In 1892, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” in The Strand magazine. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” is a short story about an investigation performed by detective Sherlock Holmes. Holmes investigates the strange circumstances around Julia Stoner’s death, who her twin sister Helen believes has a link to their stepfather, Dr. Gimesby Roylott. Throughout the investigation, Holmes remarks “doctors make the greatest criminals.” This statement is found true in this case, when Holmes proves Dr.
Roylott is the villain responsible for his stepdaughter’s murder.
When presenting the case to detective Holmes, Helen mentions how Julia was planning to wed, threatening the amount of inheritance Dr. Roylott will be able to control. Holmes identifies this as the doctor’s motive in the murder. With this established, Holmes investigates through the doctor’s mind, the criminal mind. Dr. Roylott knew an autopsy would be conducted on Julia, so his method was strategic. Dr. Roylott was known to be an exotic Indian pet owner, so the actual killing was done by his snake, which becomes deemed the speckled band.
The venom is not commonly tested in autopsies performed in Britain, so the doctor knew her death would pass inspection by a surgeon, as long as they did not notice the two puncture wounds from the snake’s bite. With this knowledge, the doctor was able to select the perfect weapon.
Dr. Roylott was also highly intelligent, as all doctors are. He knew if he had used the snake as his weapon, Julia would not be able to explain what happened even if she had survived.
When Helen rushed in after the incident, Julia mumbled something about the speckled band, leaving Helen puzzled as to what she meant. Dr. Roylott kept his snake hidden, so when Julia explained the metal clanging noise, Helen had no idea what that meant. Holmes later discovers that it was a safe the doctor used to contain the snake, but prior to the investigation Helen had just believed papers were kept in the safe. The doctor kept the snake very secret and cleverly used it as a weapon that could go undetected by all common folk and almost any other doctor.
The doctor was also very strategic. He was a good criminal because he thought out his actions with organized plans. When Helen revealed to him that she too was planning to wed, Dr. Roylott instantly devised a plan to protect the inheritance. He had Helen sleep in Julia’s room, claiming there were renovations to be done to the house. With Helen in Julia’s old room, the doctor would be able to commit the same crime with the exact same method. Holmes reveals the speckled band can creep through a ventilator into Julia’s room, and that is how he was able to kill her undetected. The doctor’s deep thoughts in these actions were crucial and show examples of his intelligence, probably acquired through the great studies required to become a doctor.
When detective Sherlock Holmes remarked “doctors make the greatest criminals,” he was absolutely correct. Dr. Roylott’s knowledge of how autopsies are conducted and his general intelligence were able to guide him through the perfect murder. However, these methods come back to bite him in the end.