This story is one of the adventures of the famous fictitious detective – Sherlock Holmes. The teacher can begin by briefly introducing the writer and background of the story and taking students through the first two sections. After that students either read the story on their own or work under the teacher’s guidance through the sections of the story. The story comes with some prompts and questions along the margin to guide students in responding to the story development and characters. They are given practice in reading sensitively and analytically through activities such as looking for clues of the murderer.
Students are encouraged to finishing reading the whole story if they are eager to get the answer to the mystery. But they must not tell the ending of the story to their classmates who have not finished reading the story.
James McCarthy was accused of having murdered his own father, Charles McCharthy. On the afternoon of the tragedy, he was seen having a violent quarrel with the latter near Boscombe Pool, and shortly after that he rushed to a house nearby for help, with blood on his hand, saying he found his father dead by the Pool. James refused to say anything about the object of his quarrel with his father, but told the coroner that before his father died, the latter uttered something about “a rat”.
Miss Turner, daughter of the neighbouring land-owner of the McCarthys, wanted to prove his innocence. She appointed detective Lestrade of Scotland Yard to help, but he was convinced James was guilty, so she turned to Sherlock Holmes for help.
After meeting James and visiting the scene of the crime, Holmes concluded that the murderer was a tall, lame and left-handed man… He also speculated about the weapon and deduced the murderer’s background…
Was Holmes right? Who was the murderer? How did Holmes solve the mystery?
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous detectives in the world of fiction. In the story The Boscombe Valley Mystery, as usual he is accompanied by his good friend, Dr Watson, who is also the narrator of the story.
to participate with others in planning, organizing and carrying out events (IDd)
to provide or find out, select, organize and present information on familiar and less familiar topics (KDa)
to interpret and use more extensive information through processes or activities such as sequencing, describing, explaining, predicting, inferring, summarizing, drawing conclusions (KDc)
to identify and discuss ideas in spoken and written texts, form opinions and express them (KDd)
to identify and define problems from given information, consider related factors, solve the problems and explain the solutions (KDe)
to respond to characters, events and issues in imaginative and other narrative texts (EDb)
Cultural interest and appreciation of a famous foreign fictitious figure
Students are able:
to follow the plot of a detective story
to recognize the clues to the mystery in the story and suggest solutions to the mystery with justification
to appreciate the portrayal of characters and description of actions and events in a story
to investigate the fictitious world of Sherlock Holmes and/or other detective and mystery stories and to organize and present the findings
to understand the genre of detective stories and to develop an interest in detective fiction
Language Function & Structure:
Use of conditional tenses, esp. types 2 & 3
Use of present perfect tense to describe the completion of some actions (e.g. the picture has been replaced; the vase has been broken)
Use of “so” etc. to avoid repetition.
Use of “both” for emphasis.
Activities and Skills Focused
Listening: listening to group members’ view and classmates and teachers’ reading aloud, to comprehend and to interpret the reading
Speaking: expressing personal views and speculations, discussion, reasoning and justifying own points of view, reading aloud the story.
Reading: anticipation, reading for underlying meaning, reading to extract clues for the mystery of the story
Reading & writing: reading to follow sequence of events and to summarize part of the story, writing a statement of confession for a character in the story.
Word attack skills.
The Boscombe Valley Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (adapted)
Catering for Learner Diversity
Teachers may adapt the materials and the teaching procedure judiciously for the needs of the students
Suggest Number of Lessons
The author of the book is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). He is best remembered as the creator of the fictional detective "Sherlock Holmes", which has become one of the most famous fictional characters of all time. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he began practicing medicine in 1882, but was not a great success. While waiting for patients, he started writing short stories as a hobby, but his early writings earned him only pocket money. His first great success came with his first Sherlock Holmes novel, "A Study in Scarlet" (1887). In Holmes, Doyle created a detective who used observation and logic to solve crimes, which Doyle had patterned after a real-life Scotland Yard detective. For this, Doyle is credited with creating the investigative detective. Sherlock Holmes would also appear in 56 short stories and three other novels, "The Sign of Four" (1890), "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (1902), and "The Valley of Fear" (1915). So popular did the Sherlock Holmes character become, that Doyle became one of the most highly paid short-story writers in his time. When he killed off the Sherlock Holmes character in one of his stories in 1893, public demand and pressure from his publisher, the Strand magazine, forced him to bring the character back to life three years later to continue the Sherlock Holmes adventures. Doyle has also written numerous historical novels, other adventure tales, romances, and plays, including a series of short stories and novels featuring a fictional 'Professor Challenger', which have been turned into movies and television series. During the later decade of his life, he abandoned writing fiction to study and lecture on spiritualism, the communication with the souls of the dead, a topic that interested the general public in the 1920s. (Biographical account by Kit and Morgan Benson at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1542. Retrieved on 17 Dec 2005.)
