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Silver Blaze by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle VS CSI: Miami

1. Introduction

Detective fiction gained popularity in the late 19th century. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

created Sherlock Holmes as a response to police force´s incompetence. As for the 21st

century, police crime drama reaches its peak in popularity with the production of many TV

series about crime investigation. This essay will analyse the figure of the detective in Silver

Blaze (1892) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the TV series CSI: Miami (2002) in the forth

episode of the first season (Just one kiss). To accomplish this analysis both materials will be

examined closely. The first part of the essay introduces the plot of the short story and of the

episode. The second part of the paper focuses on the detective strategy and the figure of the

detective. The third part analyzes the social and historical background. The forth part deals

with the process of investigation.

To start with a brief summary of the short story and the episode will be provided.

Silver Blaze tells the story of a detective called Sherlock Holmes who travels to Dartmoor in

order to investigate a racehorse´s disappearance and a murder. In CSI: Miami´s episode

Just one kiss, the crime scene investigators (CSIs) try to find out who is responsible for a

man´s death and for a woman´s assault. We will focus on the analysis of Megan Donner, a

crime scene investigator, Horatio Fenwick, a detective, and of the detective Holmes.

2. Detective strategy and figure of the detective

The short story begins with Sherlock saying to Watson that he has to go: “I´m afraid,

Watson, that I shall have to go.” (Doyle 1) This implies that the detective uses the deductive

detection strategy in order to solve the case. The reason for this is that he leaves his

apartment in order to go to the crime scene to examine it. Sherlock Holmes is regarded as a

superior and mysterious character himself. Nobody knows how he became a detective.

Holmes is able to find Straker´s murder just by looking at his belongings. Regarding Watson,

although he comes to help Sherlock, he has a passive role with few interventions. To put it in

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another way, Watson gives his point of view on some details of the case in order to clarify

some details of the case. In contrast to Silver Blaze, in Just one kiss the crime scene

investigators have an active role and they tell each other how they think that the crimes

occurred.

In CSI: Miami, the CSIs help each other to solve the case. Both Megan Donner and

detective Fenwick go to the beach, where the dead man was found, in order to look for

evidence of the crime. After gathering evidence from the crime scene, they examine it in the

lab. This means that both Megan and Horatio use the deductive detective strategy as well.

The CSIs form theories about how the suspects committed the crimes making viewers

believe that each of them could be the perpetrator of the crimes. As the investigation

continues new evidence is revealed, turning suspicion on a different person each time.

3. Setting: social and historical context

Horse racing during the Victorian era was very popular. It was not only a sport

competition, but also a highly social event. Moreover, it was also associated with betting

activities. The Wessex Cup is a depiction of the Royal Ascot, which is a very prestigious race

meeting. Characters in Silver Blaze are considered a representation of British society of the

late 19th century. For example, Colonel Ross and Fitzroy Simpson represent the upper class.

The former is the owner of the King´s Pyland stables and of Silver Blaze. The latter is a

bookmaker who got arrested because he went to the King´s Pyland stables the night before

the murder happened. Fitzroy Simpson, the main suspect, went there because he wanted to

get firsthand information about the race. John Straker belongs to middle class. He worked

for Colonel Ross, firstly as a jockey and later as a trainer. He wanted to make more money

by making a nick upon the tendons of the horse´s ham so that it would lose the competition.

At the end, when the horse struck Straker he got what he deserved.

Just one kiss is set in Miami in the 21st century. The Hamiltons, who are investigated

for two crimes, belong to the elite because they are influential and very rich. They try to get

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rid of the evidence that would incriminate them for Esteban´s murder and Jane´s assault.

However, detective Fenwick and Megan Donner find evidence that prove that Drake

Hamilton killed Esteban and that Tyler Hamilton abused Jane Renshaw. The Hamiltons are

a representation of some wealthy personages of the 21st century. First of all, they try to get

away with crime as other rich people do by covering it up and by hiring the best lawyers.

Secondly, some of the rich people are known for the wild parties that they organize. In CSI:

Miami´s forth episode the crimes occur after Tyler´s party.

In the TV series, the idea of rich people being able to get away with crime is

criticised. In the episode analysed in this essay, there is a mention of a crime that Drake

committed in the past. He flew the scene of an accident leaving behind a girl in his car. Even

if he was guilty of leaving the scene of an accident, he managed to escape incarceration

alleging that he lent his car to that girl. Drake Hamilton is an indirect allusion to Senator

Teddy Kennedy, who committed the same crime and who got his sentence suspended.

Silver Blaze is set in the late 19th century: a time when the aristocracy was regarded

as “superior” and honourable. Committing a crime means breaking the social order. At the

time, crimes were associated with the poor class. However, Doyle introduces Fitzroy

Simpson, a man of aristocratic origin, as the main suspect. Fitzroy Simpson is considered to

be: “a man of excellent birth and education” (Doyle 4) so his arrest is something unexpected.

