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"The Adventure of the Magical Menagerie" 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 tells Watson Watson about one of his first cases as a consulting detective.

Plot[]

Watson is plunged into a depression when he receives a letter from Mrs Cecil Forrester, the former employer of his late wife Mary. In solidarity, Holmes contrives to obliquely commemorate Mary by recounting one of his earliest cases, when he first met several of the characters involved in the case of Jonathan Small.

As a young man just planning a career as the world's first consulting detective, Holmes decided to create a mental map of London as an aid to his work. One day, while walking in Lambeth, he happens upon two thugs called Jack o' the Devil and Plaid Charlie threatening a man in an upstairs window. Holmes confronts the pair, and after a brief fight with Plaid Charlie, Holmes ducks into the shop. Jack vows revenge, and asks Holmes his name: Holmes tells him it is Athelney Jones.

The shopkeeper introduces himself as Tom Sherman, a taxidermist. He explains that Jack o' the Devil once worked as his assistant, but he fell in with Plaid Charlie, a known thief. Sherman had fired Jack when a valuable piece of his wife's jewelry had disappeared; however, Jack had been harassing Sherman ever since in an attempt to intimidate him into giving him his job back. Holmes takes an immediate liking to the couple, and leaves them his address before departing, though he is too embarrassed to tell correct them about his name.

The following day, the real Athelney Jones arrives at Holmes' lodgings with Mr Sherman. It transpires that Plaid Charlie had been murdered the previous night, with the word "revenge" written over his corpse. Sherman was naturally the prime suspect, given their quarrel. Sherman had insisted that Holmes could provide a character reference, though to Holmes' amusement he gave Jones his own name as a reference. However, as Sherman refuses to provide an alibi, Holmes can do little besides promise to look into the case.

After making a few further inquiries, Holmes quickly wraps up the mystery. He realizes that while working at Sherman's, Jack had been sewing stolen goods into the taxidermy animals, which could then later be stolen at leisure once the initial uproar had died down. Sherman had realized that this had been the fate of his wife's brooch, and had gone to steal it back on the night of Charlie's murder. He thus could not confess his whereabouts without admitting to another crime. Jack had murdered his partner solely to implicate Sherman. He assumed that with her husband in prison, Mrs Sherman would have no choice but to accept him to work, allowing him to continue with his con. Holmes proves Sherman's alibi and finds Mrs Sherman's brooch. Jack is easily convicted of murder once a trove of further evidence comes to light thanks to his overconfidence. Sherman, meanwhile, is sentenced to six months in prison for trespass, but pledges eternal gratefulness to Holmes, and promises to teach him all about the natural sciences.

When Holmes finishes, Watson thanks his friend for sharing the story with him. Holmes repeats that work is the greatest antidote to melancholy, and the two turn to solving other cases.

Trivia[]

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