Other interesting sites about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes:
Sherlock Holmes stories: http://www.citsoft.com/holmes3.html
Sherlockian.Net: Arthur Conan Doyle: http://www.sherlockian.net/acd/index.html; http://www.citsoft.com/holmes3.html
Sherlock Holmes International: http://www.sherlock-holmes.org/english.htm;
A big city about three hours’ train journey from London
A farm owned by John Turner and rented out to the McCarthys
A county in England. Information on the place in the past and now is available at http://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/homepage.asp .
A small hotel in the country-town of Ross, where Holmes and Watson stayed when they investigated the case.
A country town near Boscombe Valley in Herefordshire
Landscape near Ross in Herefordshire
Landscape near Ross in Herefordshire
Lesson Procedure & General Approach
This story can be tackled in different ways according to the learning style and level of the students. With students who need more support, teacher can take them through the story.
More able students can be allowed to work more independently after T has introduced the background of the story and the setting (Chapter 1 sections 1.1 & 1.2).
Some questions (with answers) and points that are worth noting have been put in boxes on the margin in the Teacher’s version of the story. T can decide if she wants to use them when she takes students through the story. During class, the teacher could highlight or read aloud interesting or important sections and ask students to attempt the questions.
It teacher wants to take students through the story, she can decide if she wants to give out the whole story to students in one go or to do so chapter by chapter or section by section, so that she can time the students’ reading in steps.
To arouse students’ interest teacher can ask students to discuss and predict who the murderer is as they read on, particularly at the following places. Students can be asked to justify their guesses:
After the report on the examination of James McCarthy (end of Chapter 1)
After Holmes met Miss Turner (end of Section 2.1)
After Holmes met James (end of Section 2.3)
After Holmes’ visit to the crime scene (end of Chapter 2)
If students are reading on their own, they can still make the guesses and note them down before reading on.
There are 9 post-reading activities on this story. Teacher can decide their focus and select from the activities for their class. Some activities can be done in groups. Some of the activities require creative or critical thinking. Interaction among students would make the activities more interesting than individual work.
PART 1: PRE-READING – GETTING TO KNOW THE BACKGROUND
Teacher asks students questions and provides some background information, particularly about the following to arouse students’ interest and to provide background to the story:
detective stories (What detective stories have they read? Why are they interested in detective stories? What are some typical features of these stories?)
the author (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Sherlock Holmes and the setting of his adventures (possibly showing some photos of England in the 19th Century and of the Sherlock Holmes Museum on the Internet)
the narrator in the story, Sherlock Holmes’ friend, Dr Watson
PART 2: ANTICIPATION – Chapters One – Sections 1.1 & 1.2 (4 periods)
Teacher takes students through Sections 1.1 and 1.2 of the story and encourage them to read on. More able students can read the rest of the story on their own. Other students can go through the story in several sessions.
PART 3: INTERACTIVE READING T can ask students to make up a list of characters and places as they go through the story, and speculate who the murderer was. (Refer to the list of characters and places in the notes.)
Sequence the following events which summarize the relationship between John Turner and Charles McCarthy. (Depending on the ability of the students, Teacher may ask them to write the summary by themselves.)
Turner and his gang got the gold and became wealthy. Turner went to England and decided to turn over a new leaf. He did his best to make up for the past. He got married but his wife died soon. He had a daughter called Alice.
Turner challenged McCarthy to do his worst, and they were to meet at the pool midway between their houses to talk it over.
After James left, Turner attacked McCarthy with a big stone and killed him.
Twenty years ago he met James McCarthy and the latter threatened to tell his secret to the police.
Turner and his gang robbed the gold convoy which McCarthy worked in. They killed some of the guards, but Turner set McCarthy free.
Thirty years ago John Turner and James McCarthy were both in Australia. Turner was a miner, but later became a highway robber, and was known as Black Jack of Ballarat. McCarthy was a wagon driver.
When Turner arrived, he heard McCarthy talking to his son James, forcing him to marry Alice as if she was a dirty woman off the street. This made Turner very angry.
But now McCarthy asked Turner to let his son marry Alice. Turner was strongly against this because he did not want Alice to fall into the grip of McCarthy and mix with his family.
