Look, I hate Napoleon as much as anyone else, but the guy in this story really, really seems to hate Napoleon. Look, dude, chill, nobody likes Napoleon, you don’t have to go around breaking statues of him.
You think I’m joking, I’m not. Sherlock and John are chilling with Lestrade. Sherlock asks Lestrade what’s happening and he says, “Oh, not really anything, we’ve been watching the paint dry. The only thing that is going on is some crazy guy going around smashing busts of Napoleon.” Sherlock wants to know about it. Lestrade doesn’t see why as the guy is clearly crazy, the Napoloeon smasher, not Sherlock, but he obliges.
It’s like this, three statues have been smashed recently. One right inside of a shop, but another two belonging to the same man. Nothing else was taken. No other damage was caused. Some weirdo just went into people’s homes and places of business and started smashing Napoleons. Sherlock wonders why not other Napoleon statues?
It is revealed that all three Napoleons were created by the same company. There were six in total in the area. Lestrade thinks the culprit might have some form of OCD, but that’s about all it comes to for the day. The next morning Sherlock and John are alerted. There’s been another Napoleon smashing, but this time there’s a dead guy; no, he wasn’t killed by blunt force trauma via Napoleon bust (but that would have been epic); he was killed by a knife.
There is no identity on the victim, but there is a picture of another man in his pocket. The house burglarized belongs to a reporter, who really doesn’t care that there is a dead man in his house, just as long as he gets to write the story. Sherlock suggests to the reporter that culprit is mentally disturbed, so this is what the reporter writes in his story.
Through a little research, it is determined that the man in the picture is named Beppo. He’s an Italian and he worked at a place that created statues. A plan is formulated to watch the nearest Napoleon bust. The whole gang is there and someone does come looking for the bust. They grab him, but there isn’t anything in the bust. The man is indeed Beppo. Beppo is associated with the mafia and his knife was found with blood on it. The dead man is named Peitro Venucci. Beppo is arrested.
Sherlock purchases the last remaining Napoleon bust in the area. He then cracks it open. Instead of a mess of plaster, there is a large black pearl on the inside. This is the famous black pearl of the Borgias. Somehow it had been stolen and the only place to hide it was in a plaster statue that wasn’t all the way dry yet. Beppo had been arrested and sentenced to a year in prison, but got out and went searching for one of six statues that might hold the pearl. He probably also hated Napoleon.
I checked into this black pearl thing. There is no specific famous black pearl belonging to the Borgia family, but they may have very well had some black pearls. The Borgias were a ruling family in Italy for a while. They’re up there with the Medicci family in notoriety. The Borgia family held a lot of sway for a while, but all the things they did weren’t necessarily for the betterment of the people. They have been associated with various crimes and scandals, much like the Medicci family.
The Mafia is something that is mentioned in this story. Arthur really likes secretive societies. All of the secretive societies he has mentioned thus far actually exist, the Mafia is no exception. The term mafia loosely means someone who bullies other people, from what one definition says anyway. The tradition as we know it started itself off in Sicily, but Mafia-esque groups have been around for a long time. The Mafia referred to by Arthur in this story was most likely the Sicilian Mafia, who didn’t call themselves the Mafia, they called themselves Cosa Nostra, but then again, Arthur probably wasn’t referring to a specific group because he was notoriously bad about doing research about anything that wasn’t nearby in the United Kingdom. Arthur had probably heard of the Mafia and decided it was as good a group as any to spawn bad guys in his stories and, sure, why not, they have a famous black pearl that had belonged to the Borgia family.
True story–apparently Mafia people like to retire to Arizona. My family used to lived in Arizona and they knew a few retired Mafia people.
Moving onto other things in the story, let’s talk about Hooligans. This story uses the word Hooliganism. We know what a Hooligan is, it’s a disruptive person who causes trouble. The word may not be in our everyday vocabulary, but we’ve heard of it. The thing is, Arthur was one of the earliest writers to use the word. There had been a couple of songs and this and that going around talking about Hooligans, but people weren’t widely using the term. Some theorize that the Hooligans were a rowdy Irish family, there was a song about it, whether they were actually real or not is another thing. No matter where the word came from, it wasn’t really thought up until the 1890s, when Arthur was publishing his Sherlock stories.
Arthur uses another strange term–idée fixe. It’s a French psychological term meaning that you’re sane, for the most part, but in relation to one particular thing, you go bananas. It’s a theory that Beppo might just really, really hate busts of Napoleon and have an idée fixe concerning them, so he may not realize that he’s busting up statues of Napoleon in his spare time. For the most part idée fixe isn’t really something used in psychological diagnosis today.
I would love to tell you if the stand at Doncaster actually fell one time, but I can only do so much history research on a racetrack in England from the United States. Doncaster, does exist though. you can go there and bet on the horses.
If all of a sudden your statues of Napoleon are smashed to pieces mysteriously, it’s probably the Mafia, or the Spanish Inquisition, just to cover all of our bases.
This story really seems to hold more of a sensational value compared to some of the other stories Arthur wrote about Sherlock. There isn’t a moral that I really feel I can pull straight out of this story; nothing really jumps out at me and says, “Pick me! Pick me!”
On a side note, let’s talk about insanity. There have been plenty of criminal cases where the culprit is declared insane and therefore cannot go to prison. You don’t send insane people to prison, well, you used to, but that was before we became more aware of how mentally ill people worked or didn’t work. Being in a mental institution was seen as a better place for some people than prison. Let me tell you this, a mental institution probably wasn’t a very good existence; those places used to be absolutely terrible, but being electroshocked was often seen as a better alternative than being in prison with a bunch of hard criminals. There was also the possibility of being rehabilitated in a mental institution.
Beppo cannot be declared insane, even though that is what Lestrade initially thought about him. There was a motive and a method to his hatred of Napoleon busts. He knew good and well what he was doing.
How about this–don’t hide things in plaster statues. You have to bust them to get it out and that’s going to be a mess. I’ve worked with plaster before, it’s not the sturdiest or the most resilient material. Get a safe like a normal person.
I feel as if this story was really written for more of a shock factor.
Did Sherlock keep the pearl in this story? He had John put it in their safe. Doesn’t it have an owner it should be returned to? I don’t know why these people insisted on traveling with loose gemstones and pearls. They were just begging for them to be stolen.
black pearl, black pearl of the borgias, borgia family, bust of napoleon, busting statues, john watson, lestrade, mafia, napoleon, napoleon statues, sherlock, sherlock holmes, The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, The Adventure of the Six Napoleons by sir arthur conan doyle, The Adventure of the Six Napoleons sherlock holmes
Doyle-Sir Arthur Conan, Sherlock Holmes