Saturday, 6 January 2018

The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes - Lady in a Blue Dress

Written by Joe Pranevich

Happy new year! I hope you all had an enjoyable year and enjoyed our Christmas and New Years bonus posts. The good news is that I was able to make significant progress in Sherlock Holmes while relaxing near (but not on) a beach, so that’s something. Just a reminder that last time out, I had finally tracked down Sarah Carroway’s rugby-playing boyfriend, but he wasn't cooperative. At first he refused to admit that he was seeing her at all-- instead suggesting that his bookworm roommate was her real beau-- but once we talked to him enough he agreed that he was really her boyfriend, but he didn’t want his coach to find out. He then refused to admit that she was dead unless we brought him her death certificate. We found said certificate at the morgue, but the rule-following guys at Scotland Yard didn’t want to lend it to me. I was stuck.

I remained stuck for a while, but while I was waiting for Florida to realize that it’s not supposed to be 40 degrees Fahrenheit, I discovered that I was going about it all wrong. I asked the newspaperman back at Baker Street, the one that sells back issues as well as current papers, if he has the edition that announced Sarah’s death. He doesn’t, but he sends me off to Fleet Street to see if they have that edition. (Watson had this paper at the beginning of the game; I suppose he must have tossed it since then.) I head there, except that there’s no new location on my map! I head back to Baker Street and this time talk to Wiggins who agrees to go to Fleet Street for me. In the process, we discover that he actually has that paper already as he’s been using it as insulation in his coat. We take the paper and Holmes hands Wiggins some cash for a new coat.

Is there a way to nick the death certificate from the morgue? It seems more than suspicious that the coroner just left it out for us to see but not take. Is this one of the “alternate solutions” that I’ve heard so much about from the comments?

This isn’t creepy at all.

James is crushed by the news, to say the least. He believes that we are telling the truth and that we need his help. Unfortunately, he admits that he hadn’t seen Sarah in days since he was trying to keep his coach from catching on to their fling. He suggests that we talk to Anna or her fiance, Antonio Caruso. He doesn’t know either of their addresses, but he knows that Antonio plays snooker at St. Bernard’s Snooker Academy. He also tells us that Anna liked to picnic with Antonio at a certain spot near the Priory School. There is a little boy at the school that Anna would talk to whenever she visited. I leave and we have two new locations to explore: the snooker hall and the picnic site.

I try the picnic site first. It’s on the near side of a wall overlooking the yard where children from the Priory School play. We look at each of the kids, but none of them seem to be interested in talking to us. We frankly cannot do much investigation there at all. I talk to Dr. Watson and he provides the first good advice all game: he says that we should talk to Anna’s fiance first. We head there next.

Not me, that’s for sure.

The snooker club is mostly empty when we arrive, just a bartender, two guys playing a game, and one spectator. The bartender is typically unhelpful; he claims that he doesn’t remember names and faces very well. The two gentlemen playing don’t seem to want to talk to me at all, but the spectator is happy to provide some information… for a guinea. I have no idea how much money that is, but Holmes has bottomless pockets so we just hand it over. He tells me that I need to talk to Nobby, the player on the left. That is less than helpful.

Unfortunately, Nobby is too busy playing his game to talk to me. I go back to the spectator and he says that maybe I’d need to wager money to play if I want to talk to them. Do I sense a minigame coming? Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to wager any money. There is no “wallet” icon for us to use, the money we’ve spent the whole game is just assumed. Do I need to wager an object? Eventually, and I really have no idea why, Nobby talks to me. Do I just need to be persistent? He also asks for a bribe to loosen his lips and when I pay up, he tells me that the spectator has the information and I need to talk to him. I have just been played! Fortunately, the other player, Jock Mahoney, chimes up that he knows where Antonio is but he’s not telling us.

I make another circuit of the room to try to find a dialog option that advances the plot. Suddenly, the barman is more willing to talk. He tells me that Jock is married to a woman named Peg O’Shea. How does that help? Well, it helps Holmes because the next time we talk to the man, Holmes threatens to reveal that he’s been cheating on her with with a stage actress. How the heck did we deduce that? He gives up and hands over Antonio’s address.

And your likeness in the little circle scares me. 

