Strictly speaking, the Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb is not that interesting from a detective genre point of view, despite Sherlock running around finding clues and making his usual deductions. The story is very different. Sherlock and Watson are not the center of the story. Rather, they are providing a narrative background for a mystery to be discovered and unfold.

But that does not mean the story is not interesting.  On the contrary, it is very engaging and full of suspense. I don’t think that is what Doyle intended to do. But somehow it works. If I have to put a label on it, I would rather call this story steam-punk mystery. Here is why:

  • The story has a Victorian setting and blood in it.
  • The hydraulic press is one of the quintessential steam-age technology.
  • Both the engineer and the criminals are somewhat fringe and anti-social.

So I have an idea. Why not change the the story to some dystopian world, where Watson installs a synthetic thumb for the engineer, and the criminals flee away with a hot air balloon instead of a horse carriage. That would certainly make a good first chapter of a steam-punk adventure.

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