"The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle It is the second of the twelve stories collected as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was first published in The Strand Magazine in April 1891
In 1890, a pawnbroker named Jabez Wilson comes to Sherlock Holmes and Watson and tells them about a very strange business with a group of red-haired men called "The Red-Headed League".
Set in 1890, a London businessman named Jabez Wilson comes to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson. He tells them that his young assistant, Vincent Spaulding, some weeks ago had shown him and urged him to respond to a want-ad offering work to only red-headed male applicants. The next morning, Wilson had waited in a long line of fellow red-headed men, was interviewed and was the only applicant hired. He was well-paid for several weeks of doing obviously useless clerical busywork in a lonely office, but finally one morning a sign on the locked office door inexplicably announces "THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE IS DISSOLVED". Wilson went to the landlord, who said that he had never heard of Duncan Ross, the person who formed the league. After Holmes' client leaves, having given the detective a description of Spaulding, the detective decides to see Spaulding, whom he notices has dirty trouser knees. Holmes then taps on the pavement in front of the pawnbroker's shop. With the case solved, he calls Inspector Jones and Mr Merryweather. The four confront the people, John Clay and his helper Archie (they were Spaulding and Ross in disguise), who contrived the Red-Headed League rigmarole just to keep Wilson out of his shop while they did their digging in the basement, in order to break into the bank vault next door. Back at Baker Street, Holmes explains to Watson how he solved the case.
Complete story text
- Jabez Wilson was featured in a 1933 film adaptation of A Study in Scarlet.
- The 1960s BBC series adapted the story in a 1965 episode. Jabez Wilson was played by Toke Townley.
- The Granada Television series adapted the story in 1985, as the penultimate episode of its second series. Jabes Wilson was played by Roger Hammond. A minor departure from the story is the first direct appearance of professor Moriarty during the episode's epilogue, forshadowing his presence in the following episode, The Final Problem.
- Mark Gatiss has hinted at his interest in creating a modern adaptation of the story for Sherlock, but so far, the opportunity hasn't materialised.