Colin has been reading as long as he can remember, and the works of Conan Doyle were some of the early works that kept him reading.
Sherlock Holmes and Silver Blaze
The story of Silver Blaze is another short story to feature Sherlock Holmes. This story sees the detective leave his rooms in London to travel down to Dartmoor. On Dartmoor a murder had occurred, and a champion racehorse, Silver Blaze, had disappeared.
Publication of Silver Blaze
The story of Silver Blaze was first published in the December 1892 edition of the Strand Magazine. Publication occurred after a short hiatus from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as the previous short story, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches had been published in Jun 1892.
In between the publication of the two short stories, the compilation work, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, had been published; and Silver Blaze would subsequently be published in a second compilation work, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books were becoming as popular as his monthly short stories.
A Short Review of Silver Blaze
Silver Blaze is set in the world of horse racing, and one which Dick Francis would have been proud of, yet it is very much a Sherlock Holmes story.
The very elements of what make Holmes a great detective are on display in this tale; as although Inspector Gregory of Scotland Yard has made an arrest in the case, Holmes doesn’t think that the obvious suspect is the right one.
The police have looked at the available evidence and jumped to conclusions; Holmes looks at the evidence and sees what is missing. Holmes is then able to deduce missing details, and finds the evidence to back up his deductions. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also ensures that the solution is delivered by Holmes with the showmanship that the detective was prone to indulge in.
Over the years, Silver Blaze has proved to be one of the most popular Sherlock Holmes stories, and one of the most memorable.
Silver Blaze has been adapted several times for big and small screen, with Arthur Wonter appearing as Holmes in a 1937 production, and Christopher Plummer in a 1977 adaptation. The most famous adaptation though, is probably the one produced by Granada TV, and broadcast on the 13th April 1988. This episode starred Jeremy Brett as Holmes, and Edward Hardwicke as Watson, and was a faithful adaptation of the original story.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett
Holmes and Watson Head to Dartmoor
Spoiler Alert - Plot Summary of Silver Blaze
The story of Silver Blaze starts with Sherlock Holmes admitting he has made a mistake. The detective had been asked to investigate the disappearance of the champion racehorse, Silver Blaze, and the murder of its trainer, John Straker; telegrams had been received from both Colonel Ross, Silver Blaze’s owner, and Inspector Gregory of Scotland Yard.
Ross is more concerned with the disappearance of the horse, as it was the favourite for the prominent Wessex Cup and associated prize money, than with the murder of his trainer.
Holmes’ mistake comes because he had not acted on the telegrams, believing that the famous horse would soon be recovered, and its kidnapper identified as the murderer. Two days though, had elapsed and there had been no developments, and so Holmes and Watson made their way down to King’s Pyland on Dartmoor.
Holmes sets out the known facts. With so much money riding on Silver Blaze extra precautions were being taken at Colonel Ross’ stables. The trainer, John Straker, was a long time associate of Ross, both as a jockey and trainer, and he and the three lads were trusted.
One of the nearest neighbours to King’s Pyland was a rival stable of Lord Backwater, but pretty much all around was desolate moor land.
On the night when the crime was committed, one of the lads, Ned Hunter was on guard duty, whilst the rest of the household was eating supper in the house. The maid, Edith Baxter, took food out to the land, when she was met by a bookie, trying to get information about Silver Blaze and the other stabled horses. Ned Hunter ran the bookie off, but the situation left John Straker uneasy.
Later that night, John Straker would leave the house, against his wife’s wishes, to check on Silver Blaze, and the trainer would not be seen alive again.
The next morning the body of John Straker was found about a ¼ mile from the stables, his head crushed by a heavy blow, and a deep wound on his thigh. In his hand Straker had a small knife, and he was grasping onto a red and black cravat.
It was also found that Ned Hunter had been drugged during the night, by an opiate added to his supper. There was though no sign of the missing horse.
On arrival in Cartmoor, Watson and Holmes find that Inspector Gregory has arrest the bookie, a man by the name of Fitzroy Simpson, as the discovered cravat was his, and the bookie was known to carry a weighted stick that could inflict the death blow on Straker. It would appear that Simpson had been discovered by Straker as he attempted to steal away the horse, with deadly consequences; the thigh wound to Straker now believed to be self-inflicted, caused by a convulsion when the death blow was administered.
Holmes offers suggesting as to why Simpson might not be guilt but there is nothing seemingly concrete to overcome the evidence being presented.
Holmes Uncovers Another Clue
Holmes starts to look at the physical evidence, and discovers that the knife that Straker had held was a cataract knife. Strangely, amongst Straker’s papers, Holmes also discovered a milliner’s receipt addressed to William Derbyshire, a friend of Straker’s. Holmes then examines the evidence on the ground where Straker was killed.
Holmes seems confident that he has solved the case, and can even recover the missing horse, and encourages Colonel Ross to keep the name of Silver Blaze on the running list for the Wessex Cup.
Holmes and Watson set off alone across the moor, Holmes deducing that the only place a racehorse could be is at a racing stable, and as he is not at King’s Ryland, he must be at the rival stable. Holmes eventually uncovers tracks which back up this hypothesis.
At the stable they encounter the rival trainer, Silas Brown, and it a matter of minutes Holmes manages to get the combative trainer to meekly comply with his wishes; although, Holmes doesn’t inform Watson of what those wishes were. It is though obvious that Silas Brown had Silver Blaze hidden within the stables, although Holmes is convinced that the trainer had nothing to do with its initial disappearance.
Holmes and Watson return to King’s Ryland, but Holmes doesn’t tell Colonel Ross or Gregory of the developments, and simply asks for a photo of John Straker. As Holmes leaves Dartmoor he also discovers the seemingly random fact that some sheep have gone lame recently. Gregory is now taking more of an interest in what Holmes is doing, and Holmes offers him the guidance to look at the actions of stable’s dog; although Gregory is perplexed as the dog had done nothing.
A few days later the Wessex Cup is to be run, and Colonel Ross is anxious and angry, as he is still horseless. Holmes still doesn’t explain all, but points out that Ross’ horse is in the running line up, although Ross is convinced that the horse identified as Silver Blaze isn’t his horse. Of course, Silver Blaze wins the race, and Holmes then shows how the markings of Silver Blaze have been covered up.
Ross is now apologetic and happy, and now Holmes can explain everything, it was Silver Blaze who killed John Straker. Despite being trusted, Straker had plotted against his employer, and had sought to make Silver Blaze lame by cutting him with the cataract knife, something he had practiced on sheep beforehand. As Straker had bent down to inflict the wound, the horse had kicked out, killing the trainer, and leaving it loose on the moor.
It had been Straker who had drugged his stable lad, and had then led out the horse to do the job; and of course, the stable dog had not barked, as it was its owner who was up and about that night.
Straker had been leading a double life as Derbyshire, with a second wife, and was in a great deal of debt because of this second wife’s expensive tastes.
Ross asks where the horse had been after it had bolted, but Holmes doesn’t reveal the rival stable’s involvement in the disappearance, and Colonel Ross doesn’t push it.
All in all, another successful case for Sherlock Holmes.
Silver Blaze Recovered
The Case of Silver Blaze
- Date of Events - 1892
- Client - Colonel Ross
- Locations - Dartmoor
- Villain - John Straker
Questions & Answers
Question: Who was the murderer in Silver Blazer?
Answer: Whilst Holmes did discover who had killed John Straker, he did not bring the murderer to justice, for the killer of Straker was Silver Blaze, the horse who Straker was seeking to injure.