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The characteristics of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson had already been well established by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the preceding novels and short stories; and so Conan Doyle spends little time in A Case of Identity in adding any background information about the pair. That being said, Conan Doyle does allow Sherlock Holmes to make use of his observational skills, and has the detective establish the profession of his client, Miss Mary Sutherland, just through what he can see.

When Mary Sutherland tells of her problem, Dr Watson is at a complete loss, but Holmes manages to solve the case without even leaving B Baker Street. In the earlier cases told by Conan Doyle, Holmes had always left his rooms to gain evidence to support his theory; but A Case of Identity all the evidence required comes to him. A Case of Identity is an easy read, fast paced, and highlights the skills of Sherlock Holmes, but despite this it is a story that is often overlooked in the canon of Holmesian stories.

One of the reasons why A Case of Identity may not be as famous as other short Sherlock Holmes stories is that it has not been adapted for stage and screen to the same degree as other stories. The basic premise of the story though, does appear briefly in The Empty Hearse the first episode of the third series of Sherlock. Holmes is as busy as he has ever been, but the detective is yearning for a case where he can really put his powers of deduction to good use.

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Soon, a potential client is spotted loitering by the front door of B Baker Street; the woman seemingly undecided about whether to consult Sherlock Holmes with a problem. This hesitation is taken by Holmes to mean that it is a case involving love, and initially Sherlock Holmes is heartened by the thought of an intriguing case.

The young woman eventually decides to enter the residence of Sherlock Holmes, and she identifies herself as Miss Mary Sutherland. Holmes immediately astounds his new client by identifying her as a typist. Mary Sutherland is a relatively well off young woman, receiving a regular wage from her typing, but also a good income from stock left to her by her uncle. At the moment though, Miss Sutherland hands over all of her income to her mother and stepfather, James Windibank, as she lives at home.


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Mary Sutherland does intend though, to get marry at some point, and then all of her income will be her own. Up until recently James Windibank had been reluctant to allow Mary to mix with people outside of her family circle, and so she had little opportunity to find a man that she would be willing to marry.

At the Ball, Mary had met a young man called Hosmer Angel, and the two had started to see each other. Mary Sutherland is infatuated with Hosmer Angel, but she apparently knows little about him. She describes him as a strange man, quietly spoken, and often secretive. Hosmer Angel will only meet with Mary when dusk has fallen, he sports long whiskers, and wears tinted glasses.

Any correspondence that Hosmer sends to Mary comes in the form of typewritten letters, and when Mary wishes to write back, she has only a Post Office address to write to. Mary Sutherland has no idea where the man she is so infatuated with lives, nor where he works. One final strange fact about Hosmer Angel is the request he made of Mary, as Hosmer asks that she should always be true to him, no matter what occurs. Eventually, Mary had told her stepfather about her time with Hosmer Angel, and although Mary initially fears that James Windibank will be angry, her stepfather is actually supporting of the relationship and the upcoming marriage.

When the day of the wedding comes, the strangest event yet occurs. Hosmer Angel enters a Hansom cab to go to the church, but when the cab arrives, Hosmer Angel is no longer inside it. Whilst Holmes had hoped for an intriguing case, the detective has solved it before his client has even finished her story. Mary Sutherland though will not do this, and with the promise made, she intends to be true to him for ten years at least. Holmes might have solved the case, but Watson is still in the dark. Holmes though decides to bring the case to a satisfying conclusion by writing a note to James Windibank asking him to come to Baker Street.

The description of Hosmer Angel is that of a man in disguise, the fact that Hosmer Angel is only around when Windibank is away is also indicative, and the fact that Windibank has a financial motive for keeping Mary Sutherland at home is almost conclusive.

