The Case of the Tottering TBR by Sir Arthur Donan Coyle – Part 2

Chapter 2


(If you missed part 1 and want to catch up click here.)

Sherlock Holmes The Dancing Men 3

“Welcome to my ancestral home, Mr Houses, and you, Dr Witless! I cannot tell you how relieved I am that you are finally here. Things have got worse since I wrote you – I’m at my wit’s end!”

We didn’t mention that we were equally relieved to discover that the Lady Laird spoke perfect English, but with a pleasant lilt that revealed her Highland origins. Ah, the benefits of a fine English education – even the most savage of peoples can be given a veneer of civilisation!

Having had supper, we were now settled in the grand drawing room of the castle, a large room with doors on three sides. Despite the generous size of the room, it was crowded – books covered every shelf and lay in tottering piles on every surface, and in heaps around the floor. It looked as if some effort had been made at an earlier period to organise them, but it was clear that the attempt had now been abandoned. Big books, little books, old books, new books, even some strange device that, on pressing a button, sprang to life and showed the page of a book on a glass slide! Some mysterious kind of telescopic instrument, I surmised.


Houses said “I deduce you are an avid reader, Lady McFan.”

“Please call me Effie, Mr Houses. Yes, indeed, I always have been since a young child.”

“Good Lord, Houses!” I cried in astonishment. “How in heaven’s name did you deduce that?”

Houses preened a little. “Oh, Witless, surely by now you know my methods. Effie here has the refined, glowing complexion and shining, intelligent eyes that only the true reader ever possesses. That, plus the piles of books.”

“How absurdly simple!” I cried, and for some reason a grimace crossed my friend’s face.

“Quite.” He turned to our client. “Now, Effie, please explain why you have asked us to come here. Very simply, if you don’t mind, since Dr Witless will be listening.”

“It’s the books, Mr Houses! The books!” And she proceeded to tell us her story. For many years, Lady McFan had been adding gradually to the collection of books she had inherited from her ancestors. She would acquire half a dozen or so, read them and add them to her shelves. But suddenly, several months ago, she noticed that the little pile of unread books seemed to be growing larger. And larger. And larger. It soon became impossible for her to read them quickly enough to shelve them before another pile would appear. Every night, she would count the books and every morning she would discover there were three or four more than the night before.

piles of books

“I don’t order them, Mr Houses, I’m sure I don’t! They just… appear! Oh, please help me! Every cupboard is full of books; I’ve had to put the horses up in a hotel so I could turn the stables into extra library space; the ghost of the Headless Lady has had to move out of the attic to make room for books, and is now wandering the Castle moaning and groaning day and night, and being downright depressing! I’ve even taken to locking all three doors to this room overnight, but still they arrive, always placed just here, on this side table. Am I mad, Mr Houses? Or can you find an explanation and put a stop to this horror?”

She sent a glance of such piteous pleading from her fine blue eyes that even the hardened heart of Houses must surely have been touched. If I weren’t a happily married man, I may well have proposed on the spot.

Houses sat back, closed his eyes and steepled his fingers. Lady McFan and I sat in breathless silence, waiting for that great brain to work its magic. Houses snored gently. I tactfully kicked his ankle. His gimlet eyes opened and pierced me like… well, like a gimlet.


“Is there anyone else in the house overnight, Effie?” he inquired incisively.

“Only the servants, but they’ve all been with my family for generations and are members of the Clan. I trust them with my life. And Lady Fancyboots, my cousin and oldest friend, has been staying here for some months, having spent all her little inheritance on fine chocolate, and being now quite destitute, were it not for my exceeding generosity.”

“Your cousin, you say?”

“Yes, we’re the two last remaining members of the family, so have always been close, even though I inherited fabulous wealth and she only got £100 and Grannie McFan’s recipe for black bun. Some people may have been resentful, but not Lady Fancyboots! She has remained a staunch friend.”

“That portrait,” Houses indicated a full-length picture that hung above the mantel, of a fine-looking old gentleman in what I was beginning to realise must be the traditional dress for the savage natives of these wild regions.


“He is your father?”

Lady McFan assented.

“He bears a striking resemblance to Wullie the Piper, wouldn’t you agree, Witless?” remarked Houses.

Lady McFan blushed gently.

“All the clan are related to one another, Mr House. Furthermore, my father was…,” she cleared her throat delicately, “fond of Wullie’s mother, a maidservant here for many years before her death.”