Turner stood firm, so McCarthy threatened him.
In order to pacify McCarthy, Turner let him live in Hatherly Farm free, and gave him whatever he wanted.
Sequence the following events about what happened on the afternoon of the tragedy. (Depending on the ability of the students, Teacher may ask them to write the narration by themselves.)
When the inspector told James that he was a prisoner, he remarked that he was not surprised to hear it, and it was no more than what he deserved. But he denied he had killed his father.
Patience Moran, a girl of fourteen, daughter of the lodge-keeper of the Boscombe Valley Estate, stated that she saw Mr. McCarthy and his son at the edge of the wood close by the lake.
On following him they found the dead body stretched out upon the grass beside the pool. The head had been beaten in by repeated blows of some heavy and blunt weapon. The injuries seemed to have been made by the butt-end of his son's shotgun, which was found lying on the grass within a few feet from the body.
He said he had a quarrel with his father, but refused to say what the quarrel was about.
James was instantly arrested, and a verdict of 'wilful murder' has been returned at the inquest on Tuesday. On the next day he was brought before the magistrates.
On June 3rd, McCarthy left his home about three in the afternoon and walked down to the Boscombe Pool near his farmhouse. He had told his servant that he was in a hurry, as he had an important appointment to keep at three.
Mr. McCarthy came running up to the lodge to say that he had found his father dead in the wood, and to ask the lodge-keeper for help.
A few minutes after he passed Boscombe Pool, his son, James McCarthy, was seen going the same way with a shotgun under his arm.
James said he had gone to Boscombe Pool with his shot-gun with the intention of visiting the rabbit-holes there.
He was much excited, without either his shotgun or his hat, and his right hand and sleeve were stained with fresh blood.
She said that they appeared to be having a violent quarrel. She heard Mr. McCarthy the elder using very strong language to his son, and she saw the latter raise his hand as if to strike his father.
Sherlock Holmes has asked Mr Turner to write a statement admitting the crime. Imagine you are Turner and write the statement. A convenient way to do so is by telling the story (from Turner’s point of view) in a chronological way. You may begin like this: (Note for the teacher: This activity is similar to Activities 1 and 2 in that students retell the story chronologically. This Activity may therefore allow students to work on their own using the last two activities as the framework. With higher ability students, it may be rather boring to do all the three activities. So teacher can decide which one(s) to use.)
Statement by John Turner
I, John Turner, confess I have killed Charles McCarthy of Hatherly Farm in Herefordshire.
It all happened about thirty years ago. I was in Australia working at the mines. I was young and reckless. I got among bad company and became a highway robber. We robbed many mining stations and wagons. I was known as Black Jack of Ballarat, and our party was called the Ballarat Gang. One day a gold convoy came down from Ballarat to Melbourne, and we lay in wait for it and attacked it. We killed four of their men, but I set free the wagon driver, who was Charles McCarthy.
We got away with the gold, became wealthy men, and made our way over to England. I was determined to settle down to a quiet and respectable life, and to do a little good with my money, to make up for my crimes. I married, too, and though my wife died young she left a lovely daughter, Alice.
About twenty years ago I met Charles McCarthy again in the street. He was very poor and threatened me to tell my secret to the police. I had to give him everything he wanted, including the farm and the house.
But his greed had no end. Knowing that Alice is my only child and is going to inherit my property, he wanted me to let her marry his son James. But there I stood firm. I would not have his evil family mixed with mine. McCarthy threatened but I challenged him to do his worst. We were to meet at the pool midway between our houses to talk it over.
When I went down there I found him talking with his son. So I smoked a cigar and waited behind a tree until he should be alone. But as I listened to his talk all that was black and bitter in me seemed to come up. He was urging his son to marry my daughter with as little regard for what she might think as if she were a dirty woman off the streets. It drove me mad to think that I and what was dearest to me should be in the power of such a man as this. I was already a dying and a desperate man, but I must save my daughter. I decided I must make him keep silent forever.
I struck him down with no more reluctance than if he had been some fierce and fearful animal. His cry brought back his son; I quickly hid in the wood. However, I was forced to go back to fetch the cloak which I had dropped.
I know I have committed a serious crime and deserve to be punished by the law. But I must say I do not regret having done what I did because Charles McCarthy was a devilish man and I had been under his power these twenty years, and he has ruined my life. Now my mind is free at last, and most important of all, Alice will be free from his clutches.
That was all that happened.
Holmes solved the mystery with the help the clues he picked up in the investigation. What are these clues? Make up a list of them.
