Baker Street Wiki
Baker Street Wiki

"Notes Regarding the Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by Lyndsay Faye. It was first published in The Strand Magazine, and later included in her collection The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. In it, Holmes must uncover what became of a silk merchant's twin brother, who has seemingly vanished into thin air.


Just a month after Holmes' dramatic reappearance, Watson has returned to live with him at 221B Baker Street, and the two are settling back into their old routine. Mrs Hudson shows in a prospective client, a cloth-merchant client named Edward Phillimore. The man is small, and wearing poorly fitted clothing and a temperance pin. Watson immediately notices that the man looks worn-out, as if he has been crying, and also notes a palsy in his hand. Holmes greets Mr Phillimore, and reveals that he has already heard something of his story from the papers; Mr Phillimore, it turns out, has been conducting a search throughout London for his missing twin brother, James, with whom he shared his house.

Mr Phillimore explains that three days ago, James had returned to their house shortly after leaving to grab an umbrella. The maid had seen him enter the house, then left him in the hallway. He had not been seen since. Mr Phillimore reveals that his brother had previously lived a dissolute life, and fears that he may have come to some harm. At Holmes' insistance, he elaborates that James had a gambling problem, drank and used drugs, and had a fondness for dangerous women. However, Phillimore insists that James has given up all his bad habits. Holmes agrees to take the case, and asks Phillimore for a calling card; however, Phillimore states that he does not currently have any, and merely gives Holmes his address.

To Watson's surprise, Holmes do not immediately leave but instead decides to wait. Shortly after Mr Phillimore leaves, a thuggish man barges into the room. He introduces himself as Atlantus B. Conger, and demands to know what Holmes knows about the whereabouts of James Phillimore. Conger explains that he owns a gambling and opium parlor, and that James owes him a significant amount of money. His attempts to threaten Holmes fail, and Holmes only agrees to encourage Phillimore to pay his debts if he finds him.

Holmes visits Edward Phillimore's import company, and interviews his partner, Timothy Greer. Holmes asks Mr Greer to describe Edward. Greer confirms Edward's anxious disposition and his delicate constitution, a relic of an unhappy childhood. However, he says Edward is conscientious and kind, and completely devoted to his brother, whom he had rescued several times before. In spite of their opposite personalities, the brothers were devotedly loyal to each other.

Watson and Holmes finally go to the London suburb of Enfield, where the Phillimores reside. They are shown into Edward Phillimore's study, where they find Mr Phillimore writing at a desk. Holmes simply asks him how his brother Edward died, which sends his client into a sobbing fit. Holmes comforts the man, now revealed to be James, and explains how he realized he was not Edward. Edward's clothes, for instance, did not exactly fit him. Furthermore, James is clearly undergoing opium withdrawal, the symptoms of which can resemble extreme grief. Holmes explains that three days ago, James had relapsed, going on an opium-fueled gambling binge that put him deeply in debt to Atlantus Conger. The sum was far beyond the brothers' ability to pay, and when Edward learned the news the shock killed him. James used some of his shady contacts to have Edward buried under a false name in another parish. The following day, he made sure he was seen leaving the house by a maid, then snuck back in and assumed Edward's identity. Holmes congratulates him on an ingenious plan, and says his only error was forgetting to carry Edward's calling cards.

James apologizes for his deception, and begs Holmes not to reveal the truth. He announces his intent to reform: he will pay Conger that afternoon, and pledges to live an honest life in honor of his dead brother. As far the world should be concerned, James Phillimore is dead. Holmes agrees that he deserves a second chance, and leaves "Edward" to start his new life.


  • This story was in inspired by a reference to an unpublished case mentioned in "The Problem of Thor Bridge", where Watson mentions that among Holmes' unsolved cases was "that of Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world". In this story, Holmes does solve the case, but he and Watson agree to never reveal the truth.
  • Watson mentions that he has re-hung a portrait of General Gordon in the parlor. This is a reference to the opening scene of "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box".