Fiction Friday: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

The Blue Carbuncle photo by Sidney Paget 1982Welcome to Fiction Friday, my opportunity each week to post an excerpt from one of my own books or those of my friends, present-day or long-departed colleagues.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are still enjoyed far and wide, and this one is particularly delightful. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, first published in 1892, opens on the second morning after Christmas, which makes it perfect to enjoy today. It has been retold a number of ways and in a number of places, but even if you’re read it before, enjoy it again. You can finish the story here to see how the mystery deepens and then is (inevitably) solved by Sherlock’s brilliance. I can almost taste the Christmas goose and smell the pipe smoke.  How about you?

Next week we’ll get back to living authors after enjoying Louisa May Alcott at Thanksgiving, L. Frank Baum for Christmas and now Arthur Conan Doyle as our post-holiday celebrations begin to wind down. Next Friday author P.B. Ryan will introduce the first of her new and exciting series–I just found it on Amazon to enjoy on vacation.


I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack within his reach upon the right, and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a wooden chair, and on the angle of the back hung a very seedy and disreputable hard-felt hat, much the worse for wear, and cracked in several places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner for the purpose of examination.

“You are engaged,” said I; “perhaps I interrupt you.”

“Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one” — he jerked his thumb in the direction of the old hat — “but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest and even of instruction.”

I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his crackling fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows were thick with the ice crystals. “I suppose,” I remarked, “that, homely as it looks, this thing has some deadly story linked on to it — that it is the clue which will guide you in the solution of some mystery and the punishment of some crime.”

“No, no. No crime,” said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. “Only one of those whimsical little incidents which will happen when you have four million human beings all jostling each other within the space of a few square miles. Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without being criminal. We have already had experience of such.”

“So much so,” I remarked, “that of the last six cases which I have added to my notes, three have been entirely free of any legal crime.”

“Precisely. You allude to my attempt to recover the Irene Adler papers, to the singular case of Miss Mary Sutherland, and to the adventure of the man with the twisted lip. Well, I have no doubt that this small matter will fall into the same innocent category. You know Peterson, the commissionaire?”


“It is to him that this trophy belongs.”

“It is his hat.”

“No, no, he found it. Its owner is unknown. I beg that you will look upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual problem. And, first, as to how it came here. It arrived upon Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is, I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson’s fire. The facts are these: about four o’clock on Christmas morning, Peterson, who, as you know, is a very honest fellow, was returning from some small jollification and was making his way homeward down Tottenham Court Road. In front of him he saw, in the gaslight, a tallish man, walking with a slight stagger, and carrying a white goose slung over his shoulder. As he reached the corner of Goodge Street, a row broke out between this stranger and a little knot of roughs. One of the latter knocked off the man’s hat, on which he raised his stick to defend himself and, swinging it over his head, smashed the shop window behind him. Peterson had rushed forward to protect the stranger from his assailants; but the man, shocked at having broken the window, and seeing an official-looking person in uniform rushing towards him, dropped his goose, took to his heels, and vanished amid the labyrinth of small streets which lie at the back of Tottenham Court Road. The roughs had also fled at the appearance of Peterson, so that he was left in possession of the field of battle, and also of the spoils of victory in the shape of this battered hat and a most unimpeachable Christmas goose.”


The story’s just getting good, right? There’s lots more twists and turns to come, though. You can read the rest of the tale (and it’s a fine one) right here.This page also has a spoken version if you would prefer to hear it read out loud.  

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and are now gearing up for a wonderful New Year. To 2014!


  1. Pam Reed on December 27, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Thanks for the story Emilie – I love Christmas stories and have a little collection going in a special bookshelf I have at home. Being in Florida this Christmas isn’t quite the same, but I am still reading holiday stories as I find them! This one I had never heard of before. Happy holidays.

    • Emilie Richards on December 27, 2013 at 11:05 am

      I grew up in FL so Christmas with palm trees feels familiar. Just remember that the Holy Lands have palm trees, too. And nothing’s half as cute as a palm tree with lights.

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