SHCD: The Title Case

It’s been over three weeks now since my last post, and I’ve had case 8 of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective laid out on a table for that entire time. The box suggests “90+ min” as a typical session length, but I’ve found that to be a severe underestimate even for the simpler cases, at least in my current distraction-riddled context. Case 8 — titled “The Thames Murders”, the very case that the entire collection is named for — starts with the warning “This case is longer than the other ones. Expecting visiting [sic] more locations and spending more time solving it.” And this has been intimidating.

It isn’t just that I expecting visiting more locations. The content within those locations trends substantially longer, running to multiple pages in some cases. Where other cases start with a murder, this one hands you five right out the gate. There’s been a worrying emphasis on time-keeping, as if I’m expected to form a coherent picture of multiple people’s comings and goings over a span of days. Plus of course the number of newspapers you have access to, and thus the number you have to scan for possible relevance, has been growing steadily as game-time passes. This is the first case where I’ve felt the need to organize information by taking notes on index cards, one for each character. Although even that doesn’t really suffice to show relevant character relationships — I almost feel like I need one of those conspiracy boards with a web of red string linking photographs.

In short, it’s complex enough to have passed a threshold beyond which I just don’t seem to be able to finish it. Throughout the cases, I’ve been keeping track of locations I’ve visited in a lined notepad, so as to easily consult them again later (as the game allows you to do). I’ve previously limited myself to one page of that pad per case, and usually stopped well short of that. Here, I’ve gone over, and still don’t feel like I’m anywhere near understanding anything. There’s a peculiar thing about this game: it largely relies on narratological reasoning, such as assuming that a thing is important simply because it’s mentioned repeatedly, but it also frustrates it. I know that in a mystery of this sort, the first and most obvious solution is never the correct one. So when I suddenly encounter a new character with a motivation to kill, my first reaction is “Aha! This is the twist I was expecting, and this is the true culprit!” But discoveries aren’t strictly linear, and in a case that’s so generous with its leads, it’s very likely that I instead read the genuinely relevant part first, and only later saw the red herring. It strikes me that one of the things that enabled me to solve case 7 with a positive score was that the path to its secrets did largely form a clear narrative line, rather than the cloudy morass I have here.

I’d probably be happier, or at least have a table free, if I just gave up and read the solution. That’s the thing, you can just end a case at any time. But if I were the sort to do that, I wouldn’t have this blog, would I?

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