As a non-lawyer, I don’t ordinarily find myself reading the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Journal. But in researching entails for a discussion of “The Priory School,” I ran across a fascinating study of the law in the Canonical cases in which inheritance furnishes the motive. The paper, written in the form of a pastiche, is titled, “The Game Is Afoot!: The Significance of Donative Transfers in the Sherlock Holmes Canon,” and was published in that legal journal in 2011.
This article presents a recently discovered and previously unpublished manuscript written by John H. Watson, M.D., and annotated by Professor Stephen Alton. Dr. Watson’s manuscript records an extended conversation that took place between the good doctor and his great friend, the renowned consulting detective Mr. Sherlock Holmes, regarding issues of donative transfers of property—issues involving inheritances, wills, and trusts—that have arisen in some of the great cases solved by Mr. Holmes. This felicitous discovery confirms something that Professor Alton has long known: these donative transfer issues permeate many of these adventures. Often, the action in the case occurs because of the desire of the wrong-doer to come into an inheritance, a bequest, or the present possession of an estate in land more quickly—perhaps by dispatching the intervening heir, beneficiary, or life tenant. Professor Alton has annotated this manuscript, providing extensive analysis of these issues and citations to relevant, contemporary authority in his footnotes.Alton, S. (2011). The Game Is Afoot!:The Significance of Donative Transfers in the Sherlock Holmes Canon. Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Journal, 46(1), 125–171.
All Sherlockians will find it worthwhile to read Watson’s analysis and Alton’s annotations, especially those who want to better understand the legal issues confronted by the Master.