Study Guide

The Return of Sherlock Holmes The Adventure of Black Peter

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of Black Peter

  • This one sounds like a fun pirate story.
  • There aren't any pirates, but there are hijinks at sea. Ahoy.
  • Watson opens this story with a reference to the last story. He makes it clear that Holmes usually doesn't accept reward money and that he often turns down rich clients in order to help poor ones. Just in case the last story gave us the wrong impression.
  • He then talks some about how 1895 was a busy year, but that the murder of Peter Carey definitely stood out. Here's the story:
  • It's July and Holmes has been gone for a while. He's currently moonlighting as one of his many alter egos.
  • Apparently Holmes has fake identities and apartments scattered all over London and sometimes he disappears into a "new life" for a period.
  • Watson, ever loyal to the bromance, patiently waits at Baker Street for Holmes to pop back up.
  • This time Holmes is pretending to be a Captain Basil, sea captain extraordinaire.
  • Holmes strolls in one day carrying a spear.
  • Watson can't believe his friend was walking around town like that. What would the neighbors say?
  • Holmes says that he's spent the day stabbing a dead pig in a butcher shop with his spear. We don't think that exercise trend is going to catch on, Holmes.
  • Then a young detective named Stanley Hopkins shows up at Baker Street. Holmes is mentoring Hopkins.
  • Turns out Holmes was experimenting on pigs because of a case Hopkins has.
  • Hopkins fills Watson in on the case.
  • A man named Peter Carey was murdered. And not in any old way either. Carey was found with a harpoon stuck through his chest. Talk about overkill.
  • Peter Carey was a former whaling ship captain on a ship named the Sea Unicorn. No, really. We'll excuse you while you roll around on the floor laughing for a bit.
  • Peter Carey was a total jerk known as "Black Peter." Maybe he was grumpy because he was the captain of a boat called the Sea Unicorn.
  • Anyway, Peter Carey was a mean guy who liked drinking. He was an abusive drunk to his wife and daughter and terrorized his crew. So there are many people who may have harpooned him.
  • Also, Peter lived in a little shed that he built on his property and decorated like a ship's cabin. Dude shouldn't have retired.
  • Hopkins found the harpooned Peter the morning after the murder, and he describes how flies were buzzing all over the place, since it's July and it's hot. Gross.
  • Holmes snits at Hopkins for not calling him in immediately.
  • Hopkins then gives a rundown of some evidence: a tobacco pouch was found at the scene, as well as a book with the initials J.H.N. on the cover. The book contained stock information from back in 1883.
  • Holmes asks a few more questions about the murder scene and then agrees to come out to see it himself.
  • The next day Holmes and Watson arrive at the Carey house.
  • They briefly talk with Peter Carey's downtrodden wife and daughter and then poke around outside.
  • They discover that someone has tried to break in to Peter's cabin.
  • So the three men do a stake-out that night to see if the potential burglar returns.
  • He does.
  • The men spring out and catch a young man.
  • He explains that he is John Hopley Neligan and it's his book that was found at the crime scene. He came back for it.
  • John insists that he didn't kill Peter though.
  • John wanted to visit Peter because of the stock info. John's banker dad had left town with this info years ago, and everyone thought he bilked people out of their money and was a punk. John discovered that Peter had invested some of the bonds and securities that his dad had on him and went to talk to Peter. He is hoping to clear his father's name still.
  • Unfortunately, all evidence points to John being the killer. So Hopkins arrests him.
  • Holmes is not satisfied, though.
  • Holmes has Hopkins come over to Baker Street a few days later to discuss the case.
  • Hopkins insists it's solved but Holmes points out that Neligan isn't strong enough to harpoon anyone.
  • Then it's time for some dinner theater.
  • Three men come to Baker Street, answering an ad placed by a Captain Basil (a.k.a. Holmes) for men to serve aboard his new ship.
  • The first two men are turned away but the last guy, Patrick Cairns, is tackled by Holmes.
  • Cairns is huge and it takes Hopkins, Holmes, and Watson to subdue him.
  • Holmes announces that Cairns is the killer.
  • Cairns then confesses all. He was Peter's first mate. He found out about Peter's stock scheme and wanted in on it. He confronted Peter and the two fought. Cairns grabbed the nearest weapon, a harpoon, and killed Peter.
  • He also lets us know that Peter found Neligan's dad at sea years ago and killed him in order to steal the stock info that he had on him.
  • We're still not really sure why Neligan's dad thought it would be a good idea to take off with the stock info and sail away in a dinky boat.
  • Having wrapped up the case, Holmes tells Hopkins that he and Watson are going on a boat trip to Norway as advertised in the Captain Basil ad. Oh, that crazy Holmes.

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