Summary: Part I, Chapter III: The Lauriston Gardens Mystery
Holmes reads the note, which was sent by Tobias Gregson, a detective at Scotland Yard. Gregson requests Holmes’s help regarding the mysterious death of an American man named Enoch Drebber, who was found in an empty house in Brixton. Holmes explains that Gregson and another colleague, Lestrade, are the best detectives at the Yard but they’re conventional thinkers. At Watson’s instigation, Holmes decides to help, and the men depart.
At the house in Brixton, Gregson and Lestrade show Holmes and Watson the body in the dining room. Despite blood splatters, the cause of death remains unclear. When they move the body to examine it, a wedding ring falls to the floor. Gregson tells Holmes that he’s contacted offices in the United States with inquiries about Drebber and another man, Stangerson, whose name appears on a letter on the body.
Lestrade then discovers the word rache on the wall. While Lestrade presents his hypothesis involving a woman, Holmes examines the room closely, measuring and taking samples. Before leaving, Holmes says that he’s determined that Drebber was poisoned by a man with whom he arrived at the house in a cab. He shares several physical details about the murderer and explains that rache is the German word for “revenge.”
Analysis: Part I, Chapter III
As exposition gives way to conflict and the inciting event of the novel in Chapter III, Holmes shows himself to be a completely self-absorbed person, marching to the beat of his own drum and responding only to his own motivations. He regards the inspecting abilities of Gregson and Lestrade almost with contempt, despite admitting they are the best Scotland Yard has to offer, and initially refuses to help because he knows he won’t get any credit for it. He only decides to assist in the investigation because he might get a laugh out of Gregson and Lestrade’s incompetence, and not because a murder case needs solving. But it seems Holmes is not the only detective whose motivations are not purely magnanimous, as Gregson and Lestrade undermine each other and vie for superiority.
The two Scotland Yard inspectors’ perspectives on the scene at Brixton Road, and Holmes’s actions, differ widely from Watson’s view, and this contrast reveals an interesting capacity for observation in Watson. Gregson is “self-satisfied” with his work so far and seems to think Holmes’s services won’t be needed, but Watson perceives something dark and unusual about the murder. As Holmes bustles about asking seemingly odd questions and obsessing over tiny details, Lestrade and Gregson are confused. But Watson, who is beginning to understand Holmes, sees a method in the madness. Watson is proving to be a keen observer, bolstering his position as a reliable narrator and providing a partial answer for why Holmes invites Watson to investigate alongside him.