Circumstantial clues at the crime scene
The footprints at the scene showed James had been there twice, and once he ran swiftly, so that the soles are deeply marked and the heels hardly visible.
That shows James’ story was true.
Holmes found footprints of a pair of square boots walking on tiptoes. The owner of the boots had been there twice.
The murder killed McCarthy, and then returned to get the grey cloak.
Holmes judged from the footprints at the scene of the murder.
He wears thick-soled shooting-boots.
Holmes has probably judged from the length of the strides shown by the foot-prints about the murderer’s height.
He is a tall man.
The impression of his right foot was always less distinct than his left. He put less weight upon it.
The murderer may be lame.
The nature of the injury as recorded by the surgeon at-the inquest showed the blow on the head of the dead man was struck from immediately behind upon the left side.
He may be left-handed.
Holmes found a stone on the moss. It had apparently been left there a few days because there was grass growing under it. There was no sign of a place where it had been taken. There is no sign of any other weapon. It corresponds with the injuries on the head of the dead man.
The weapon was the jagged stone.
Holmes found the ash and stump of an Indian cigar.
The murderer smokes a cigar.
Holmes could see that the end of the cigar had not been in his mouth.
He uses a cigar-holder and pen knife.
The tip had been cut off, not bitten off, but the cut was not a clean one
He uses a blunt pen-knife.
James caught sight of a grey garment near the dead body which later disappeared.
If James statement is true, the murderer is a man with a grey garment.
McCarthy cried “Cooee” before seeing his son.
“Cooee” is a Australian cry used between Australians. There is a strong possibility that the person whom McCarthy expected to meet at Boscombe Pool was someone who had been in Australia.
McCarthy mentioned “a rat” before he died.
James probably only caught the last two syllables of McCarthy’s words. He was trying to utter the name of his murderer. So and so, of Ballarat. Ballarat is a place in Australia, where McCarthy had lived.
The pool can only be approached by the farm or by the estate, where strangers could hardly wander.
The murderer probably lives in the neighbourhood.
Read the part where Watson described Holmes investigating at the crime scene. Why do you think the writer gives such details about Holmes in action? (p.13)
Suggested answer: This description helps the reader visualize Holmes performing his investigation, so the story would appear more true to life. By doing so the writer also succeeds in portraying Holmes as an expert detective. His comparison of Holmes to a hunting dog picking up a scent also vividly describes the scene.
This story is a typical detective story. From your knowledge of detective stories, can you suggest the common elements of detective stories? Look up on the Internet about the genre of detective stories.
Teacher can elicit relevant points from students, encouraging them to give examples to support their points. The following notes from a website on detective stories would be useful as reference.
Genre of Detective Stories Abstracted from Genre of Detective Fiction from
http://www.ibl.uni-bremen.de/lehre/lui/user/ag12/detective.html The attraction of detective stories lies in the invitation to the readers to join the detective in the task of solving the mystery. This is often done by pure analytic deduction. The more challenging the task is, the more fascinating the story is. The readers would enjoy the story if the solution to the problems is intriguing, but logical and convincing. The typical detective of the investigation is an emotionless reasoning machine, apparently omniscient and often arrogant (because of his superb ability as a detective).
Quite often, the brilliant intelligence of the detective is made to shine even more brightly through the comparative down to earth nature of his companion who tells the story.
The structure of a typical detective story is like a cross-word puzzle. There is a problem to be solved and the solution depends wholly on mental processes — on analysis, on the fitting together of apparently unrelated parts, on a knowledge of the ingredients, and, in some measure, on guessing. Each is supplied with a series of overlapping clues to guide the solver. When the final solution is achieved, all the details are found to be woven into a complete, interrelated, and closely knitted fabric.
A sense of reality is essential to the detective novel. The plot must appear to be an actual record of events springing from the field of its operations; and the plans and diagrams so often encountered in detective stories aid considerably in the achievement of this effect. A familiarity with the field and a belief in its existence are what give the reader his feeling of ease and freedom in manipulating the factors of the plot to his own (which are also the author's) ends.
Characters in detective stories may not be too neutral and colorless, nor yet too fully and intimately delineated. They should merely fulfil the requirements of plausibility and to enlist your emotions at the time, and to drive you on to a solution of their problems.
The style of a detective story must be direct, simple, smooth, and unencumbered. A "literary" style replete with descriptive passages would produce sluggishness in the actional current of a detective story by diverting the reader's mind from the mere record of facts (which is what he is concerned with), and focusing it on irrelevant aesthetic appeals.
