The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

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"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle"
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle 03.jpg
1892 illustration by Sidney Paget
AuthorSir Arthur Conan Doyle
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Publication date1892

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is one of 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the seventh story of twelve in the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was first published in Strand Magazine in January 1892.[1]


As London prepares for Christmas, newspapers report the theft of the near-priceless gemstone, the "Blue Carbuncle", from the hotel suite of the Countess of Morcar. John Horner, a plumber and a previously convicted felon, is soon arrested for the theft. Despite Horner's claims of innocence, the police are sure that they have their man. Horner's record, and his presence in the Countess's room where he was repairing a fireplace, are all the police need.

Just after Christmas, Watson pays a visit to Holmes at 221B Baker Street. He finds the detective contemplating a battered old hat brought to him by the commissionaire, Peterson. Both the hat and a Christmas goose had been dropped by a man in a scuffle with some street ruffians. The honest Peterson had sought Holmes's help in returning the items to their owner, but although the goose bears a tag with the name Henry Baker, there is little hope of finding the man as the name is a common one in London. Peterson takes the goose home for dinner, and Holmes keeps the hat to study as an intellectual exercise.

Peterson returns excited, carrying the Blue Carbuncle, saying that he found the gem in the goose's crop (an error by Conan Doyle, as geese do not have a crop).[2] Realizing that the identity of Henry Baker is now part of a larger mystery, Holmes makes a concerted effort to identify him. Based on his observations of the hat and its condition, Holmes deduces Baker's age, social standing, intellect and domestic status, but cannot determine whether Baker knew that he was carrying the priceless gem. When Baker appears in response to advertisements that Holmes had placed in London newspapers, Holmes's deductions prove correct. Holmes gives Baker a new goose. Happily accepting the replacement bird, Baker declines to take away his original bird's entrails, thus convincing Holmes that he knew nothing about the gem. He does, however, provide the valuable information that he had purchased the goose at the Alpha Inn, a pub near his place of employment, the British Museum.

Holmes and Watson set out across the city to determine how the jewel travelled from the Countess of Morcar's hotel room to the goose's crop. The proprietor of the Alpha Inn informs them that the goose was purchased from a dealer in Covent Garden. There, a merchant named Breckinridge gets angry with Holmes and refuses to help. He complains of the pestering he has endured about geese sold recently to the landlord of the Alpha Inn. Holmes, realizing that he is not the only one aware of the gem's connection to the goose, tricks an irate Breckinridge into revealing that the bird was supplied by a Mrs Oakshott, a poultry and egg seller in Brixton.

James Ryder imploring Holmes' mercy

A trip to Brixton proves unnecessary when Breckinridge's other "pesterer" appears (a cringing little man named James Ryder, head attendant at the hotel where the carbuncle was stolen), again pressuring Breckinridge to tell him the whereabouts of the Oakshott geese. Holmes and Watson invite Ryder back to Baker Street, telling Ryder that they know he is looking for a goose with a black bar on its tail.

Holmes tells Ryder that the goose "laid an egg after it was dead", terrifying Ryder who believes that Holmes will turn him over to the police. Pressured by Holmes, Ryder says that he and his accomplice Catherine Cusack, the Countess's maid, contrived to frame Horner, knowing that Horner's criminal past would make him an easy scapegoat. But he was plagued by fears of arrest after stealing the stone. During a visit to his sister—Mrs. Oakshott—Ryder hit on the idea of hiding the jewel by feeding it to one of the geese being bred by his sister, one of which had been promised to him as a gift. Unfortunately, Ryder dropped his goose and then confused it with another, taking away the wrong bird. By the time he realised his mistake, the other geese had already been sold. Ryder tried to follow the trail but got no further than Breckinridge.

Holmes does not have Ryder arrested. He concludes that arresting the anguished man will only make him into a more hardened criminal. Ryder flees to the continent, and Horner can expect to be freed as the case against him will collapse without Ryder's perjured testimony.

