The Adventure of the Purloined Portrait
The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes Book 4
by Liese Sherwood-Fabre Genre: Historical Mystery
A long-buried past. A stolen portrait. The artist’s murder. Can Sherlock discover the connection between the three before he’s stopped permanently?
Sherlock can’t shake his apprehension about a family trip to Paris. His mother’s unflappable confidence vanished months ago, and her anxiety has set the whole family on edge. His greatest fears are realized when they witness the death of one of Mrs. Holmes’ former suitors.
As Sherlock seeks to unravel the reason behind the artist’s murder, he unearths a long-buried secret about his mother and survives several attempts to keep him from getting to the truth.
Can he bring a murderer to justice before he’s buried with these hidden secrets forever?
The Adventure of the Purloined Portrait is the gripping fourth case in The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes. If you enjoy traditional historical mysteries, you’ll love this origin series about the world’s greatest consulting detective.
Buy The Adventure of the Purloined Portrait to learn how Sherlock’s past shaped the sleuth he became.
Running footfalls echoed on the street. We all turned in their direction as a black figure rushed toward us. Ernest and Mycroft stepped closer to Mother, shoving me forward toward the bulky man, his face covered by a scarf and now only a few strides from me and Gaspard. At the last moment, the man veered toward Gaspard, grabbed the portfolio from his grasp and continued up the street. The artist and I had the same reaction simultaneously. I dropped the canvas and set off in pursuit of the thief. Despite his protested ill health, Gaspard’s long legs assisted him in reaching the man first. His satchel flying behind him, he leapt onto the man’s back, pulling him down.
The two struggled, rolling about on the ground, with first one, then the other on top. At the next rotation, as the thief pinned Gaspard underneath him, I fell on the man, pulling him backward. As I did so, the portfolio fell from his grasp. The artist clutched the leather case to his chest and scrambled out from under his attacker.
With my attention directed toward the struggle, I failed to hear the carriage approaching until it was almost upon us. The black-clad man shrugged me off and lunged for the portfolio. Gaspard spun about and ran into the street.
Mother’s scream pierced the night as her former friend tripped on a loose paving stone and fell underneath the horses’ hooves. A series of sickening thuds followed as horse and man connected, freezing me to my spot.
The thief took advantage of my immobility to rush into the street, grab the portfolio now lying a few feet from Gaspard, and ascend the carriage. I stared at its back as it turned a corner and sped away.
The sound of more running footsteps shook me from my temporary paralysis. I rushed to the injured man. The horses had missed his head, but hoof marks on his shirt indicated his chest had been crushed. Somehow, he was still breathing.
Liese Sherwood-Fabre knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ in the second grade for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD, she joined the federal government and worked and lived internationally for more than fifteen years. Returning to the states, she seriously pursued her writing career, garnering such awards as a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest and a Pushcart Prize nomination. A recognized Sherlockian scholar, her essays have appeared in scion newsletters, the Baker Street Journal, and Canadian Holmes. She has recently turned this passion into an origin story series on Sherlock Holmes. The first book, The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife, was the CIBA Mystery and Mayhem 2020 winner.
If you grew up in the south, you may be familiar with the fruit of the bodark tree. I grew up calling them "horse apples," but they go by a variety of names, including Osage oranges and monkey balls (more about that later). These trees are native to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas - an area originally inhabited by the Native American Osage tribe. The tree's wood is flexible, but strong - perfect for making bows. The name "bodark" is a corruption of the French words "bois d'arc," or "wood for bows." Settlers used to cut these trees short to form fences before barbed wire was invented.
While "apple" is often associated with the fruit, neither humans nor most animals eat them. While not poisonous (according to the research I completed), it secretes a latex that can be irritating to the skin. Squirrels are one of the few creatures who will eat them.
There’s actually a tie-in between this fruit and Sherlock Holmes. One of the episodes of Elementary("Internal Audit," if you wish to look it up) involved a clue left by the humble horse apple, or "monkey balls," according to Sherlock. (I tried to find a meme with this pronouncement but couldn't.) The trees apparently made it to New York City during the landscaping of Central Park in the 1850s. A guide to the different trees in the park includes a listing of the bodarks in Central Park here.
For the modern-day New York Sherlock, the bodark fruit was rather unique, but to me, it was something every child in Texas knows. I have yet to find a use for them, although someone did share a way of using them to make wreaths. It involved slicing them and baking them at a low heat (outside because of the smell). I decided I preferred to leave them to the squirrels.
Has something from your childhood or region ever made it to TV or the movies?
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