Mr. Caruso’s flat is elegant but very small. At first glance, he is a man obsessed with appearances. Holmes notes that he has expensive books on his shelves that have never been opened, a piano in the corner, and a snooker case and trophy in the corner. The snooker case is cleverly disguised as an instrument case, perhaps to make his house seem more high-class. He hasn’t seen Anna since Sarah was killed and he is worried about her. (The time frame seems a bit odd again.) We discuss Anna’s picnic spot and he doesn’t know much about the kid that Anna was talking to except that he wanted a gyroscope toy. Wiggins has one of those! I think I know where this is going… He doesn’t know why she talks to him but clearly has some theories.

He tried to visit Anna’s house earlier to see if she was home and okay, but the housekeeper would not let him in. He gives us the address so that we can try for ourselves. He warns us that she is nearly deaf.

Will there be a minotaur at the end?

When we finally arrive at Anna’s house-- we’ve been searching for it for the last six posts!-- Watson explains that it is a very nice house in a less nice neighborhood fairly close to where Antonio plays snooker. We try the bell and then we try knocking, but no one comes to the door. We consider breaking-and-entering, but the street-level windows actually belong to one of her neighbors. What should we do? It doesn’t take long to remember that I picked up a set of keys in her dressing room at the opera house. I try those and we are in!

This is much nicer than her sister’s place.

We arrive in a fancy but not terribly interesting living room. I start a sweep, but there doesn’t seem to be too much that we can interact with. The plants have not been watered, suggesting that perhaps Anna has been out for a few days. We find a calling card on the coffee table for “Jacob Farthington”, a barrister. I believe that is some kind of British lawyer, I can never remember how their system works. We pocket the card. From here, there’s a second room on the same floor or we can head upstairs. We try the former first.

She did it! What a plot twist!

The next room seems to be decorated in a completely different style, so much so that Watson needs to comment on it. This is a reminder that Sarah just moved in here recently, although I’m shocked that the previous occupant left all of their furniture and paintings when they went. That seems unlikely. Other than cigarette burns on the table and Holmes’s all-too-obvious deduction that the previous occupants used this room for playing cards, we do not find anything. The fire is lit and I do not know if that means that someone has been here more recently. Why would someone light a fire but not water the plants?

What are we doing here? Er…

After finding nothing of interest downstairs, we ascend to the second floor and stumble straight into the housekeeper. She didn’t hear us come in or search all of the rooms below. We make some excuse for why we are in the house and she accepts it surprisingly quickly. She doesn’t say much except that she hasn’t seen Anna all day (further confirming that she didn’t stay home sick). We look around a bit and she doesn’t stop us except when we touch her drawers and such. She also tells us that there is a statue in the room that she is not permitted to clean. That sounds like a lead! So how can we “clean” it? Watson suggests that we distract her with a mess downstairs. I head down and “use” one of the potted plans to spread some soil on the otherwise immaculate carpet. We tell her about the mess and she runs downstairs in a huff.

As soon as she is gone, we can finish exploring the bedroom. There isn’t too much to see, but the statue is important: Anna hides her diary underneath it in a hidden compartment. She even has entries up to (I think) this morning! She knows about Sarah’s death and her last entry tells us that she has hired a private detective to track down her sister’s stolen jewelry. She explains, to herself, that there is a valuable letter concealed in the pendant which will prove that she is the mother of a child. I wager that it will be one of the kids at the Priory School. That makes more sense than her just stalking a random kid. But how did she lose parental rights? It’s not like maternity is as easy to fake as paternity; I mean, the baby had to come out of someone, right?

Tempting a schoolboy with a toy. That seems wrong.

I steal Anna’s diary in case we need it and leave the housekeeper to clean up our mess. Back on the map, we can now head to the law office that we found on her coffee table, but let’s not go there yet. Instead, we swing by Baker Street and buy the gyroscope off of Wiggins before heading to the picnic grounds.

This time, I manage to tempt one of the boys with the gyroscope and he comes by to talk to us for a few minutes. He informs us that he is not supposed to talk to stranger, but that doesn’t stop him from revealing that his name is Paul. He will not tell us his last name because his family is very important in the city. (The school appears to be for aristocratic children.) We talk to him about Anne and he tells us that she was his nanny when he was little. He also knows that she sings at the opera and has a new house, but we already know all of that. Eventually, he runs off with his gyroscope but mistakenly leaves his hat behind. We pocket it, but not before noticing that it has the name of a hatter on an inside tag. It seems pretty clear that he is Anna’s son, the product of an affair between her and his father, whoever that might be. That explains the secrecy around his upbringing.

Are you mad, sir?

