Study Guide

The Return of Sherlock Holmes The Adventure of the Six Napoleons

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Six Napoleons

  • Inspector Lestrade is back yet again.
  • He is chilling at Baker Street and he is distracted.
  • Lestrade has a case that seems really stupid and weird, but it's bothering him.
  • Holmes tells him to spill it.
  • Lestrade tells us that a guy named Morse Hudson, who ran the 1890s version of Pier One, had someone smash a bust of Napoleon in his shop and run off.
  • Lestrade at first thought that this was "hooliganism."
  • But then a man named Mr. Barnicot had the same thing happen to him. He used to be the proud owner of two discount busts of Napoleon bought from Morse Hudson.
  • But some person recently broke in to Barnicot's home and office and broke his Napoleon busts.
  • Tragic.
  • All three Napoleon busts were made from the same mould.
  • Lestrade is wondering if some crazy person has some sort of Napoleon obsession.
  • Dr. Watson helpfully notes that there are lots of mental disorders, so who knows.
  • Thanks for that tip, Watson.
  • Holmes finds this all shifty, and says to keep him updated since seemingly dumb cases often turn out to be major ones.
  • The next morning Holmes barges in on Watson and shows him a telegram from Lestrade telling them to come to an address.
  • They do so and find a dead body.
  • The dead body is outside the house of journalist Horace Harker, who had his Napoleon bust stolen last night.
  • Holmes and Watson go to talk to the upset Harker. Harker is partially upset because he is too upset to write, and his newspaper will miss out on his eyewitness inside scoop.
  • Harker gives them a quick run-down of events and notes that he bought his Napoleon bust from the Harding Brothers store and not Morse Hudson. Shop rivalry.
  • The dynamic duo goes back outside to chat with Lestrade.
  • There's no identification on the body, but he was carrying a picture of a man that Watson describes as "ape-like."
  • Historical Context Lesson! This description of Watson's is important since it echoes a lot of eugenics rhetoric that was pretty popular in the 1890s. Eugenics is a type of "race science" that basically classed non-white people as evolutionarily "lower" than white people. If you want to read up more on eugenics in this period, you can check out Beppo's "Character Analysis," as well as the them "Foreignness and 'the Other.'"
  • The cops have also found a smashed Napoleon bust nearby under a street-lamp.
  • Holmes theorizes that this person is breaking these busts for a deliberate purpose and not just to satisfy a Napoleon vendetta or something.
  • Watson and Holmes leave to go talk to the people at the Harding Brothers' shop and at Morse Hudson's shop.
  • Morse is able to identify the man in the photograph found on the dead body as Beppo, an Italian workman who did stuff like carving and framing at Gelder and Co.
  • Then Holmes and Watson head to Gelder and Co., which is where the Napoleon busts were made originally.
  • Beppo's former boss at Gelder and Co. tells about what a punk he was and how he got arrested on the job after fleeing the cops. Beppo had knifed another Italian in the street.
  • He was a good worker until that incident though.
  • The ex-boss also gives Holmes more info on the Napoleon busts. There were six total made from the same mold.
  • Later Holmes and Watson see a hilarious account in the newspaper about a homicidal nut with a Napoleon complex running around London.
  • They go back to the Harding Brothers shop and find out who owns the other two Napoleon busts.
  • Holmes contacts both men.
  • Lestrade comes back and fills them in on his day's work. Lestrade found out the identity of the dead body: Pietro Venucci. He's an Italian with mafia connections.
  • Lestrade wants to go hunt for Beppo in the Italian Quarter but Holmes says they can let Beppo come to them.
  • So Lestrade, Holmes, and Watson go stake-out the house of Josiah Brown.
  • Eventually Beppo shows up to steal Josiah's Napoleon bust.
  • Beppo is caught and arrested.
  • Beppo smashes the bust before he's caught, depriving Josiah of some nice decoration in his home.
  • Then Bepo is hauled off to jail, and Lestrade goes back to Baker Street with the dynamic duo.
  • A Mr. Sandeford comes by to sell Holmes his Napoleon bust.
  • He can't figure why Holmes is willing to pay so much for it, but Holmes convinces him it's cool and shoves him out the door.
  • Then Holmes breaks the statue open and reveals a black pearl hidden inside.
  • Holmes explains that this is a famous pearl that was stolen years ago. Holmes couldn't solve the case until now.
  • Pietro had a sister, Lucretia, who stole the pearl. He doesn't know if Beppo was in on the scam or if he robbed Pietro, but Beppo hid the pearl in one of the Napoleon busts as the plaster was drying. But then he was arrested and had to wait until he got out of jail to find the pearl.

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