The Adventure of Silver Blaze: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Sherlock Holmes aids in solving a case that is making headlines throughout England. Read on to see his knack for following obscure clues that resolve seemingly impossible-to-solve cases.

A Missing Horse

The Adventure of Silver Blaze brings Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend Dr. Watson into the world of horse racing. Silver Blaze is the favored horse to win a big event. In Silver Blaze is also where the infamous line 'The curious incident of the dog in the night' comes from, which is a line Holmes uses as he's deducing his hypothesis for the crime he's investigating. In this tale of detection, Holmes uncovers a sinister plot and an unlikely murderer.

The Case

During breakfast one morning, Sherlock Holmes tells Dr. Watson that he must leave to investigate a case that's widely popular throughout England about a missing horse and a murdered trainer. Watson is eager to accompany him, and Holmes is delighted to have him on board. So, later that day, Holmes and Watson are on a train bound for Dartmoor and the scene of the crime. This particular case is incredibly important to Holmes. He states:

'The fact is that I could not believe it possible that the most remarkable horse in England could long remain concealed, especially in so sparsely inhabited a place as the north of Dartmoor.'

Holmes Arrives on the Scene

When Holmes and Watson arrive, they meet with Inspector Gregory, a man of no imagination, Holmes notes. Gregory walks Holmes through the details of the crime. Silver Blaze is a prized racing horse that is favored to win the Wessex Cup. A stranger had come by Colonel Ross' stables at King's Pyland inquiring about the horse. The next day Silver Blaze went missing, the stable boy was found having been drugged, and the horse trainer in charge of Silver Blaze, John Straker, was found to have been savagely murdered. The stranger, Fitzroy Simpson, was being held in suspicion of having committed the heinous crime. He is suspected of drugging the stable boy and murdering John Straker.

Because of his analytic nature, Holmes is in no hurry to investigate the scene of the crime before he's exhausted the questions he has for the people who were in the vicinity when the crime took place. When Holmes is done with his questioning, and investigating the contents of the late John Straker's jacket that was found near the site of his murder, Holmes goes out to investigate the scene. One thing that remains curious to Holmes is that Straker was carrying a cataract knife, which wasn't a common tool to carry for horse trainers.

Tracks in the Mud

While Holmes is out in the field with Colonel Ross, Inspector Gregory and Watson, Colonel Ross asks if he should take Silver Blaze's name out of the race as the horse has not been recovered. Holmes advises Ross to keep the horse's name in, and with that Ross and Gregory leave Holmes and Watson. Holmes studies the footprints and other tracks in the mud and then decides to follow the horse tracks for a while, which proves to be fruitful.

The horse had fled, and its tracks lead Holmes and Watson to Mapleton, a nearby stable owned by Lord Backwater, who is in competition with Colonel Ross. As Watson and Holmes approach, they are met by Silas Brown, the manager of Mapleton. Initially, Silas Brown threatens Holmes with his dogs, but after a few moments of time alone, Holmes has transformed the man's demeanor. Silas Brown is in possession of Silver Blaze.

Holmes, having found the horse, decides to allow it to remain at Mapleton until the Wessex Cup. Holmes has a plan of his own, and it's obvious that the case has been solved. Because of the Colonel's arrogance, Holmes decides to leave Dartmoor without revealing anything to him until after the Wessex Cup.

This is essentially Holmes' response to the world, or at least to the people who dismiss his talent. He sees things that other people don't. As he points out about Inspector Gregory, imagination is a crucial trait to problem solving. Holmes' powers of deduction develop through his use of 'why' questions that inspire his imagination to create possible outcomes. He then chooses the most likely answer and investigates that way. By the time readers get to the end of the story and see how Holmes has solved every aspect of the case, it's clear that his deductive powers are a clever use of his imagination. The curious incident is an excellent example of that. Note how Holmes has a roundabout way of acquiring information.

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