I follow Holmes’s intuition and head to the hattery next, or rather to the equestrian shop that produced the hat. Exactly why a shop devoted to aristocratic horse-sports would also produce fancy hats for boys schools is not clear to me, but that’s where the tag leads us. Even Holmes makes fun of the items in the shop, complaining for example that a hound-hunting jacket called a “pink” is distinctly red. We try to get some answers from the shopkeeper, but he doesn’t want to tell us anything. He thinks we might have stolen the hat! The nerve! Er… well, okay, technically we didn’t steal it. We just picked it up and walked away with it after its owner was only a few feet away and likely would have come back for it. That isn’t technically stealing, right? I do not know what to do to make the man behind the counter up until I stumble on it by accident: if you look at a coat of arms, Holmes will discover that it’s a fake… and announce it as such very loudly. He makes a scene and all of the other patrons leave. The owner finally tells us that the hat was purchased by Lord Brumwell for his son. Aha! Now we know Paul’s paternity and it’s not quite as much of a secret as I expected. I leave and find that Brumwell’s manor is on our map, but before I go there I’ll hit up the lawyer’s office first. What was Sarah doing talking to a lawyer?

Sure. We’ll wait. Not like someone’s life could be in danger or anything.

We arrive at the barrister’s lavishly-appointed office and are told to wait for a few moments. We spend the time searching the room, but other than alcohol conveniently hidden in a globe, we find nothing of importance. Once we can talk with Mr. Farthington, he tells us a great deal: he was a family friend of the Carroway family and had gone to Africa with Sarah’s and Anne’s father to search for diamonds. (Their mother had already passed away.) None of them made their fortune that way and Mr. Farthington left early due to a bout of malaria. Mr. Carroway died a few years later. Anne reached out recently to discuss how to establish parentage over a child. Mr, Farthington also confirms what we already knew about Lord Brumwell as the father. He believes that Anne is in deadly danger and possibly already dead. We all agree that we need to track her down as soon as possible. We head out now to confront the possible mastermind behind this whole mess: Lord Brumwell himself.

That’s what she said! 

Brumwell’s manor is spectacular, at least what little we can see of it. Holmes cautions Watson not to think too much about that as these homes are often hundreds of years old and better represent the excesses of the previous generations rather than the current one. We ring the bell and speak to the butler. He doesn’t want to let us in, but we show him the cap and use returning it as an excuse. We positively must speak to Lord Brumwell about it personally, of course. We couldn’t possibly just leave the cap with him. We’re not acting suspicious at all. Eventually, we convince him to let us into the foyer, but not to speak to Lord Brumwell. Rather, we can speak to his wife. Well… that ought to be good, right? Do you think she knows about the boy and the affair with Anne? She must, right?

Not less ostentatious in here...

As we wait to be allowed in, we explore a bit more and find very little except an odd sense of art. Holmes notices that the statues are actually replicas built larger than real life. You half expect the walls to be gilded. We find a cigarette butt in a tray by the door, smelling of a very specific hand-assembled variety of tobacco. We can’t take the butt with us, but perhaps our friend at the tobacco store will have some ideas about it. We are finally let in to see Lady Brumwell.

Yeah. We offered him a toy.

Our meeting with Lady Brumwell doesn’t go all that well, either. She’s older than I expected, well past child-bearing age and I wonder if the affair with Anne was a sort of May-December romance. She is upset that Paul spoke to us at all, but she seems to know who he is. She admits to no connection between him and Anne except that Anne had worked as a servant and later a nanny for the family, but had to be let go due to unspecified “issues”. Anne remained attached to the boy in her care and still seeks him out from time to time. We are not permitted to see Lord Brumwell himself, but she at least confirms that the tobacco we found is from their guest and not the master of the house himself.

With that, I leave the house and find myself stuck again… at least for the moment. I’ll go back through the various areas to see what I missed. At this point, the plot threads are coming together and the search for Anne and the men trying to silence her is increasingly the focus. Lord Brumwell must have found out that Anne was getting ready to expose the affair and claim rights over Paul. Is that enough to kill over? Possibly. But is Anne completely innocent? If she does expose the affair, would she and Paul be able to access some of the Brumwell fortune? She’s already pretty well-off as a successful opera singer, but the Brumwells are on a whole different level.