A gleam had come into Houses’ eyes during this conversation, and he now rubbed his hands, chuckling. “Well, I have high hopes that we may be able to get to the root of your little trouble,” he said. “And now, could I trouble you for some chocolate cake?”

* * * * * * *

To be continued… (only one more, I promise!)


37 thoughts on “The Case of the Tottering TBR by Sir Arthur Donan Coyle – Part 2

  1. A-ha! So that’s the knotty little problem that House and Witless have to solve. Well, I am eager for the solution, because it may be related to a little TBR problem I’ve been having.

    Actually, this is absolutely wonderful, and you’ve really captured the style and cadence of ACD’s writing, too. I’m loving this!!! And – erm – it didn’t escape my notice that there’s a ‘photo of Benedict Cumberbatch slipped in there… 😉


  2. *laughs* This is good. And I must stop and have a think here: FEF is actually writing fiction, which sorta means I’ve won, wouldn’t you say?

    Effie! I sorta really like it. I might use it now, you know. (Insulting your own kind, you should be ashamed!!)

    I think Witless might marry you, too, I fear. And I’m rather sure Lady Fancyboots did it…but Effis is also mad (look at all those books!) so maybe I voted twice.


    • *laughs* Glad you’re enjoying it! But it’s not fiction – it’s just nonsense! And I only did it ‘cos Madame Fancyboots made me!

      *laughs again* I feared you might! (Yeah, but only ‘cos Witless is English! Thnking myself into the character and all that, don’t you know… *pretentious pretend writer’s face*)

      *gasps* But that would be bigamy! And anyway you shouldn’t sound so relaxed at the idea of me marrying! Think how devastated Schwarzy would be! *laughs* Lady Fancyboots is undoubtedly a suspicious character, but I’m sure poor Effie is quite sane…


      • I write nonsense, too! How amazing. It’s fiction!! I win, you lose. Just admit it already! (She is a bad influence it seems–but in this case, a good one.)

        I just might, Effie-FEF. That’s kinda cool. (*laughs* You’re a writer the sudden, just like that.)

        I know, I know. You must be careful! Get ready to smash his head with a big book or something. Maybe a paper weight. Or a book weight, if they exist. Not that they would make much sense… Marriages are probably brutal, so I wouldn’t recommend it. *nods*


        • *laughs* But your nonsense is proper nonsense while mine is just nonsense! But… OK… I admit it might – just might – be classed as fiction. Bad fiction. Happy now? (She’s a terrible influence! Don’t encourage her!)

          *laughs and laughs and laughs* Effie-FEF!!! It sounds like a little kid trying to say elephant! Oddly, I kinda like it though… (*sticks out tongue*)

          I think Tuppence might be a book weight – she certainly likes to sit on top of them! But she might not be too pleased if I used her to smash his head in with… *shudders* I’ll stick to the paper weight…


          • *laughs* You’re way more creative than you let on! I like how you war against yourself. Yes, I think I’m suitably happy, the sudden. (I know she is! *shakes head*)

            Haha! It does, sorta. But no. It does fit you a bit. I know have two names for you. This is grand, I’m thinking.

            *laughs* She might claw something. You could always ask her first, that’d be the nice thing to do.


            • *laughs* Hmm… well, I’m glad I’ve made you happy! (Next time I’ll try harder to ignore her tempting…)

              I’ll have to come up with another one for you too, then… *thinks*

              Yeah, Tuppence doesn’t really respond to the normal courtesies of life, though…


            • Ooh, a party! *puts on party frock and waits*

              Nah, only a few – Prof, C-W-W, Sweetie Pumpkin Pie, Mr Rude, Cheeky Chicky and My Hero! Plenty of room for more! *laughs at the sigh* I’m so sorry… *chuckles*

              He does! Most of the time…


  3. It HAS to be Sean Connery. I don’t know if I will be able to sleep tonight worrying in case any of your unthinking readers have lost the plot so badly that they think your delightful cousin, the utterly enchanting, though slightly impoverished, Lady Fancyboots (how did you guess, they are, very) could be to blame. It’s QUITE obvious that only Sean is possessed of the delectable muscle to be heave-ho-ing all those books around in the wee smalls. Of course, Effie IS mad, I mean, she has that strange obsession with a man who seems to be wearing a nightie whom she keeps posting pictures of – of course, THAT MAN has not been seen for a while, so my other thought is that The Ghost Of The Headless Lady is no ghost, and no headless lady but is the man who wears the nightie wearing an extra nightie on his head so that Mad Effie thinks he’s a headless lady.

