thought, I mentioned that I was assisting Scotland Yard on a murder case in one of Londonâs most prestigious new office buildings. âThat must be the strange occurrence at Ravensmere Towers,â he said, before going on to say that he had read the piece in the Daily Telegraph .
âI could not deny that they were one and the same, to which the king added: âYou may not be aware of this, Mr Holmes, but my son knows Archibald Cartwright, the owner of the building. In fact, the two of them were at Eton together and it was he who first encouraged Valdemar to begin investing in some of these perilous financial schemes in Canada. Cartwright has recently been ruined by his own property investments in Newfoundland. Clearly, I do not know the circumstances surrounding the death, but would not be at all surprised if the man had a hand in it.â It seems he was not wrong, Watson.â
âNo, and a very timely and useful piece of information, Iâd say. That ceremonial luncheon wasnât such a waste of your time, after all,â I quipped.
He looked up to the small presentation box on the mantelpiece and grinned again. âAs ever, you are right, my friend.â
3. A Study in Verse
While Sherlock Holmes was a prodigious reader of books on a wide variety of subjects, it would be fair to say that he was rarely interested in anything of a fictional or romantic nature. While professionally he revelled in the unusual, the unknown and the generally inexplicable, his taste in literature was categorically prosaic. It therefore came as something of a surprise to find him reading a book of poetry when I called in to Baker Street one afternoon in the September of 1895.
âNow, there is a sight I have rarely witnessed,â said I, entering the upstairs room and noting the small volume of Japanese Style Short-Form Poetry he held in his long thin fingers. I was tickled at the notion that Holmes should be reading something so avant-garde. I took a chair close to the fireplace and waited for an explanation.
âWatson! A pleasure to see you on this bright, autumnal day. Your eyes have not deceived you, my friend. I am indeed reading, and enjoying, this fine collection of verse. Ordinarily, I cannot see any virtue in the rambling and meandering lines which pass for poetry in our literary culture. Our best known writers seem to take great delight in saying in a few hundred disorderly words what a dictionary compiler might neatly summarise in a dozen. I read to get the nub of an issue, to be told all that I need to know in as few words as possible. Poetry is anathema to my ordered and focused mind.â
âCome then - what is this collection you seem so thoroughly engrossed in? I have never heard of Japanese style short-form poetry .â
âWe have much to learn about ancient Japanese culture, my friend. And the Asian approach to poetry has much to commend it. For centuries, the Japanese have perfected the art of stand-alone hokku verse, which sometimes serves as a prequel to a much longer composition. More recently, some writers have begun to adapt hokku poetry into a more concentrated, shorter form of poetry, which may typically juxtapose two distinct refrains, usually on a theme of nature. Masaoka Shiki, a young writer in his twenties, uses the term haiku to describe this new approach.â
I was still not sure I fully understood what was so different about this haiku poetry, so asked him to elaborate further.
âI first came across the literary form while reading Hendrik Doeffâs Recollections of Japan . You may remember that he was a former Commissioner for the Dejima trading post in Nagasaki, which the Dutch East India Company held on to in the early part of this century despite our British claims to the territory. Doeff was the author of a Dutch-Japanese dictionary and was the first westerner to pen some of this short-form poetry.
âA haiku poem strips away all but the bare