The Adventure of the Crooked Man Characters

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will look at the characters in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Adventure of the Crooked Man.' In this Sherlock Holmes mystery, they are hoping to prove the innocence of a woman suspected of killing her husband.

A Twist on the Formula

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loves to send Holmes and Watson off to find the killer, but this story is different. Holmes is in disbelief that the honorable Mrs. Nancy Barclay is the killer so he sets off instead to find evidence of her innocence. We have several interesting characters in this story, each of whom contribute a clue to the case. This lesson will take a look at each character and their purpose.

Recurring Characters

There are some consistent characters that we see throughout Doyle's short stories. Here are just a few:

Sherlock Holmes

No Sherlock Holmes story is complete without the man himself. In this story, he is hoping to prove the innocence of a woman suspected of murdering her husband.

John Watson

As usual, Dr. John Watson is Sherlock's sidekick and sounding board. Without Watson, we would have no narrator for the stories, and Holmes would not have back up support from a trained soldier and physician in his investigations.

Victim and Suspect

In every Sherlock case there is a victim and a suspect. Whether or not the original suspect is the true culprit is what Sherlock sets out to discover.

Colonel Barclay

Colonel Barclay is a rough man who spent his life as a soldier. He was devoted to his wife and they rarely disagreed. 'He was a dashing, jovial old soldier in his usual mood, but there were occasions on which he seemed to show himself capable of considerable violence and vindictiveness. This side of his nature, however, appears never to have been turned towards his wife.' He is the victim of this story, who we are to believe was murdered.

Miss Nancy Devoy (Mrs. Barclay)

Mrs. Barclay was the only person present when her husband died, but has been inconsolable and unable to explain what happened. She is described as beautiful and popular, 'Mrs. Barclay has always, I understand, been as popular with the ladies of the regiment as her husband was with his brother officers. I may add that she was a woman of great beauty, and that even now, when she has been married for upwards of thirty years, she is still of a striking and queenly appearance.' Since she was all alone, it is understandable that the police believe she killed her husband during their argument.


Jane Stewart

Jane Stewart is one of two housemaids who were present at the time of Barclay's death. She provided the clue in overhearing Mrs. Barclay mention the name David during the argument.

The Coachman

The coachman was another of the household staff present at the door during Barclay's death. When the argument stopped and Mrs. Barclay began screaming, he broke down the door to find Barclay dead.

Miss Morrison

Miss Morrison is Mrs. Barclay's friend who served with her in their charity work. She had been with Mrs. Barclay earlier in the evening and saw Mrs. Barclay talking with Henry Wood.

Henry Wood

Henry Wood is 'the crooked man' who was Mrs. Barclay's former boyfriend who she thought was killed in war. He tells her that her husband sent him into an ambush so he would be killed, but instead, he was taken prisoner and was enslaved for many years. He explained that he saw Barclay drop dead of fright when he saw Wood, fearing he had seen a ghost and knowing that he was responsible for Wood's disfigurement.

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