A Case of Identity
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|"A Case of Identity"|
|Author||Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Series||The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes|
|Set in||October 1890|
The story revolves around the case of Miss Mary Sutherland, a woman with a substantial income from the interest on a fund set up for her. She is engaged to a quiet Londoner who has recently disappeared. Sherlock Holmes's detective powers are barely challenged as this turns out to be quite an elementary case for him, much as it puzzles Watson.
The fiancé, Mr. Hosmer Angel, is a peculiar character, rather quiet, and rather secretive about his life. Miss Sutherland only knows that he works in an office in Leadenhall Street, but nothing more specific than that. All his letters to her are typewritten, even the signature, and he insists that she write back to him through the local Post Office.
The climax of the sad liaison comes when Mr. Angel abandons Miss Sutherland at the altar on their wedding day.
Holmes, noting all these things, Hosmer Angel's description, and the fact that he only seems to meet with Miss Sutherland while her disapproving youngish stepfather, James Windibank, is out of the country on business, reaches a conclusion quite quickly. A typewritten letter confirms his belief beyond doubt. Only one person could have gained by this: Mr. James Windibank. Holmes deduces "Angel" had "disappeared" by simply going out the other side of a four-wheeler cab.
After solving the mystery, Holmes chooses not to tell his client the solution, since "If I tell her she will not believe me. You may remember the old Persian saying, 'There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.' There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much knowledge of the world." In this, however, he can be accused of not fulfilling his professional duty for which he was paid – namely, to investigate the matter to which she set him, provide her with the results and let her decide what to do with them. Holmes does advise his client to forget "Mr. Angel"; Miss Sutherland refuses to take Holmes' advice and vows to remain faithful to "Angel" until he reappears – for at least ten years.
Holmes predicts Windibank will continue a career in crime and end up on the gallows.
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Critic Peter Marrow wrote: "As it stands, the story's ending makes no sense – forcing one to try to look for something left unsaid. Far from Windibank's conduct not having broken any law, he has left himself wide open to Miss Sutherland suing him for breach of promise and certain to win – as the proposal had been made by a man who was already married, and her step-father at that. Yet Holmes does not advise to his client this obvious course. This could, however, make sense on the assumption that Windibank was not only interested in Miss Sutherland's money but also in her person; that the bogus engagement covered an illicit and effectively incestous attaction [sic] which might have been mutual, even if not consumated [sic]; that Miss Sutherland on at least some level knew all along who 'Hosmer Angel' truly was; and that Holmes was acting in her best interest in not bringing all this out in the open and avoiding a traumatic and shattering breakup of her family in the glare of sensational publicity. It can be assumed that Doyle's readership in the 1890s was aware of these undercurrents and tended to agree with Holmes' decision."
This story was adapted for the radio at least three times: starring Tom Conway and Nigel Bruce in 1948; starring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson in 1954; and, in adapting all Holmes stories written by Conan Doyle, Clive Merrison and Michael Williams starred in a production scripted by Bert Coules.
Colin Dexter, known for writing the Inspector Morse novels, wrote a short story based on this called "A Case of Mis-Identity", in which Holmes's brother Mycroft is involved in the case's deduction; in this story, Holmes's theory about the 'Hosmer Angel' character is the same, while Mycroft deduces that 'Hosmer Angel' is a fiction created by the mother and daughter to eliminate the step-father, only for Watson to reveal that 'Hosmer Angel' is actually a real person who suffered an attack due to an illness on the way to his wedding and was treated by Watson shortly before the case was officially presented to Holmes.
- Parallel translation of story "A Case of Identity" in Russian and English
- A Case of Identity - Free graded reader for intermediate students of English
Works related to A Case of Identity at Wikisource
- Peter D. Marrow, "The sub-text and the subconscious in Late Victorian Literature", p. 27–31, 82–83, 171
- A Case of Identity (1921). IMDB.com
- Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (TV series 1999–2001). A Case of Identity. IMDB.com
- Sherlock Holmes | Old Time Radio. Otrcat.com (2003-11-26). Retrieved on 2011-07-10.
- Sherlock Holmes on Radio. Worlds-best-detective-crime-and-murder-mystery-books.com. Retrieved on 2011-07-10.