Plot Summary of the Adventure of the Reigate Squire

Updated on April 7, 2018
Colin Quartermain profile image

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 the Reigate Squire

Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Reigate Squire was one of the author’s favourite Sherlock Holmes stories. The story sees the international scope of Holmes’ work, the detective returning at the start of the story from the continent, but even whilst recuperating afterwards, another case is never far away.

Publication of the Adventure of the Reigate Squire

The Adventure of the Reigate Squire was first published in the June 1893 edition of the Strand Magazine, Conan Doyle penning the story after The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.

In subsequent reprints of the story, on both sides of the Atlantic, the name of the story would occasionally be altered, so it is not unknown to find the story referred to as The Adventure of the Reigate Puzzle or The Adventure of the Reigate Squires.

As well as a stand along short story, The Adventure of the Reigate Squire would also be republished in 1893 as part of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Short Review of the Adventure of the Reigate Squire

In The Adventure of the Reigate Squire Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would return to the standard approach of having the Sherlock Holmes case narrated from Dr Watson’s perspective; the two preceding stories, The Adventure of the Gloria Scott and The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual, had both been tales told by Holmes of early cases.

In the case, Conan Doyle introduces international scope to the work of Sherlock Holmes, and whilst previous cases had seen him work primarily in London and the Home Counties, at the start of The Adventure of the Reigate Squire the detective returns from the continent, after a case that had taken in three countries.

Holmes would end up in Reigate, Surrey, where the detective was supposed to be recuperating, but of course then has a case to solve. The case that is presented to Holmes is by no means the most difficult one, and all that the detective needs to do is look at the physical evidence. Whilst there is no great deductive work undertaken, the story does manage once again to show the superiority of Sherlock Holmes over the run of the mill policemen.

The Recuperating Holmes

Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70 | Source

Spoiler Alert - Plot Summary of the Adventure of the Reigate Squire

The Adventure of the Reigate Squire sees Dr Watson having to travel to Lyons, in order that the good doctor could bring back an ill Holmes. Holmes had been working on a case for 2 months, working 15 hour days, to bring to justice a swindler who had eluded the police of three different countries.

Holmes doesn’t appear to be recovering in Baker Street though, and so Watson convinces the detective to spend a period of recuperation at the Reigate home of Colonel Hayter. Colonel Hater had been a patient of Watson during his military service in the Indian subcontinent. Holmes though is only convinced to travel down to Surrey when he is told that the Hayter residence is a bachelor one.

Despite the need for Sherlock Holmes to rest, the detective is soon called upon by Inspector Forrester, a local policeman.

The Acton place had been burgled, Acton himself being a wealthy landowner. The burglary though was unusual as nothing of great value was taken, for the things taken was a book, two candlesticks a paperweight, a barometer and a ball of twine.

Then a couple of nights later the Cunningham place was also burgled, but in the event of this robbery, William Kirwan, the Cunningham’s coachman, had been shot dead.

Holmes’ interest had already been aroused by the insignificant nature of the items taken from the Acton estate, and this interest is piqued by the second burglary; Holmes convinced that no true burglars would have struck so soon in the same county. Colonel Hayter also tells Holmes that there is a connection between the two estates, for they were in legal dispute over landownership.

Inspector Forrester seems to have a lead in the case though for the killing of William Kirwan had been witnessed Alec Cunningham from the passageway; whilst the senior Mr Cunningham had seen the burglar run away from his bedroom window. It seems that Kirwan had been wrestling with someone whilst shouting for help, before being shot point blank.

The policeman had also discovered a torn off piece of paper in the dead hand of William Kirwan; and on the paper where the words “…at quarter to twelve….learn what….maybe”.

Holmes is interested in the handwriting on the note, rather than the content, although Forrester thinks it shows that Kirwan was in cahoots with the burglar, despite the coachman having a reputation for honesty. Holmes later tells of his interest coming from the fact that the words on the note were obviously written by two different men, one old and one young.

Inspector Forrester Calls

Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70 | Source

Soon Holmes, Watson, Colonel Hayter and the Inspector are on their way to the Cunningham property; although Holmes had already been out to look at the body of the William Kirwan and the escape route of the burglar. Holmes though was now looking for the missing piece of the message, for whoever was in possession of the note would be the murderer.

At the Cunningham estate, Holmes is about to start questioning father and son, but the detective takes a funny turn, although he soon recovers, having been taken to the kitchen. When the questioning resumes, it is more a case of Holmes asking rhetorical questions for he ponders why any burglar would target a house when the lamps showed at least two people are awake.

It is obvious that Holmes is suspicious of the Cunninghams, for he manages to trick the elder Cunningham into giving a handwriting sample, when Holmes “incorrectly” writes out a reward notice.

Inside the Cunningham house, Holmes manages to give everyone the slip, when he crashes over a bowl of oranges; Holmes blaming Watson for the disturbance. When it is noticed that Holmes is no longer with the party, the two Cunninghams go in search of the detective. Soon, the sound of Holmes shouting for help resonates around the house.

Watson, the Colonel and the Inspector rush to the aide of Holmes, and find the two Cunninghms trying to throttle him. Holmes calls for Inspector Forrester to arrest the two men, although initially sceptical, the Inspector looks at the pair’s faces, and blows on his whistle for his assistance. Alec Cunningham has to be disarmed by the Inspector, as the younger Cunningham is in the process of cocking a pistol; a pistol which would prove to be the weapon that killed William Kirwan. The remainder of the missing message is also then discovered.

Holmes can then explain all to Watson and the Colonel.

The burglary of the Acton place had been undertaken by the two Cunninghams, who had been looking for papers to help them in their legal case, which was why nothing of value had been taken. Kirwan though had followed the pair, and was now attempting to blackmail them.

Alec Cunningham was not going to be blackmailed though, and the pair had sent the message to bring Kirwan into the house where he could be shot.

The message being written by two men, one old and one young, had of course implicated the Cunninghams, and it was vital that the message be discovered. There was a discrepancy in the tale of the two Cunninghams, as if the burglar had fled immediately after shooting the coachman, then it could not be him who had taken the message.

Holmes had faked his funny turn, to prevent the Inspector mentioning the message, because if the Cunninghams knew the police were looking for it, they would destroy it.

Another crime had been solved by Sherlock Holmes, and despite the lack of real rest during his time of recuperation, Holmes it seems is reinvigorated enough to return to Baker Street.

The Case is Solved

Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70 | Source

The Adventure of the Reigate Squire

  • Date of Events - 1887
  • Client - Inspector Forrester
  • Locations - Reigate, Surrey
  • Villain - the Cunninghams


Submit a Comment
  • Colin Quartermain profile imageAUTHOR

    Colin Quartermain 

    5 years ago

    many thanks for the comment and encouragement. Colin

  • MJFenn profile image


    5 years ago

    Keep it up, Sir!


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