Sherlock Holmes Book Club DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

The Adventure of the Norwood Builder

  • As you listen/read, notice the way Sherlock observes people extremely closely, and makes careful judgments about them based on the evidence. Can you think of a time (or many times) where you did something similar?  Have you ever made a judgment based on something you observed, but were wrong?  How can we keep from making wrong judgments?
  • As you listen/read, notice the way Sherlock Holmes doesn't always reveal his ideas/plans even to those he works with (Watson, Lestrade, etc).  Why does he do this?  Do you think this qualifies as deception?

The Adventure of the Dancing Men

  • As you listen/read, think about the motivations of each character.  What is Sherlock motivated by?  How about Watson?  Hilton Cubitt?  His wife, Elsie?  The message writer?
  • As you listen/read, compare the way Hilton Cubitt behaves towards his wife to the way Abe Slaney treats her. What is it about Cubitt’s treatment that makes it better?  How should Slaney have behaved instead?

Writing Prompt
In your own words, answer one or more of the following questions.
What is the role of deception in "The Adventures of the Norwood Builder" and "The Adventures of the Dancing Men"?  Which characters use deception and why?  Is deception used for good or for ill?  Is there ever a good time to deceive?  If so, when?

The Adventure of the Solitary Bicyclist

  • As you read/listen, pay attention to the way the male characters treat the lone female character, Miss Violet. How would you describe the attitude of Sherlock towards her? Watson? Mr. Carruthers? Mr. Woodley? Who treats her the best? How has treatment of women changed (if at all) since the time of this book?
  • As you read/listen, take note of the role of violence in this story.  What do you think each character’s philosophy is about when violence should be used?  Which do you most agree with?

The Adventure of the Priory School

  • As you read/listen, notice that this story, like “The Adventure of the Solitary Bicyclist,” features bicycles (as well as horses) as means of transportation.  Could this story take place in the same way today? How have things changed since the early 1900s, when this story was written?
  • As you read/listen, think about the role of secrets in this story.  Who keeps secrets and why?  What would happen if these secrets were revealed? Why does it matter so much? Do you think they should have kept those secrets? Why or why not?

    Writing Prompt
    In your own words, describe the character of Sherlock Holmes.  Now that you’ve read several stories, what do you know about him? What are his motivations, his likes and his dislikes? Try to name at least one strength and at least one weakness.

    The Adventure of Black Peter

    • As you read/listen, consider the character of the murdered man. How is he described? How does he treat others, particularly his own family? Is there anything sympathetic about him?
    • SPOILER ALERT: When you are done reading, think about the three men who are tangled up in the incidents of this story. There's Peter Carey, the foul man who was killed. There's Patrick Carins, the harpooner who killed him. And there's John Hopely Neligan's father, who was formerly killed by Carey, and whose death was witnessed by Carin. What actions could have been taken to prevent the sad events of this story?  What could Carey have done differently? What about Carins?

    The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

    • As you read/listen, think about what makes Milverton such a villain.  What is it that he does?  How does he gain so much power over people?  What could people do differently to lessen his power?
    • As you read/listen, consider the actions of Sherlock and Watson.  How is the tactic they take against this villain different from the other stories we’ve read so far? Why do they take this tactic now?

      Writing Prompt
      What sets Sherlock and Watson apart from the criminals they pursue?  Especially consider "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton," where our heroes blatantly break the law.  Were they justified in doing so?  Why or why not?

      The Adventure of the Six Napoleons

      • As you read/listen, think again about the character of Holmes.  What do you know about him, now that you've read so many stories.  What does this story add to your opinion of him?  This adventure hints that Holmes sometimes acts more cold and unfeeling than he actually is—what do you make of that?

      The Adventure of the Three Students

      • As you read/listen, think about the nature of the crime in this story.  Sometimes Sherlock Holmes is called in to investigate murders or thefts, but, this time, it is just a simple case of cheating in a school.  Why then do you think Holmes took the case?  Why does Holmes agree to take on any of his cases?
      • Consider the way reputation and appearances factor into the judgments people make in this story.  If we can’t judge by what we see in a person or what we hear about a person, how should we make decisions about who to trust?

        Writing Prompt
        Sharpen your observation skills!  Find an object in your house and observe it in detail like Sherlock Holmes would.  This activity is best with an object that is somewhat unfamiliar; closets or out of the way cupboards are great places to choose from.  Before writing anything down, spend several minutes examining the object.  Note any smudges, fingerprints, or defects..  Then, when you have looked for longer than feels comfortable, start writing down your findings.  At this point, try to stick to objective observations (e.g. “There is a dry stain on the upper left corner, brown in color, about 1-inch wide.”)  Once you’ve written down everything you notice, start making deductions.  Use the evidence you’ve collected to form conjectures (e.g. “Someone spilled coffee on this pillow, which means, at some point, this object was probably displayed in a more public place”).  Perhaps you will find something exciting, but most likely you will just get to practice the methods you’ve been seeing in Sherlock Holmes.  Who knows? Maybe this skill will come in handy someday!

        The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez

        • Consider the importance of small details.  What small details does Holmes notice in this story? How are you at noticing details?
        • Consider the difference between serving justice and holding grudges.  Which do you think is more at play in this story?  Why?

        The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarters

        • Think about the following BIG questions:  How does the way things appear sometimes  contrast with the way they actually are? How can we know what we’re seeing is true rather than just an appearance?  How should we decide when things aren’t clear?

          Writing Prompt
          Using the Sherlock Holmes stories as your examples, explore how the way things appear sometimes contrast with the way they actually are. How can we know what we’re seeing is true rather than just an appearance?  How should we decide when things aren’t clear?

          The Adventure of the Abbey Grange

          • Consider the character of the husband and wife in this story.  How does the husband treat his wife? Why is this wrong?  How should spouses treat each other instead?
          • Consider the way characters act in this story. Why do certain people lie in this story? Why do some hide? 

          The Adventure of the Second Stain

          • Consider the way characters act in this story. Why do certain people lie in this story? Why do some hide? 
          • think about how, sometimes, Sherlock Holmes lies for the benefit of someone else.  Is this a valid way to help someone?

            Writing Prompt
            Using the Sherlock Holmes stories as your examples, explore how the way things appear sometimes contrast with the way they actually are. How can we know what we’re seeing is true rather than just an appearance?  How should we decide when things aren’t clear?