The Problem of Thor Bridge

The Problem of Thor Bridge
"The Problem of Thor Bridge"
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Released 1922
Series The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
Client(s) Neil Gibson and Grace Dunbar
Set in 1900, according to William S. Baring-Gould
Villain(s) Mrs. Gibson, née Maria Pinto

"The Problem of Thor Bridge" is a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle, which appears in the collection The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. The story was previously published in the Strand Magazine and Hearst's International Magazine in 1922.



Neil Gibson, the Gold King and former Senator for "some Western state", approaches Holmes to investigate the murder of his wife Maria in order to clear his children's governess, Grace Dunbar, of the crime. It soon emerges that Mr. Gibson's marriage had been unhappy- he treated his wife very badly. He had fallen in love with her when he met her in Brazil, but soon realised they had nothing in common. He became attracted to Miss Dunbar; since he could not marry her, he had attempted to please her in other ways- by trying to help people less fortunate than himself.

Maria Gibson was found lying in a pool of blood on Thor Bridge with a bullet through the head and note from the governess, agreeing to a meeting at that location, in her hand. A recently discharged revolver with one shot fired is found in Miss Dunbar's wardrobe. Holmes agrees to look at the situation in spite of the damning evidence.

A Webley Mk VI .455 calibre service revolver as possibly used by Watson

From the outset, Holmes observes some rather odd things about the case. How could Miss Dunbar so coolly and rationally have planned and carried out the murder and then carelessly tossed the murder weapon into her wardrobe? What was the strange chip on the underside of the bridge's stone balustrade? Why was Mrs. Gibson clutching the note from Miss Dunbar when she died? If the murder weapon was one of a matched pair of pistols, why couldn't the other one be found in Mr. Gibson's collection?

Holmes uses his powers of deduction to solve the crime, and demonstrates, using Watson's revolver, how it was perpetrated; Mrs Gibson, outraged and jealous of Miss Dunbar's relationship with her husband, resolved to end her own life and frame her rival for the crime. After arranging a meeting with Miss Dunbar, requesting her to leave her response in a note, Mrs Gibson tied a rock on a piece of string to the end of a revolver, and shot herself, the rock pulling the revolver over the side of the bridge; the revolver found in Miss Dunbar's wardrobe was the other pistol of the pair, which had been fired off in the woods earlier, and the chip in the bridge was caused by the pistol hitting the stonework as it was pulled off by the rock. Holmes's reconstruction reproduces the damage to the balustrade of the bridge, and the original revolver is retrieved from the lake.


The story is remarkable also for the initial reference to a tin dispatchbox, hidden in a bank, where Dr. Watson would keep the papers concerning some Holmes' cases with no good solution or no explanation at all. According to Watson: "Among these unfinished tales is that of Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world". The unknown fate of Phillimore has been a subject for other stories, including: The Adventure of the Highgate Miracle by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr; "The Enigma of the Warwickshire Vortex" by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre; one episode of the Italian comic book series Storie di Altrove (a spin-off from the more famous Martin Mystère); and Bert Coules's BBC Radio adaptation The Singular Inheritance of Miss Gloria Wilson from The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Also mentioned is the case of Isadora Persano, "who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science".

Billy Wilder's 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (written by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond) uses for its opening title sequence a montage of characteristic memorabilia (magnifying glass, calabash pipe, syringe) removed one by one from this tin dispatchbox at Cox and Co and held before the camera as music by Miklos Rozsa, including a plaintive violin solo, plays underneath. The voice-over narration by Dr. Watson (played by Colin Blakely) generally parallels the opening sentence of "The Problem of Thor Bridge."

Connections to real-life events

In 2004 it was stated that the solution to the story may also explain the mysterious death of Richard Lancelyn Green, one of the foremost experts on Sherlock Holmes, who was found having been asphyxiated to death shortly after rediscovered papers of Conan Doyle were put up for auction.[citation needed]

According to David Stuart Davies, the inspiration for The Problem of Thor Bridge came from a real-life case in Germany, which the editor of the Strand Magazine had brought to Conan Doyle's attention.

Wikisource links

Works related to The Problem of Thor Bridge at Wikisource

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