In which we see that two become one.
First published in 1891, A Case of Identity is the third story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection from the following year. It’s notable for featuring seven of Sidney Paget’s wonderful illustrations, which seem to fill almost half the paper of this succinct narrative.
A young lady arrives at 221B Baker Street, with a tale that’s quite out of the ordinary to share with Holmes at Watson. Mary Sutherland, a woman of good means but somewhat controlled by her stepfather, has been courting a man named Hosmer Angel. Meeting him in secret while her stepfather was away, the two became engaged and had promised to marry in secret. On the day of their wedding, Angel got into a cab near her home but on arrival at the church, the carriage was empty. He hasn’t been seen or contacted Mary since.
The mystery is a simple one and re-reading it I knew at once what the solution would be. It’s hard to tell now whether that’s due to familiarity (I recall most of the deductions over the 56 short stories) or obviousness. Holmes himself seems to have solved the case before Mary finishes her story.
Despite the brevity of the intrigue, I enjoyed reading A Case of Identity late one night after watching Fast & Furious 7 in a quiet cottage in Yorkshire. Just like the more-than-familiar film and holiday location from my childhood years, this short story feels like a comforter during the bizarre world of 2020.
Much like most of the books, films and tv episodes I write about, any Sherlock Holmes adventure is a safe place for me to retreat to when the world doesn’t feel right. In a week, where lockdown restrictions have tightened and friends are stuck abroad, comfort can’t be overrated. Lying in bed at midnight, I can escape just as much to 2002 when I first read Holmes as to 1800’s London, such is the power of the stores that we love.