Sherlock Holmes and The Closed Room Murder Mystery:
The Vicar’s Last Homily
Rev. Alfred E. Critchley,
Vicar, St. Swithins
BA, MA, Ed.D, DD, D.Min, J.C.D.
“Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatchbox with my name, John H. Watson, M. D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine. Some, and not the least interesting, were complete failures….” –“The Problem of Thor Bridge”
At St. Swithins, town of Hampden, where the lilacs bud and bloom,
There the Vicar, Dr. Critchley, went into his private room.
Yes, he went into his study, closed and barred the sturdy door,
And was heard from, as Poe’s raven said (poor Vicar): Nevermore!
The Sexton told the Bishop who sent on to Scotland Yard,
Where it came to the attention of Inspector G. Lestrade.
Lestrade pronounced it curious, compiled a briefing sheet,
And reviewed it with his colleagues who kept rooms on Baker Street
Thus, Sherlock Holmes and Watson soon arrived upon the scene.
Where they questioned Sexton Perkins who had dreamed an awful dream.
Arthur dreamt he saw the Vicar, with his hands atop his head,
Slumping forward on his writing desk and looking rather dead.
Lestrade dispatched the Sexton for some stout lads from the town,
Who by dint of ax and hatchet hacked the sturdy portal down.
Then they stood there, struck with terror, for with hands atop his head,
Sat the Vicar, Dr. Critchley, who was silent, cold, and dead.
The body was unmarked they saw, each hair in proper place
(Though they mentioned later in the pub, the glazed look on his face).
The Vicar was a robust man, and never sick a day,
His death under such circumstance could only be foul play
The windows all wore shutters of a most secure design,
They looked for points of entry, but they couldn’t find a sign.
Just a study with a writing desk, a bookcase and a bed,
And the Reverend Dr. Critchley, who was definitely dead.
The roof and walls were English Oak, and Watson tapped around,
But the echoes were unblemished by a weak or hollow sound.
The floor was quarried marble, and it made a proper tomb,
For departed Vicar Critchley, who had somehow met his doom.
Thus St. Swithins, town of Hampden, stood to take its shameful place,
As the scene of locked-room murder, and a national disgrace.
But Widow Piggott, housekeeper, demanded to be heard,
And Holmes asked Dr. Watson to record her every word:
“The Vicar, bless ‘im, used that room to write his Sunday talk.
‘Eed go in there each Saturday at seven by the clock.
On Sunday morning ‘eed come out, and pause to smell the flowers,
Then off ‘eed go to Services, – and preach for several hours.
“Eed rant at this, ‘eed rave at that, he waren’t very good,
And no one paid him any mind, for no one understood.
They’d itch and twitch and fidget, and just look out at the sun,
And pray a private prayer or two that Vicar would get done.
“That night, he wrote a little talk that made ‘im very proud,
‘So good,’ says ‘ee, ‘that just this once, I’ll practice it out loud.’
So you see, it waren’t murder when the Vicar drew last breath,
Ee just read his ‘omily aloud and bored himself to death.”
The 6:15 to London was a silent, smoky ride,
And Watson feared Holmes suffered from a hurt and injured pride.
But then Holmes smiled, and laughed aloud, and gave a baleful look,
“That’s one tale my dear Watson that should never make your book.”
© Copyright 2019 by the author
Edward C. McManus