This story opens with Holmes and Watson having a chat.
Holmes is complaining about how boring London is lately. Why isn't anyone going on a killing spree or something?
Watson notes that most people would be grateful for the crime reduction.
Holmes again bemoans that there's no super criminal for him to catch, and that he kind of misses Moriarty now.
Watson breaks in to tell us that Holmes has been back from the dead a few months and that he is living once more at Baker Street. Watson is Holmes's roommate again as well.
In fact, Watson sold his medical practice and now seems to be a full-time professional sidekick.
Suddenly, a disheveled guy rushes in.
He introduces himself as John Hector McFarlane.
Holmes sits him down and tells him to chill out and tell him what's up.
Holmes also tells the guy certain personal details about himself that Holmes figured out just by glancing at him, since he's super observant and smart.
McFarlane is amazed but Watson has been around Holmes long enough that he's able to follow Holmes's deductions.
McFarlane tells them that he's about to be arrested for murdering Jonas Oldacre.
He shows our Dynamic Duo a newspaper with an article about the murder of Mr. Oldacre.
McFarlane insists that he's innocent, but he has no proof.
Watson reads the newspaper article aloud.
Basically it says that Mr. Oldacre, a bachelor who lived alone, was missing last night after firemen showed up to put out a fire at his house.
There were signs of a struggle in Oldacre's bedroom, and the police think that he was murdered and then set on fire to hide the evidence.
They also know that he had one visitor last night, good old McFarlane.
McFarlane explains how he's evaded arrest so far, but just then the cops show up yelling "What's all this then?" and other stereotypical British copper slang.
Our buddy Inspector Lestrade is back. He announces that he's arresting McFarlane for murder.
What, no Miranda rights? Well, those didn't exist yet, so there you go.
Lestrade agrees to let the prisoner tell his story in Holmes's parlor before hauling him down to Scotland Yard.
McFarlane is a solicitor, which means that he handles legal documents like wills and notarizes, or authorizes, them.
Jonas Oldacre came to see McFarlane and announced that he was making McFarlane his heir and wanted him to draw up a will for him.
McFarlane had never met Oldacre before and thought this was nuts, but he drew up the will.
Then Mr. Oldacre told him that he knew his parents when he was younger, which is why he's making McFarlane his heir.
He told McFarlane to come by his house later in the evening to go over more legal documents.
He also told McFarlane to keep all of this a secret so he could surprise his parents later.
McFarlane agrees to all this and goes to Oldacre's house that night.
He is let in by a middle-aged housekeeper.
McFarlane finished his business with Oldacre late that night and he left out a back way and spent the night in a local inn.
That's all he knows and he swears that he didn't kill anyone.
Lestrade says whatever and has his minion officers haul McFarlane off to jail.
After he leaves, Lestrade and Holmes dish over the case.
Holmes uses his super observation skills to figure out that Oldacre's documents had been written on a train. Holmes can do handwriting analysis with his brain and not a computer.
Lestrade says that's nice and proceeds to give a rundown of the crime scene, which clearly implicates McFarlane.
Holmes suggests that a tramp could have done it, but Lestrade shoots that theory down.
He leaves finally and Holmes says he's going off to Blackheath to visit McFarlane's parents.
Watson isn't invited along this time.
Much later, Holmes returns home. He's feeling emo, so he plays his violin for a while.
Finally, Holmes confesses to Watson that he had a bad day. These two are like a married couple – Watson's like the wife waiting for the husband to come home so he can complain about his day.
Holmes did talk with MacFarlane's mom, who confessed that her family didn't like Oldacre. Oldacre had a crush on her back in the day, and she refused him in order to marry MacFarlane's dad.
Then Holmes went to Oldacre's house and couldn't find anything that could clear MacFarlane.
Holmes is mainly upset because Lestrade is beating him.
Glad to see he's concerned about his client going to jail.
Holmes did notice some signs of missing documents, but that was a dead-end clue.
The housekeeper Mrs. Lexington seemed to be keeping secrets, but Holmes couldn't get anything out of her.
Holmes is upset because the evidence points to MacFarlane, but Holmes's gut it telling him it's all wrong.
The next morning they get a hilarious note from Lestrade boasting about how he bested Holmes for once.
Holmes is duly miffed.
So Watson and Holmes head off to Norwood to meet Lestrade.
Lestrade is in a fabulous mood since he's beaten Holmes for once.
Glad these professionals take their job so seriously. We're sure MacFarlane appreciates all this while he's rotting in jail.
Lestrade points out fresh evidence: a bloody fingerprint on the wall that matches MacFarlane's thumb print.
FYI: Fingerprinting was gradually becoming more common in the 1890s, though at time police officers just had to eyeball the prints to see if they matched, which definitely left room for error. Dusting for fingerprints was not a common practice at this time though. If you want to learn more about the history of fingerprint identification, check out this site.
Lestrade continues ragging on Holmes for losing, but Holmes seems to be in a much better mood.
Watson is curious.
Holmes announces that the fingerprint wasn't there yesterday.
He chats with Watson for a while and then they go find Lestrade writing up his report.
Holmes gets Lestrade to bring in some officers and instructs them all to yell fire very loudly.
After a bit of this an old dude comes running out of a secret hideaway.
It's Jonas Oldacre!
The whole truth comes out now. Holmes lets us know that Oldacre faked his own death in order to get even with the MacFarlanes.
Oldacre has too much time on his hands, clearly.
Oldacre staged the whole thing and his housekeeper planted the fingerprint for him.
Poor Lestrade is wrong yet again, but he gets to take credit for solving the case since Holmes likes to be incognito.
Holmes lectures some more and says that Oldacre was doing fine but overdid things with the bloody fingerprint. He got himself caught that way.
Oldacre tries to explain that the whole thing was a practical joke, but Lestrade tells him to shut it.
Holmes can't get Oldacre to tell what he actually burned in the fire.
We've just got to say that the cops investigating this were morons if they couldn't tell the difference between charred human remains and an animal. Gil Grissom would be seriously disappointed in these losers. Though perhaps they just found ash and thought that Oldacre's "murderer" set a fire with rocket fuel or something.