Yesterday… all my troubles seemed so very far away. 
Before I go, I have a complaint: this game sucks at any sense of time. I can’t make the timeline work. Am I missing something or does it really not make sense?
  • Sarah was killed in the evening, after a performance. 
  • Holmes was summoned early the following day. The report had already appeared in the paper, even though the police and the witnesses were still on the scene. Presumably, they were there all night?
  • At some point, it became the following day, two days after the murder. When we search for the newspaper, it is very clearly yesterday’s paper and Anne’s diary has been updated since Sarah’s death.
  • Still, the times at various locations are inconsistent. The old woman is still watching an evening performance at the opera, while it is night at the theater, and daytime at the rugby pitch and picnic spot.
I feel the game missed a major chance here and it muddies the narrative. My best guess is that it switched to the “next day” when we found ourselves back at Baker Street after capturing Blackwood. That would make the most sense, but the game didn’t spell it out nor did it update any of the locations to suggest any time had passed. For a game that seems so realistic in other ways, this just feels odd to me. Anyone else feel the same? Am I expecting too much of the game?

Time played: 2 hr 35 min
Total time: 15 hr 20 min

Inventory: message requesting help, business cards, iron bar, perfume bottle, pink carnation, card, sample of powder, cigarette butts, analysis results, a brass key, a large key, opera tickets, a note to enter Anna’s dressing room, cufflinks, wire hook, feather, Catarrh Preparation, serrated scalpel, bloody smock, leash, hammer, rope, wet rag, La Cote de Azur perfume, barrister’s calling card, Paul’s cap, Anne’s diary


  1. Great post, here my accompanying notes:

    I was trying to remember alternate solutions, and the only one I can think of is the get the information from the bartender by playing darts or by blackmailing him (which you already solved). I don't think there are more alternate solutions in the entire game, maybe they were rushed and couldn't implement more ?

    In the billiards, to speak with the players is a "timing" puzzle, you can only speak to the one who is waiting while the other player aims (or the other way around, I can't remember exactly now).

    I found by pure chance that weird room in Anne's house after 10 years of playing this title, and I was very surprised by its mysterious music. Also, that's the only useless room in the game (making it my favorite, exactly the same as the 2 autumn screens in Kyrandia 1).

    The puzzle in the equestrian shop is very odd, it's the only one that's automatically solved by looking at something instead of using it, picking up, or look and then talk to someone. I never liked it, and seems a little too different that the rest of the puzzles.

    Regarding the timeline, I think part of the confusion comes from the fact that most leads can be followed in different order. I always assumed that arresting Blackwood finished the day. About the opera being at night, I think that's more of an artistic license.

    1. The thing about the opera that annoys me is that we are told to come back later to talk to the owner again, but as far as I can tell the opera is always just beginning... even though it is another day.

      What was the alternate solution that I missed? (if it doesn't spoil anything.) I'm just starting to think about the final score and if there are multiple paths through certain parts, that will inform the "P" score.

    2. As I said, I don't think there are more alternate solutions, just the darts one. Also not multiple paths, just a very open world game, in which you can follow leads in different order, but in the end, you'll have to solve everything one way or the other

    3. Yes, the solution in the equestrian shop was a bit of a surprise, especially considering that I spent a significant amount of time blowing at various brass musical instruments.

      It seemed to me as well that the timeline is a bit weird, but I tried to wave it off as artistic license, as Alex said. It would require a more linear approach in terms of visiting locations and prohibition of visiting them again later (or they would have to paint different day and night screens for all).

      But isn't it the case with quite a few games anyway? You go through the game in a perpetual twilight.

    4. I think it's a tiny bit of an 'uncanny valley' situation. On a less well-done game, I wouldn't have given it a second thought, but with so much done very well it sticks out more.

    5. The equestrian shop and snooker club have the kind of puzzles I complained about earlier, where you just have to enable the dialogue to advance without much thought.

      I hadn't noticed a timing element to the snooker players, so that may redeem it.

  2. Death Gate released on GOG:

    Played it about half a year ago. Production values were high and it it felt like an underrated gem.

  3. V rqvgrq gur tnzr'f znc jvgu nyy ybpngvbaf haybpxrq vagb n fvatyr vzntr:


  4. "Will there be a minotaur at the end?"

    Although this is a reference to the mythical labyrinth story, I like the coincidental timing that two days earlier I completed Quest for Glory, meeting a minotaur at the end :)

  5. I just found out that you need to "Use" the door knocker and bell on Anna's door for Watson to let you in, even though "Move" appears to work. (At least on ScummVM.) I hope I can save others from the hair-tearing frustration I had to go through before looking at a walkthrough!