Vignettes of Old Marylebone 3: You know my methods, Watson

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When I leave Seymour Place of an evening, my head full of shop cares, I’m often pleased to fancy myself as a client of Mr Sherlock Holmes, hastening up to 221B Baker St to pour out my heart. How reassuring to be ushered upstairs by the vague but cosy figure of Mrs Hudson and have Dr Watson offer strong waters while the great man listens intently to your knotty problems. I’m proud to say I’ve read every one of his cases and no doubt you have too. Which is the most compelling?
Hardly coincidentally, I remember the ones featuring strong scents. The type of lady to be found at 221B is not likely to be a perfume wearer though of course Holmes’s curious habits fill his rooms with fumes of shag tobacco (kept in a Persian slipper), violin rosin and the tang of opium poppy. I remember the reek of chloroform in Lady Frances Carfax’s unusually and suspiciously large coffin (they get the pad off her face just in time). Scent is the vital clue to murder in the horrible Adventure of the Retired Colourman: he’s gassed his wife and her lover and then repainted the house to disguise the tell-tale smell. And then there’s the tragic Veiled Lodger who at Holmes’s behest surrenders her means of suicide: “I send you my temptation”. There on the mantlepiece is a vial of prussic acid: ” a pleasant almondy odour rose when I opened it”…

But my favourites are The – alas! unscented –  Speckled Band: the snake posted through the bedroom vent and down the bellpull – and poor Miss Violet Hunter’s perils in The Copper Beeches, forced to cut off her luxuriant chestnut hair and sit in the parlour window of a morning wearing a borrowed dress in a peculiar shade of electric blue…nip up to Baker St after your trip to Les Senteurs and find out why.