levels are used to establish context from a distance. Along with omniscient viewpoint [a narrator who sees all and knows all], another external viewpoint level is camera-eye in which the reader hears and sees only what a camera would show, and there is no person’s viewpoint, just the camera presenting it. We may see these techniques in small doses, as for opening a scene to show the situation before entering a character’s head.”

 The opening scene describing Watson’s return to Baker Street is an example of the camera-eye viewpoint:


He looked round him at the scientific charts upon the wall, the acid-charred bench of chemicals, the violin-case leaning in the corner, the coal-scuttle, which contained of old the pipes and tobacco. Finally, his eyes came round to the fresh and smiling face of Billy, the young but very wise and tactful page…

This story appears in our OCT 2023 Issue
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