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First off, what the heck is a pince-nez? Well it's a French term for a type of eyeglasses that were popular in the late nineteenth century. These glasses didn't have frames on the side and instead just rested on a person's nose. Trés chic.
We're back in 1894 again, another busy year for Holmes.
It was a dark and stormy night, and Stanley Hopkins stops by with a hot new case.
A man was found murdered at house in Kent earlier that day.
The man is a Willoughby Smith, assistant to Professor Coram, who is an invalid and can't get around very well due to poor health.
Coram had a very secluded household and spent his time working on academic books.
Willoughby was found dead with his throat slit.
No one else in the house saw or heard anything very helpful.
Willoughby's final words were super cryptic: "The professor – it was she" (Pince-Nez.23).
The professor's really a woman! Or not.
Hopkins continues saying that he searched around the house and saw that there was only one escape route, out through the garden. But he found no footprints.
A pair of glasses were found on the body.
From these glasses Holmes quickly writes up a description of the suspect, saying it's a woman who is practically blind given how thick the glasses are.
Hopkins is duly impressed.
Based on the style and fit of the glasses Holmes also provides some physical details about the suspect.
He then goes on a long-winded explanation as to how he figured all this stuff out.
The next day Holmes and Watson go out to the house, Yoxley Old Place, with Hopkins.
Holmes points out that it was remarkable that the nearly-blind woman was able to get out of the house without leaving any evidence behind.
Hopkins doesn't pick up on this snark.
Holmes then questions the household staff, examines the murder scene (where he notes a scratch on a cabinet containing legal documents), and finally goes to talk with Professor Coram.
Coram loves his academic work and his cigarettes.
He is sad about Willoughby and can't tell them anything useful.
Holmes smokes some cigarettes with him, which Watson finds odd.
Coram suggests suicide and can't think of any reason for someone to try to rob him.
The duo goes back to talk to Mrs. Marker, the housekeeper. She spills that the professor had eaten a huge breakfast that morning.
They poke around some more and after lunch go back to see Coram.
Holmes dramatically reveals that the murderer is still in the house.
He explains that the woman arrived to steal some documents and was waylaid by Willoughby, whom she stabbed in her escape attempt. She then lost her glasses, ran to the professor's room by accident, and is now hiding there with the professor's help.
Holmes reveals that he smoked a bunch earlier in order to deposit some ash on the floor. The ash has been disturbed, so someone came out of a hiding place.
Finally a woman reveals herself.
She is a Russian named Anna and is Coram's wife. Coram himself is a former Russian revolutionary who betrayed his fellow revolutionaries and ran off to hide in England.
Anna gives a lengthy spiel about the reason she's there.
If you want to read more about the Russian history aspects of all this, head on over to Anna's "Character Analysis."
In a nutshell, Ann and her husband were revolutionaries fighting to overthrow the Russian czar.
Her husband, whose name is really Sergius, ran off, and Anna got tossed into jail. She got out, but her BFF, Alexis, is still in prison. Alexis is a good guy and wasn't involved in violent revolutionary activities, so Anna wants to free him.
Her husband has papers that could help Alexis, but he's been sitting on them.
Anna came to England to get the papers, and the rest went down like Holmes said it did.
Willoughby's death was a complete accident.
We also learned that Anna hired a private detective to find out about the house. She had met Willoughby outside earlier and asked for directions to the house, which explains Willoughby's last words of "it is she." He'd seen her earlier and a was giving a warning.
After getting Holmes and Watson to promise to look at the papers and consider helping Alexis, Anna dies.
She has taken a poison capsule before revealing herself.
Holmes and Watson leave the house and discuss the case. They then head to the Russian Embassy to see about freeing Alexis.