Off With Greuze’s Heads: A Case of Identity Theft

Hosmer Angel had simply disappeared by exiting from the opposite door of the Hansom Cab to the one he entered, and then the disguise was taken off, removing the last traces of Hosmer Angel. Comparing the note to one written from Hosmer Angel to Mary, Holmes is in no doubt that they were typed on the same machine. Windibank hurriedly leaves Baker Street, but Holmes says to Watson that he expects that Windibank will soon embark on a criminal enterprise, an enterprise that will see him hanged before too long.

Holmes also decides not to tell Mary Sutherland about what he has uncovered; believing, probably rightly, that his client will not believe him anyway. Having not left Baker Street to investigate, it is purely a matter of deduction that leads Holmes to believe that James Windibank and Hosmer Angel are the same person.

With it evident that the description of Angel is of a man in disguise, and the fact that Windibank and Angel have never been seen together, then the likelihood is that they are the same person. Additionally, with Windibank having a financial motive to prevent Mary Sutherland from marrying then it is almost certain that Holmes is correct. Mary Sutherland would meet Hosmer Angel at the gas-fitters ball, an event to which Miss Sutherland and her mother had been given tickets, for Mary Sutherland's father had been a plumber with a successful business.

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HubPages Inc, a part of Maven Inc. As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation. November 18, We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. We have in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the result is, it must be confessed, neither fascinating nor artistic.

Depend upon it, there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace.


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  • I smiled and shook my head. Here is the first heading upon which I come. There is, of course, the other woman, the drink, the push, the blow, the bruise, the sympathetic sister or landlady. The crudest of writers could invent nothing more crude. The husband was a teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the conduct complained of was that he had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out his false teeth and hurling them at his wife, which, you will allow, is not an action likely to occur to the imagination of the average story-teller.

    Take a pinch of snuff, Doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over you in your example. He held out his snuffbox of old gold, with a great amethyst in the centre of the lid. Its splendour was in such contrast to his homely ways and simple life that I could not help commenting upon it. It is a little souvenir from the King of Bohemia in return for my assistance in the case of the Irene Adler papers.

    They are important, you understand, without being interesting. Indeed, I have found that it is usually in unimportant matters that there is a field for the observation, and for the quick analysis of cause and effect which gives the charm to an investigation. The larger crimes are apt to be the simpler, for the bigger the crime the more obvious, as a rule, is the motive.

    In these cases, save for one rather intricate matter which has been referred to me from Marseilles, there is nothing which presents any features of interest. It is possible, however, that I may have something better before very many minutes are over, for this is one of my clients, or I am much mistaken.

    He had risen from his chair and was standing between the parted blinds gazing down into the dull neutral-tinted London street.

    Looking over his shoulder, I saw that on the pavement opposite there stood a large woman with a heavy fur boa round her neck, and a large curling red feather in a broad-brimmed hat which was tilted in a coquettish Duchess of Devonshire fashion over her ear. From under this great panoply she peeped up in a nervous, hesitating fashion at our windows, while her body oscillated backward and forward, and her fingers fidgeted with her glove buttons.

    Suddenly, with a plunge, as of the swimmer who leaves the bank, she hurried across the road, and we heard the sharp clang of the bell.

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle

    She would like advice, but is not sure that the matter is not too delicate for communication. And yet even here we may discriminate. When a woman has been seriously wronged by a man she no longer oscillates, and the usual symptom is a broken bell wire. Here we may take it that there is a love matter, but that the maiden is not so much angry as perplexed, or grieved.

    But here she comes in person to resolve our doubts.

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

    As he spoke there was a tap at the door, and the boy in buttons entered to announce Miss Mary Sutherland, while the lady herself loomed behind his small black figure like a full-sailed merchant-man behind a tiny pilot boat. Sherlock Holmes welcomed her with the easy courtesy for which he was remarkable, and, having closed the door and bowed her into an armchair, he looked her over in the minute and yet abstracted fashion which was peculiar to him. Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook.

    If not, why should you come to consult me? Etherege, whose husband you found so easy when the police and everyone had given him up for dead.

    The Most Horrific Case Of Identity Theft

    Oh, Mr.