Sherlock’s Solution to August's Mystery

Dear detectives,

Thank you for helping us solve August’s Sherlockian mystery. If you’d like to know how Holmes solved “The Mystery of the Changing Score”, a letter from him is presented below. Stay tuned later this month to see who our latest featured detective is. Submit your solution to the next mystery for your chance to win.

Sincerely yours,

The Dear Holmes Team

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Sherlock Holmes

Consulting Detective,

221B Baker Street,

London, England

24th November, 1886

Dear Mr. Hoggarth,

May I begin by apologising for the time taken in responding to your last correspondence. However, I believe that, once you have read this communication to its conclusion, you will understand the reasons behind this slight delay.

Firstly, I must urge you to allay your concerns, for this matter has very nearly run its natural course. I assure you that there is no danger to you or to any other member of the household. As you become fully aware of the circumstances surrounding this affair, you will understand exactly what has occurred here and why. Finally, you will be faced with a choice, a decision that you must make for yourself, as it lies far outside my professional remit.

As you may be aware, once I take on a case, I dedicate all of my faculties and available resources to finding a solution to the affair, no matter how formidable it may, at first, appear.

This case certainly fell into that category, at least, initially. A painting that undergoes an inexplicable physical change is certainly unusual, possibly unprecedented. If an alteration were made to a picture of lesser importance to its owner, perhaps one tucked away in the corner of a rarely visited room, then one might expect it not to be noticed for a considerable length of time. However, this image was the favourite of the master of the house. As you well know, from your introduction to Trufftor, he studied it regularly and at great length. This suggests that Trufftor must surely have been aware of the changes made to the image, but for reasons known only to himself, chose not to raise the alarm or comment in any way upon the matter.

Your attempts at investigating the surrounding environment for signs of intrusion may have been amateurish, in the extreme, but they were just thorough enough to convince me that the solution lay elsewhere. They did, at least, prove that the painting was physically switched for another, and not altered in situ. Conversely, your ingratiation and subsequent questioning of Grafton was most impressive and illuminating. Here, we began to learn some facts, however obscure, but ones that could be investigated and verified. I was particularly drawn to a single statement made to you by Grafton in your second letter. He claimed that Trufftor had never honestly come upon either wealth or a single possession. He could have clarified this, by stating that this was behaviour left far in the past, but chose not to.

My contact at the Royal Academy provided the foundations for the bridge that would finally span the gorge of nescience and lead me to the truth. Upon receiving his expert opinion, you convincingly, if rather meanderingly, argued that theft of the painting was a highly unlikely reason for its disappearance. From this point, for a short while, at least, your path of deduction closely followed that of mine. I had also come to the conclusion that Trufftor himself was, somehow, involved in the affair.

It was at this point that I was finally able to dispatch an agent of my own, to investigate certain theories of mine that could only be confirmed by an eye witness. My operative is the very definition of discretion, so you should feel no shame that you failed to detect his presence.

He did, however, expose a significant error made upon your part. You stated that Trufftor had entertained not a single guest during your tenure at the house, yet the household continued to eat and drink as well as any other. As is so often the way with those of a certain standing, you failed to take into account the activities of the classes below and also those making regular deliveries to the house.

By assuming a series of false identities, he was first able to gain brief access to the house and examine the scene and the replacement painting for himself, and then inveigle his way into the local community by way of his munificence within the local hostelries.

The report, furnished by my most trusted colleague, confirmed most of what we had suspected and, essentially, provided the final pieces required to solve the puzzle. It also went some way to dismiss any suspicion of Trufftor's continuing criminality, of which his friend had hinted.

In the interest of absolute fairness, I then took the liberty of writing directly to Mr. Trufftor, himself. I firmly believe that this was the right course of action to take and I am certain that you too will come to the same conclusion, once you are finally in possession of all the facts.

I had, by now, sufficient data to confront Trufftor, directly, and also the confidence that he would reply honestly, as it would be in his own interest to do so. His response was swift and concise, at once confirming all of which I had theorised.

He had purchased the painting in perfectly good faith, but from someone whom he knew to be of poor standing and dubious character. He had often wondered if it were genuine, which may partly explain the time he spent staring at it.

Trufftor was, by now, despite his attempts to keep a low profile by living in a most isolated location, a well-known member of local society, active in several charitable fields. It was once he employed you, a tutor schooled with a classical education, that he realised that he might have a problem. He witnessed you spending time in the library, hungry for knowledge and, latterly, examining the painting. He worried that his prized possession might be outed as a fake, or worse, stolen goods. He feared losing his position in society, his wealth, but more far more importantly, his wife and family. He had to act to preserve his very way of life.

Which all rather begs the question, with what did Trufftor replace the original painting? The answer is as obvious as it is logical. He spent a fortune buying the same painting again or, more exactly, a version of it that was undisputedly genuine. He certainly would have noticed that there were differences between the two pictures, but he presumed that these would go unnoticed. Seeing these discrepancies may even have convinced him that he had done the right thing as, in his own mind, they proved that his painting was identifiable as a forgery.

His worst nightmare was that his background and history might be exposed, so he spent a fortune to legitimise himself, without realising that his original painting was perfectly genuine. My contact at the Royal Academy, along with my agent, have confirmed that the initial painting is indeed genuine and, also, that its purchase was entirely legitimate. The two versions are well-known, in the art world, to differ in several areas but this was actually the subtlest. The artist chose to paint different musical scores on the pages at the bottom of each piece.

Fortunately, the original has now been recovered, undamaged, from a secluded property on the Trufftor estate. Trufftor was so grateful that he has, not only, paid my fee himself, but has bequeathed the second version to the nation. He means to return the original to its rightful place above his fireplace.

I expect that you still have many questions regarding this affair, but let me answer the one which I believe to be of most importance.

The source of Trufftor's wealth. There is no secret as to how he turned his small fortune into a far larger one, he invested well in the local coalfields. I have also made inquiries into his earlier activities, but can confirm only a small part of Grafton's account. Perhaps, more importantly, I have found nothing that contradicts any part of his tale. The records from that period are unreliable, at best, but I can find no account of any atrocity or vessel being stolen from that place at that time. Grafton's own testimony is hardly a tale of heroism and derring-do, which is what makes it all the more believable.

Of what crimes was Trufftor guilty? Piracy? The boat was in dock and there was nobody else onboard, so it could be argued that they were just stealing the boat. Robbery? Is the theft of a boat that was already actively engaged in illegal activities, actually a crime?

Which brings me to the final question, one which only you can answer. What do you wish to do with the information that you now have? You know that your master gained his wealth in a manner that his friends, acquaintances, and society in general, might find offensive. That he has spent the past twenty years generously involving himself in good causes, and continues to do so, may, or may not, be reason enough for you to let his past be forgotten. I have decided that you, as the one who brought this matter to light, must decide whether Trufftor's past should be revealed.

I trust you will make the right decision. I use the word carefully as, in my experience, the correct decision is not always the right one.

Yours, most sincerely,


P.S.   It is with a sense of acute embarrassment that I must add a further piece of information to this case. My contact at the Royal Academy contacted me, just this morning, with a revelation that, I am ashamed to admit, passed me by. I have long suspected your Master's name to be an alias, as I believe did Grafton, right from the moment they met. However, I failed, spectacularly, to realise the significance of his assumed name, 'Simeon Trufftor'.

'Truffatore' translates as 'conman' in Italian.  Could his very name be a confession? Might a more intelligent man not see it and read, "see me, a(n) 'conman'"?

Michael Sitver