    Brilliant! Just brilliant!

    Shame I can’t like,like,like,like,like as liking more than once unlikes. Most unfair


    • I’ve always thought Shir Sean looked a bit shifty! Well, I don’t know – that Lady Fancyboots person seems a bit suspicious to me. And under all that Victorian clothing who knows how large her biceps might be…? Personally, I think Effie seems remarkably sane, not to mention being quite lovely! I’m quite sure she is an innocent victim of a nefarious plot! (Funnily enough, when I saw the lake in front of the castle, I considered whether it might be possible to squeeze that man in somehow – but I just couldn’t do it. My muse wouldn’t let me… 😉 )

      Aw, thank you! You are most kind! 😀


  4. Love the steepling fingers photo. ;-D I quite enjoyed that story. Though I voted a different way, I’m hoping Effie is mad and quickly dispatches Houses and Witless. But since Witless is narrating this missive, that hope is forlorn. 😦

    By the way, I’m nearly done reading THE CLUBBABLE WOMAN. I see what you mean about the depiction of women. 😦 Aside from that, the story is very enjoyable! I’m glad I grabbed another.


    • Aha, another Benedict fan! He seems to be a popular chap! 😉 Glad you’re quite enjoying it – only one left, I promise! Effie can’t possibly be mad – she’s far too sweet! Lady Fancyboots, on the other hand…

      Yes, his depiction of women had changed completely by the end of the series but I can’t remember now how many of the early books had that kind of feel – not many, I think. But I’m glad you’re enjoying it otherwise. 😀


      • His depiction of women has started to change in this third adventure (Ruling Passion). Glad to know it will keep changing. I like this third book more than the first.


        • I’m so glad you’re enjoying them! It’s always hard to know whether to recommend the early books in a series or whether to try to persuade people to jump in half way at the point where the author’s properly found his style… 😀


  5. Poor Effie is a hoarder!! We have TV programs about them, and you’d be shocked to see the conditions they live in. ‘Tis a form of madness, I suppose. I do rather feel sorry for Lady Fancyboots, though. Must be awful, being a penniless pauper at the mercy of a cousin. Keep ’em coming, FF — you’re spinning a grand tale here!


    • Ha! I’m always kinda frightened I might end up on one of those programs one day! I fight a constant battle against hoarding and I’m not sure I’m winning! 😉

      Oh, don’t be fooled by Lady Fancyboots’ outward appearance of sweetness – she’d pinch your chocolate without a second’s hesitation! 😉 Haha! Thanks, Debbie – glad you’re enjoying it! Only one more, I promise!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm… well, I couldn’t quite see how to get them in without making the thing even longer – and I suspect my audience may have tired of it soon – if not already! 😉 But there may be a small mention of a cat to come…


      • I do hope we can rely on you, if a delightful feline or two is to make an entrance, to ensure nothing bad happens to them, and your readers don’t even have to worry a smidgeon, in case a cruel author wanting to make her readers cry, DISPATCHES a fluffy. You wouldn’t, you couldn’t, you mustn’t.


        • See, the cats were only going to make a fleeting appearance but now everyone seems to be expecting them! I’m rushing off to re-vamp Chapter 3! This must have been how Dickens felt when he killed off Little Nell…

          You can be assured that any animal cruelty will in this instance be committed by the animals…

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this! You ARE a writer! I knew it. I knew it. I knew it! I also know that that library is your current TBR, Effie!

    As far as voting goes, I should like to know how Tuppence voted. Tuppence most definitely can smell a rat.

    Cumberbatch is extremely fun to say, btw. It’s so…. British!

    Cumberbatch, Cumberbatch, Cumberbatch…. I am now craving tea and crumpets. Maybe if I say it three times again, they shall mysteriously appear.


    • Hahaha! Am not! Am not! Am not! I’m just so steeped in Holmes and Watson that I think I actually think in Holmesian! I cannot lie – that room does look familiar! Just as well my rooms are smaller or just imagine how big my TBR could be…

      Tuppence may put in an appearance at some point – her public appears to be demanding it…

      Haha! But what if Cumberbatch himself appears?? He might eat all your crumpets! Never trust a man who steeples his fingers!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! Thank you – I felt you’d all suffered enough yesterday with the dialect! I’m a bit worried about the consensus that seems to be forming that Effie’s mad, though… 😉


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