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Plot Summary of the Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk

Sherlock Holmes and the Stockbroker's Clerk

The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk is a short Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The case of the Stockbroker’s clerk sees Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson leave their normal surroundings of London, and investigate a strange hardware company in Birmingham.

Publication of the Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk for the March 1893 edition of the Strand Magazine.

For two years the Strand Magazine had been publishing Conan Doyle’s short stories, and The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk was the 16th story to appear in the magazine; the 15th short Sherlock Holmes story being The Adventure of the Yellow Face.

The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk would be republished as in 1894 as part of the compilation work The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

A Short Review of the Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk

The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk is a good stand alone story, and a good introduction to the cases of Sherlock Holmes; there are though problems with it, especially for those who have read the previous adventures of the detective.

Similarities between this case and that of The Adventure of the Red Headed League are obvious, and the change of locale from London to Birmingham hardly hides this fact. Was this perhaps a sign that Conan Doyle was getting bored of his creation?

There is also no great mystery for Holmes to solve, as the evidence presented to Sherlock Holmes in London, was sufficient for him to come to a logical deduction; and most readers will probably guess the plot line, despite Watson being in the dark throughout the story.

Arguably the deductions made by Holmes about Watson’s health and practice are more astounding than the case brought to Holmes by Hall Pycroft.

In recent times The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk has been used by some to present a moralistic message about the dangers of greed. There is no evidence though to suggest that Conan Doyle meant for this message to come out of the story, and indeed, the period when Conan Doyle was writing was one where people took risks to better themselves.

Like The Adventure of the Yellow Face, The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk is one of the Sherlock Holmes canon that was not adapted by Granada TV for Jeremy Brett to play Holmes, and so it is a story that is often forgotten.

The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk

  • Date of Events - 1889
  • Client - Hall Pycroft
  • Locations - Birmingham
  • Villain - "Arthur Pinnar" & Beddington

A New Case for Sherlock Holmes

Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70 | Source

Spoiler Alert - Plot Summary of the Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk

Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk sees Sherlock Holmes venturing out from his rooms at 221B Baker Street to visit his old friend Dr Watson. Watson had, a few months earlier, set up house with his wife Mary, and had taken over the old doctor’s practice of Dr Farqhuar. All of his time had been spent rebuilding the practice, and so Holmes and Watson had not spent any time together.

When Holmes visits Watson, the detective brings along a client, Hall Pycroft; with Holmes hoping that Watson would accompany him on another case.

Holmes is able to deduce the state of Watson’s recent health, from the sole’s of his new slippers, and also the popularity of Watson’s practice, by the amount of wear on the steps.

Watson readily agrees at the chance to investigate with Holmes once again, and goes to tell his wife, as well as arranging for his neighbour, also a doctor, to look after his patients, just as Watson has done for his neighbour’s in the past.

The case is explained to Watson by Hall Pycroft on the railway journey up to Birmingham.

Hall Pycroft has a twinkle in his eye as he explains, knowing the story makes him seem like a fool. Pycroft is a stockbroker’s clerk who for a while was out of work, but had then been taken on by the firm of Mawson and Williams in the City of London. Pycroft must have a decent reputation for the firm took him on without a face-to-face interview, with arrangements made via the postal system. The job is a good one, and the wages offered more than reasonable.

Hall Pycroft though, is a man in demand for the stockbroker’s clerk also receives another job offer, when Arthur Pinnar, of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company visits him in person. The Franco-Midland Hardware Company has nothing to do with stockbroking, and deals with hardware stores on the continent, but the terms of employment are better than those offered by Mawson and Williams. So despite the job being in Birmingham rather than London, Pycroft accepts the new job offer.

Quickly though, things don’t feel right to Pycroft; and the fact that Arthur Pinnar asks Pycroft not to resign from Mawson and Williams, stating that an argument had left ill-feeling between the two company’s.

In Birmingham, things are also not what Pycroft expected. The offices are dusty and unsuitable for the expected work, and the work given to Pycroft by Harry Pinnar, Arthur’s brother, is meaningless. Pycroft then discovers that Arthur Pinnar and Harry Pinnar are the same person, both having a gold tooth in the same place.

This last discovery sees Pycroft return to London to seek the help of Holmes.

Meeting With Harry Pinnar

Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70 | Source

Case Solved

Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70
Sidney Paget (1860-1908) PD-life-70 | Source

Holmes has seemingly solved the case already, and is just gaining some additional facts. Holmes asks Pycroft to introduce him and Watson to Harry Pinnar as prospective new staff by the names of Harris and Price.

When Pycroft, Holmes and Watson enter the offices of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company they find an ill looking Harry Pinnar engrossed in the evening paper.

Whatever Pinnar is reading has had a profound impact on him, but he speaks briefly to the three, before excusing himself from the room.

Soon, strange noises emanate from the adjoining room, and Holmes breaks down the door, discovering that Harry Pinnar has attempted suicide. Watson though is able to revive him.

Holmes starts to explain the case as he sees it, although Pycroft and Watson are still in the dark. Obviously the job in Birmingham was designed to keep Pycroft away from London, and the fact that he has not resigned from Mawson and Williams, and the fact that no one at the firm has met him, suggests that there was someone at the firm impersonating Pycroft.

Holmes though, cannot explain Pinnar’s suicide attempt, but even that is made clear when the discarded evening newspaper is read.

In the newspaper is report of the attempted theft of a large number of bonds from the safe at Mawson and Williams. During the burglary, the night watchman had been killed, but the thief had been captured shortly afterwards, and was to be charged with theft and murder.

The thief has been identified as Beddington a known villain, who along with his brother, had just been released from five years of imprisonment. The police were on the look out for Beddington’s brother who normally worked with him; of course, Pinnar is Beddington’s brother.

Beddington will likely be put to death for his crimes, hence the attempted suicide of Pinnar. With Pinnar recovering, Pycroft is sent to call the police, whilst Holmes and Watson stand guard, and so another case is closed.

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