The material for the plot of a detective novel must be commonplace. The skill of a detective story's craftsmanship is revealed in the way these materials are fitted together, the subtlety with which the clues are presented, and the legitimate manner in which the final solution is withheld.
Furthermore, there is a strict ethical course of conduct imposed upon the author. He must never once deliberately fool the reader: he must succeed by ingenuity alone. The truth must at all times be in the printed word, so that if the reader should go back over the book he would find that the solution had been there all the time if he had had sufficient shrewdness to grasp it.
In the central character of the detective novel — the detective himself — we have, perhaps, the most important and original element of the criminal-problem story. He is, at one and the same time, the outstanding personality of the story (though he is concerned in it only in an ex-parte capacity), the projection of the author, the embodiment of the reader, the machine that advances the plot, the propounder ot the problem, the supplier of the clues, and the eventual solver of the mystery. The life of the book takes place in him, yet the life of the narrative lives outside of him.
The outstanding characteristic of the detective novel is its unity of mood. In the detective novel, the chief interest being that of mental analysis and the overcoming of difficulties, any interpolation of purely emotional moods produces the effect of irrelevancy.
Conditional tense has been use several times in the story. Identify the type of conditional tense in each case and analyse the nature of the condition.
Line from the story
Type of conditional tense
What does it mean?
Had he appeared surprised at his own arrest, or pretended to be very angry about it, I should have looked upon it as highly suspicious, because such surprise or anger would not be natural under the circumstances.
3 – impossible condition.
James did not appear surprised…, and therefore I did not look upon it as highly suspicious.
But if he is innocent, who has done it?
1 – open
It is possible that he is innocent…
“I thought people would talk if I went to your house.”
… both the McCarthys were fond of sport and were frequently seen at the race-meetings of the neighbourhood.
Both McCarthy and his son…
They were an old woman and a game-keeper. Both these witnesses said they saw Mr. McCarthy walking alone.
Both the old woman and the game-keeper…
He was much excited, without either his shotgun or his hat,
James did not have his shotgun or his hat. (We cannot use “both” because this sentence is negative.)
“Both you and the coroner have been at some pains,” said he, “to single out the very strongest points in the young man's favour.
Both Watson and the coroner…
It was damp, marshy ground, as is all that district, and there were marks of many feet, both upon the path and amid the short grass around it.
Upon the path and amid the short grass around it…
… in considering this case there are two points about young McCarthy's narrative which struck us both instantly.
… the two of us...
But my memory and my girl! Both could be saved if I could but silence that foul tongue.
Both my memory and my girl…
Holmes found a stone near the scene of the murder and deduced it to be the weapon used by the murderer. His argument was: "The grass was growing under it. It had only lain there a few days. There was no sign of a place where it had been taken. It corresponds with the injuries. There is no sign of any other weapon." (P.14)
Now it is your turn to be the detective. A thief has broken into a rich man’s living room. Picture A shows what the room looked like before the burglary. Picture B shows the same room afterwards. How many clues can you spot which tell you a thief has been there? What has he stolen? Has he replaced anything with a fake? How many things has he disturbed? There are at least 20 clues.
Read up some other stories of Sherlock Holmes or other detective stories and share with your classmates. Some of the most interesting Sherlock Holmes stories are:
The Red-headed League
Mr Wilson, who has red hair, has been given a quite well paid job working for a “Red-Headed League”. After eight few weeks, he was dismissed without a reason. He went to see Sherlock Holmes, who helped him solve the mystery.
The Man with the Twisted Lip
Mrs Whitney was walking down a street in London. When she looked up an old building, she saw her husband at an open window. She was surprised to find him there so she went up to look for him. But when the door opened, she found instead a dirty beggar man with a twisted lip. She called the police to help her look for her husband, but he was nowhere to be found…
The Speckled Band
Miss Helen Stoner was getting married. But she felt her life was threatened because several year ago just before her sister was about to get married, she died a mysterious death. Now over the past few nights she heard a strange whistling which she had heard before her sister died…
The Blue Carbuncle
About four o'clock on Christmas morning, Peterson was walking home. He saw a man carrying a white goose over his shoulder and the man had a row with a group of men. The man raised his stick to defend himself and smashed the shop window behind him. As he rushed off in a hurry he dropped his goose. Peterson took home the goose and his wife cooked it. But they found a valuable blue diamond in the goose’s stomach…
Do a thematic project on Sherlock Holmes by searching the Internet sites and reading up some of the adventures of Holmes.