The crime put in front of Holmes seems very “mysterious”. A woman’s sister has died a horrible death, from a seemingly unexplainable cause, although there are some clues. The woman herself is now experiencing the same premonitions such as the whistle very late at night and she thinks she may have an “impending misfortune. ” This increases the urgency to solve the case and the mystery is made difficult to explain because it is a ‘locked room’ mystery. It seems that there is no way for the would be assailant to kill the woman in her bedroom.
This engages the reader’s imagination to work out a solution which the reader will usually enjoy. The case offered to Poirot is not as sinister but just as difficult to solve. A man has been murdered in his room. The murdered man was stabbed twelve times but all the blows were inflicted with different strengths of blow. Some blows were delivered left-handed others right-handed. All initial theories seem impossible. It is also a “locked room” mystery but there appear to be more clues such as the dented watch, the handkerchief, the match and the pipe cleaner. There appears to be too many clues.
This is what makes the case hard to solve. I think that the sheer impossibility and abruptness of Holmes’s case gives it the edge, because it encourages the reader’s imagination more. I think that initially Holmes’s case also offers more of a challenge, as there are fewer clues. One of the things that the mysteries have in common as the stories progress is the false clues or ‘red herrings’ offered, attempting to confuse the reader and lead them off on a false trail to make the solution more exciting and unexpected. The stories use the false clues in contrasting ways. In The Speckled Band, the gypsies who inhabit Dr.
Roylott’s land are offered as a possible solution to the case, as are the wild Indian animals that roam his gardens. There is, however, no evidence to suspect their involvement, and so Holmes discounts them as a possibility very early on when he visits the Roylott residence. Helen says that Dr. Roylott made an “excuse to move me from my room” which heightens Holmes’ suspicions. There are a lot of false clues and suspects in Murder on the Orient Express. At the start this is interesting but as the plot progresses and every clue turns out to be false the story becomes a bit uninteresting.
You just cannot work out who did it because everything seems impossible. Even Poirot says “every fresh piece of knowledge that came to light made the solution a whole lot more difficult. ” Of the two sets of ‘red herrings’, I believe that both keep the reader baffled enough to be unable to work out the solution. In The Speckled Band few alternatives are offered so the reader never formulates their own theories and in Murder on the Orient Express the reader is given lots of alternative solutions so the reader is always changing their opinion. The Murder on the Orient Express alternative solutions are better because they make the reader think.