"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is one of the 56 short story cases of Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the seventh story of twelve in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story was first published in The Strand Magazine in January 1892. In the story, on Christmas Eve, Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson try to determine how a fabulous blue carbuncle found its way down the gullet of a goose.
Holmes tells Watson that a few nights ago a commissionaire named Peterson had witnessed a gang of roughs assail a drunken man in the street. Peterson rushed forward to help the man but everyone in the group ran off when they saw Peterson’s official uniform. The victim of the attack had dropped his hat and a goose when he ran. Peterson brought the items to Holmes who suggested that Peterson should take the goose home to eat whilst he himself retained the hat that was of the poor old man.
Holmes talks Watson through a series of deductions about the hat’s owner. Holmes deduces the owner of the hat through many assumptions. He even deduces that the owner was once a rich man. Suddenly, Peterson bursts into the room and shows Holmes a precious stone which his wife found in the crop of the goose.
Holmes instantly recognises the jewel as the Countess of Morcar’s blue carbuncle which had been stolen from her rooms at the Hotel Cosmopolitan five days previously. A man named John Horner has been arrested on suspicion of the theft as he performed a small job in the dressing room on the day of the crime. The alarm was given by the upper-attendant, James Ryder.
Holmes places advertisements in the papers about the hat and consequently receives a visit from Mr Henry Baker who hopes to regain his hat and goose. Holmes has a replacement bird ready for Mr Baker who shows no sign of wishing to recover the original goose. Realising that Mr Baker can know nothing of the jewel theft Holmes asks where the original bird came from. Mr Baker informs Holmes that he gotten his goose from the Alpha Inn.
Holmes and Watson make their way to the Alpha Inn and are told that the geese sold to customers of the inn came from Mr Breckinridge of Covent Garden. Holmes and Watson dutifully head to Covent Garden but when Holmes enquires after the geese which were sold to the Alpha Inn Breckinridge becomes angry and refuses to answer any questions. The salesman indicates that Holmes is not the first person to be asking about the geese and that he is heartily tired of being pestered.
Holmes notices that Mr Breckinridge has a copy of The Sporting Times sticking out of his pocket and so he draws the man into a bet over whether the geese sold to the Alpha were town or country bred. In order to prove Holmes wrong Breckinridge shows him the ledger where Holmes notes the address of the supplier for the geese sold, Mrs Oakshott.
As Holmes and Watson begin to debate whether to go and see Mrs Oakshott immediately or the next day they overhear some commotion at Breckinridge’s stall. A little nervous man is making what sounds like a repeat enquiry about some geese and Breckinridge steadfastly refuses to answer.
Holmes and Watson overtake the little man as he flees from Breckinridge. Holmes indicates that they can help him to trace the goose he is interested in and upon hearing this the man agrees to come and discuss matters at Baker Street. At first he gives them a false name but Holmes quickly deduces that its a lie. The man is James Ryder, the Hotel Cosmopolitan attendant.
Once back at Baker Street Holmes quickly accuses Ryder of stealing the jewel and framing Horner. Ryder admits his guilt but begs Holmes to spare him from prison and disgrace.
Ryder explains that he had planned the theft with the help of the Countess' maid, Catherine Cusack. After the arrest of Horner he felt it would be best to hide the stone somewhere away from the hotel. He went to the house of his sister, Mrs Oakshott, in order to think things over.
Ryder resolved to take the stone to a friend in Kilburn who could start the process of selling the valuable jewel. With his mind made up Ryder had only to think of a way to avoid losing the stone as a result of a search as he made his way to Kilburn. Ryder’s sister had promised him one of her geese for a Christmas present and he hit upon the idea of force-feeding the stone to a goose and then carrying it away with him.
Ryder managed to feed the stone to one of the geese but it escaped from him and when he came to leave he picked up the wrong bird. When he took the goose to his contact there was no sign of the stone inside it. Ryder raced back to his sister’s house only to find that the birds had gone to the dealers. When he went to question Breckinridge he had come up against a brick wall.
At this point Ryder bursts into tears and Holmes lets him go. Holmes points out to Watson that as long as Ryder does not give evidence against Horner the charge against him will break down. The justification for this protection of Ryder is that the man is too scared by his experiences to ever turn to crime again.
- BBC Radio adapted the story in March 1955, starring Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson.
- Another BBC Radio adaptation aired in December 1961, starring Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley.
- "The Blue Carbuncle", an episode of the 1960s BBC television adaptations, from the programme's second series. Shot in colour, first aired in December 1968. Starring Peter Cushing and Nigel Stock.
- The Soviet series "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson" adapted the story in 1979, starring Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin. This was a much looser adaptation, with an added comedic/vaudeville presentation.
- "The Blue Carbuncle", the 1984 episode of the ITV / Granada Television series, starring Jeremy Brett and David Burke.
- BBC Radio 4 adapted the short story under the same name in 1991, as part of a long-term series of BBC radio adaptations of the whole Sherlock Holmes canon, directed by playwright and radio drama director Bert Coules. The radio adaptation starred Clive Merrison and Michael Williams.