When the bookmaker is found not guilty and the criminal turns out to be someone who does

not belong to the upper class, social order is restored, as the aristocrat regains its reputation.

In the Victorian era, to catch the criminal means to recover social and political control.

Holmes was able to find out who murdered John Straker and to recover the horse. On the

contrary, in the TV series, the criminals turn out to be two rich people. Detective Fenwick

and the crime scene investigator, Megan Donner, catch the perpetrators of the crimes.

4. The investigation

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Holmes participates in the police investigation because policemen are not able to

find out what happened. They are considered as incompetent at their jobs because they are

not capable to solve the case. The detective gathered information about the case from the

newspapers and he tells Watson the facts of it on their way to Dartmoor: “at least I have got

a grip of the essential facts of the case. I shall enumerate them to you.” (Doyle 2) By stating

the details of the case to Watson, the writer challenges the reader to solve the case.

Moreover, Holmes keeps information to himself because he does not reveal who murdered

John Straker until the end of the story. By doing this, readers are regarded as less intelligent

than the detective if they are not able to solve the mystery at the same time that Holmes

does it. Eventually, he gives a final explanation about how the crimes happened.

In the short story, Sherlock Holmes examines the things that were found at the crime

scene, such as Simpson´s cravat and the small knife. During the investigation, other details

are revealed such as the strange walking attitude of sheep and the fact that the dog did not

bark. The fact that the dog did not bark indicates that the person who stole the horserace

was someone known by the dog. Moreover, Sherlock admits going to Dartmoor believing

that Simpson is the “true culprit” (Doyle 12). However, once he is there he realizes that

evidence against Fitzroy Simpson is circumstantial and finds out that the horse murdered his

trainer. Furthermore, the detective blames the newspaper reports for his first theory about

the facts. The author does not play by the fair play convictions because the animal turns out

to be John Straker´s murderer. Even if Silver Blaze is presented early in the story, no one

expects the murderer to be an animal.

In Just one kiss details are laid out as the episode progresses. Different evidence is

found such as prints, the DNA of two males on a watch, blood drops on the boardwalk next

to a Hamiltons´ property, isolated fragments of glass in the zipper teeth of a jacket that Tyler

wore at the night of the party, spatter from a nose piece from the glasses at the crime scene,

etc. Once the CSIs identify the dead man their first theory is the following: “so Paul catches

his girl with Esteban. Tossed the guy. Assaults the girl.” (“Just one kiss”) The crime scene

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investigators think that Paul, Jane´s boyfriend, is the culprit because his prints were on the

murder weapon and they imagine how the crimes occurred. As new evidence is discovered,

suspicion turns into Tyler Hamilton.

The second theory is the following: “once you saw that lowly bartender kissing the girl

that blew you off, the old Hamilton arrogance turned into rage. And you have what you claim

to be consensual sex. And then you leave the young woman alone to die in the water. But

that wasn't enough . . . You caught up and you cut his throat with what was left of that

champagne bottle.” (“Just one kiss”) The CSIs believe that Tyler murdered Esteban, the

bartender, and raped Jane. However when they realize that there was a nose piece at the

crime scene and Tyler does not wear glasses, they know that somebody else has been on

the beach. Since Drake Hamilton wears glasses, he is asked to give the glasses in order to

be examined. Esteban´s blood is found on the corner of Drake´s lens. Drake Hamilton ends

up confessing his crime because he knows that evidence already speaks for itself.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, Silver Blaze depicts Holmes´s investigation on a murder and on a

racehorse´s disappearance. Just one Kiss deals with a murder´s investigation and a

woman´s assault. Throughout the episode, Megan and Horatio form different theories of how

the murder and the assault took place. The main suspects are: Paul Varnette, Tyler Hamilton

and Drake Hamilton. The CSIs reveal the evidence to the audience as they find it. On the

contrary, Holmes hides some information from the reader that he discloses at the end of the

story. While in Silver Blaze, Watson has a passive role in solving the mystery, in CSI: Miami,

the crime scene investigators have an active participation in the case. Regarding the

suspects, the aristocrat is the major suspect; however, the culprit turns out to be an animal

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and not a member of the upper class. In the forth episode of CSI: Miami the criminals belong

to the upper class.

References:

Doyle, Arthur, Conan. “Silver Blaze.” The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Doubleday &

Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1930. 1-13. Print.

“Just one kiss.” Prod. Jerry Bruckheimer Television, et al. CSI: Miami. CBS Television

Distribution. 14 Oct. 2004. ororotv. Web. 10 May 2015.