Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Greek Interpreter” is certainly an unusual representative of the sixty-odd stories of Sherlock Holmes written by Doyle. The story contains no mystery whatsoever to display the singular intellect of the great detective: Melas tells Holmes almost everything that he ever learns about the captive man, and almost anyone could guess at the rest, given Melas’s account. The mystery of the location of the house is solved in a very prosy way, by Mycroft’s placing an advertisement in the newspapers, a notice that at the same time tips off the kidnappers and very conveniently supplies the one piece of information that the rescuers need. Holmes knows this and complains about it to Mycroft.

There are other inconsistencies in the story, too: Holmes knows that both the mysterious, taped man and Melas are in danger of being murdered, yet he waits for a long while until he can obtain a proper search warrant for the house in which they are being held. In other stories Holmes has not strictly observed the laws against breaking and entering when the stake was someone’s life.

Many of the Holmes stories that Doyle wrote are better as detective stories; that is, they have a tighter plot, a deeper mystery, or require real imagination and daring on the part of the famous detective. By 1893, however, the character of Sherlock Holmes had come so vividly to life that details of the detective’s life were as pleasing to the public as any merely puzzling plot. It is in that characterization of Holmes that the enduring interest of “The Greek Interpreter” lies.