Publication history[edit]

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" was first published in the UK in The Strand Magazine in January 1892. It was first published in the United States in the US edition of the Strand in February 1892.[3] The story was published with eight illustrations by Sidney Paget in The Strand Magazine.[4] It was included in the short story collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,[4] which was published in October 1892.[5]


Film and television[edit]

A silent short film based on the story was released in 1923 as part of the Stoll film series starring Eille Norwood as Sherlock Holmes.[6]

Peter Cushing portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the 1968 BBC series. "The Adventure of Blue Carbuncle" is one of only six surviving episodes.[7]

Algimantas Masiulis played Sherlock Holmes in a television film adaptation by Belarusfilm (1979).[8]

In 1984 the story was the subject of an episode of the Granada TV version directed by David Carson and starring Jeremy Brett.[9]

The animated television series Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century featured an adaptation of the story, replacing the goose with a blue stuffed toy called "Carbuncle" and the stone with a microprocessor.[10]

Radio and audio dramas[edit]

Edith Meiser adapted "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" as an episode of the radio series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The episode aired on 28 December 1932 (with Richard Gordon as Sherlock Holmes and Leigh Lovell as Dr. Watson).[11] Meiser also adapted the story for the radio series The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as an episode that aired on 4 January 1940 (with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson).[12] Another episode adapted from the story aired on 25 December 1944 (again starring Rathbone and Bruce, and with Eric Snowden as Peterson).[13] An adaptation written by Howard Merrill aired on 26 December 1948 (with John Stanley as Holmes and Wendell Holmes as Watson).[14]

A radio dramatisation adapted by Felix Felton was broadcast on the BBC Home Service on 10 December 1952, as part of the 1952–1969 radio series starring Carleton Hobbs as Holmes and Norman Shelley as Watson.[15] Other adaptations of the story in the same series aired on the BBC Home Service on 25 October 1957[16] and on the BBC Light Programme on 29 December 1961 (adapted by Michael Hardwick).[17]

A 1954 BBC adaptation starred John Gielgud as Holmes and Ralph Richardson as Watson.[18] The production first aired on the BBC Light Programme on 14 December 1954, and also aired on NBC radio on 13 March 1955.[19]

An audio drama based on the story was released in 1970 on LP record, as one of several dramas starring Robert Hardy as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Watson. It was dramatised and produced by Michael Hardwick (who adapted the 1961 radio adaptation) and Mollie Hardwick.[20]

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" was adapted as an episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater featuring Kevin McCarthy as Sherlock Holmes and Court Benson as Dr. Watson. The episode first aired on 25 July 1977.[21]

A radio production adapted by Bill Morrison aired on 23 July 1978, with Barry Foster as Holmes and David Buck as Watson, as one of 13 Holmes stories adapted for BBC Radio 4.[22]

A BBC radio adaptation aired on 2 January 1991, as part of the 1989–1998 radio series starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. The episode was adapted by Bert Coules, and featured Peter Blythe as James Ryder, Ben Onwukwe as John Horner, and Christopher Good as Peterson.[23]

An episode of the radio series The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was adapted from the story. Starring John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert as Watson, the episode aired on 28 December 2008.[24]


  1. ^ "The Blue Carbuncle". Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  2. ^ Alfred Hickling. "Review: The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie S Klinger | Books". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  3. ^ Smith (2014), p. 55.
  4. ^ a b Cawthorne (2011), p. 65.
  5. ^ Cawthorne (2011), p. 54.
  6. ^ Eyles, Alan (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. pp. 132. ISBN 0-06-015620-1.
  7. ^ Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. p. 250. ISBN 978-0857687760.
  8. ^ The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle on IMDb
  9. ^ "The Blue Carbuncle". IMDb. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  10. ^ Barnes, Alan (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. p. 165. ISBN 1-903111-04-8.
  11. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 49.
  12. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 89.
  13. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 150.
  14. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 266.
  15. ^ De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 385. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  16. ^ De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 386. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  17. ^ De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 388. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  18. ^ Eyles, Alan (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper. pp. 137. ISBN 0-06-015620-1.
  19. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 286.
  20. ^ De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 411–412. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  21. ^ Payton, Gordon; Grams, Martin, Jr. (2015) [1999]. The CBS Radio Mystery Theater: An Episode Guide and Handbook to Nine Years of Broadcasting, 1974-1982 (Reprinted ed.). McFarland. p. 219. ISBN 9780786492282.
  22. ^ VV341 – The Valley of Fear
  23. ^ Bert Coules. "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes". The BBC complete audio Sherlock Holmes. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  24. ^ Wright, Stewart (30 April 2019). "The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved 12 June 2020.

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