The Boscombe Valley Mystery

The Boscombe Valley Mystery

The BV MysteryTeacher’s Book

The Boscombe Valley Mystery

Teacher’s Book

 Part I 

Teacher’s Guide and Teaching Plan


/ This story is one of the adventures of the famous fictitious detective – Sherlock Holmes. The teacher can begin by briefly introducing the writer and background of the story and taking students through the first two sections. After that students either read the story on their own or work under the teacher’s guidance through the sections of the story. The story comes with some prompts and questions along the margin to guide students in responding to the story development and characters. They are given practice in reading sensitively and analytically through activities such as looking for clues of the murderer.
Students are encouraged to finishing reading the whole story if they are eager to get the answer to the mystery. But they must not tell the ending of the story to their classmates who have not finished reading the story.

The Story

/ James McCarthy was accused of having murdered his own father, Charles McCharthy. On the afternoon of the tragedy, he was seen having a violent quarrel with the latter near Boscombe Pool, and shortly after that he rushed to a house nearby for help, with blood on his hand, saying he found his father dead by the Pool. James refused to say anything about the object of his quarrel with his father, but told the coroner that before his father died, the latter uttered something about “a rat”.
Miss Turner, daughter of the neighbouring land-owner of the McCarthys, wanted to prove his innocence. She appointed detective Lestrade of Scotland Yard to help, but he was convinced James was guilty, so she turned to Sherlock Holmes for help.
After meeting James and visiting the scene of the crime, Holmes concluded that the murderer was a tall, lame and left-handed man… He also speculated about the weapon and deduced the murderer’s background…
Was Holmes right? Who was the murderer? How did Holmes solve the mystery?
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous detectives in the world of fiction. In the story The Boscombe Valley Mystery, as usual he is accompanied by his good friend, Dr Watson, who is also the narrator of the story.

Learning Targets

  • to participate with others in planning, organizing and carrying out events (IDd)
  • to provide or find out, select, organize and present information on familiar and less familiar topics (KDa)
  • to interpret and use more extensive information through processes or activities such as sequencing, describing, explaining, predicting, inferring, summarizing, drawing conclusions (KDc)
  • to identify and discuss ideas in spoken and written texts, form opinions and express them (KDd)
  • to identify and define problems from given information, consider related factors, solve the problems and explain the solutions (KDe)
  • to respond to characters, events and issues in imaginative and other narrative texts (EDb)

Generic Skills and Attitudes

  • Collaboration skills
  • Communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Information technology skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Study skills
  • Cultural interest and appreciation of a famous foreign fictitious figure


/ Students are able:
  1. to follow the plot of a detective story
  2. to recognize the clues to the mystery in the story and suggest solutions to the mystery with justification
  3. to appreciate the portrayal of characters and description of actions and events in a story
  4. to investigate the fictitious world of Sherlock Holmes and/or other detective and mystery stories and to organize and present the findings
  5. to understand the genre of detective stories and to develop an interest in detective fiction

Language Focus

/ Language Function & Structure:
  • Use of conditional tenses, esp. types 2 & 3
  • Use of present perfect tense to describe the completion of some actions (e.g. the picture has been replaced; the vase has been broken)
  • Use of “so” etc. to avoid repetition.
  • Use of “both” for emphasis.

Activities and Skills Focused /
  • Listening: listening to group members’ view and classmates and teachers’ reading aloud, to comprehend and to interpret the reading
  • Speaking: expressing personal views and speculations, discussion, reasoning and justifying own points of view, reading aloud the story.
  • Reading: anticipation, reading for underlying meaning, reading to extract clues for the mystery of the story
  • Reading & writing: reading to follow sequence of events and to summarize part of the story, writing a statement of confession for a character in the story.
  • Word attack skills.


/ The Boscombe Valley Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (adapted)

Catering for Learner Diversity

/ Teachers may adapt the materials and the teaching procedure judiciously for the needs of the students

Suggest Number of Lessons

/ 4-8
Background Information
The author of the book is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). He is best remembered as the creator of the fictional detective "Sherlock Holmes", which has become one of the most famous fictional characters of all time. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he began practicing medicine in 1882, but was not a great success. While waiting for patients, he started writing short stories as a hobby, but his early writings earned him only pocket money. His first great success came with his first Sherlock Holmes novel, "A Study in Scarlet" (1887). In Holmes, Doyle created a detective who used observation and logic to solve crimes, which Doyle had patterned after a real-life Scotland Yard detective. For this, Doyle is credited with creating the investigative detective. Sherlock Holmes would also appear in 56 short stories and three other novels, "The Sign of Four" (1890), "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (1902), and "The Valley of Fear" (1915). So popular did the Sherlock Holmes character become, that Doyle became one of the most highly paid short-story writers in his time. When he killed off the Sherlock Holmes character in one of his stories in 1893, public demand and pressure from his publisher, the Strand magazine, forced him to bring the character back to life three years later to continue the Sherlock Holmes adventures. Doyle has also written numerous historical novels, other adventure tales, romances, and plays, including a series of short stories and novels featuring a fictional 'Professor Challenger', which have been turned into movies and television series. During the later decade of his life, he abandoned writing fiction to study and lecture on spiritualism, the communication with the souls of the dead, a topic that interested the general public in the 1920s. (Biographical account by Kit and Morgan Benson at Retrieved on 17 Dec 2005.)
Other interesting sites about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes:
Sherlock Holmes stories:
Sherlockian.Net: Arthur Conan Doyle:
Sherlock Holmes International:

Gary Nabors "Sherlockian" Photos:

Notes on characters and places in the story:

Characters in the story
Alice Turner / Daughter of John Turner
Charles McCharthy / He had rented his farm at Hatherley from John Turner
James McCarthy / Son of Charles McCarthy
John Turner / The largest land owner in Herefordshire. Owner of Boscombe Valley Estate and Hatherley Farm.
Lestrade / A detective of Scotland Yard
Patience Moran / Daughter of the lodge-keeper of the Boscombe Valley Estate
Sherlock Holmes / A detective
Watson / Friend and assistant of Sherlock Holmes
William Crowder / Game-keeper at Boscombe Valley
Places in the story
Boscombe Pool / A small pool in Boscombe Valley
Boscombe Valley / A country district in Herefordshire
Bristol / A big city about three hours’ train journey from London
Hatherley Farm / A farm owned by John Turner and rented out to the McCarthys
Herefordshire / A county in England. Information on the place in the past and now is available at .
Hereford Arms / A small hotel in the country-town of Ross, where Holmes and Watson stayed when they investigated the case.
Ross / A country town near Boscombe Valley in Herefordshire
River Severn / Landscape near Ross in Herefordshire
Stroud Valley / Landscape near Ross in Herefordshire

Lesson Procedure & General Approach

This story can be tackled in different ways according to the learning style and level of the students. With students who need more support, teacher can take them through the story.

More able students can be allowed to work more independently after T has introduced the background of the story and the setting (Chapter 1 sections 1.1 & 1.2).

Some questions (with answers) and points that are worth noting have been put in boxes on the margin in the Teacher’s version of the story. T can decide if she wants to use them when she takes students through the story. During class, the teacher could highlight or read aloud interesting or important sections and ask students to attempt the questions.

It teacher wants to take students through the story, she can decide if she wants to give out the whole story to students in one go or to do so chapter by chapter or section by section, so that she can time the students’ reading in steps.

To arouse students’ interest teacher can ask students to discuss and predict who the murderer is as they read on, particularly at the following places. Students can be asked to justify their guesses:

  • After the report on the examination of James McCarthy (end of Chapter 1)
  • After Holmes met Miss Turner (end of Section 2.1)
  • After Holmes met James (end of Section 2.3)
  • After Holmes’ visit to the crime scene (end of Chapter 2)

If students are reading on their own, they can still make the guesses and note them down before reading on.

There are 9 post-reading activities on this story. Teacher can decide their focus and select from the activities for their class. Some activities can be done in groups. Some of the activities require creative or critical thinking. Interaction among students would make the activities more interesting than individual work.


Teacher asks students questions and provides some background information, particularly about the following to arouse students’ interest and to provide background to the story:

  • detective stories (What detective stories have they read? Why are they interested in detective stories? What are some typical features of these stories?)
  • the author (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
  • Sherlock Holmes and the setting of his adventures (possibly showing some photos of England in the 19th Century and of the Sherlock Holmes Museum on the Internet)
  • the narrator in the story, Sherlock Holmes’ friend, Dr Watson
  • Scotland Yard

PART 2: ANTICIPATION – Chapters One – Sections 1.1 & 1.2 (4 periods)

Teacher takes students through Sections 1.1 and 1.2 of the story and encourage them to read on. More able students can read the rest of the story on their own. Other students can go through the story in several sessions.


T can ask students to make up a list of characters and places as they go through the story, and speculate who the murderer was. (Refer to the list of characters and places in the notes.)


 Part II 

Student’s Book with Answer Key

Sequence the following events which summarize the relationship between John Turner and Charles McCarthy. (Depending on the ability of the students, Teacher may ask them to write the summary by themselves.)

A / Turner and his gang got the gold and became wealthy. Turner went to England and decided to turn over a new leaf. He did his best to make up for the past. He got married but his wife died soon. He had a daughter called Alice. / 3
B / Turner challenged McCarthy to do his worst, and they were to meet at the pool midway between their houses to talk it over. / 8
C / After James left, Turner attacked McCarthy with a big stone and killed him. / 10
D / Twenty years ago he met James McCarthy and the latter threatened to tell his secret to the police. / 4
E / Turner and his gang robbed the gold convoy which McCarthy worked in. They killed some of the guards, but Turner set McCarthy free. / 2
F / Thirty years ago John Turner and James McCarthy were both in Australia. Turner was a miner, but later became a highway robber, and was known as Black Jack of Ballarat. McCarthy was a wagon driver. / 1
G / When Turner arrived, he heard McCarthy talking to his son James, forcing him to marry Alice as if she was a dirty woman off the street. This made Turner very angry. / 9
H / But now McCarthy asked Turner to let his son marry Alice. Turner was strongly against this because he did not want Alice to fall into the grip of McCarthy and mix with his family. / 6
I / Turner stood firm, so McCarthy threatened him. / 7
J / In order to pacify McCarthy, Turner let him live in Hatherly Farm free, and gave him whatever he wanted. / 5

Sequence the following events about what happened on the afternoon of the tragedy. (Depending on the ability of the students, Teacher may ask them to write the narration by themselves.)

A / When the inspector told James that he was a prisoner, he remarked that he was not surprised to hear it, and it was no more than what he deserved. But he denied he had killed his father. / 9
B / Patience Moran, a girl of fourteen, daughter of the lodge-keeper of the Boscombe Valley Estate, stated that she saw Mr. McCarthy and his son at the edge of the wood close by the lake. / 3
C / On following him they found the dead body stretched out upon the grass beside the pool. The head had been beaten in by repeated blows of some heavy and blunt weapon. The injuries seemed to have been made by the butt-end of his son's shotgun, which was found lying on the grass within a few feet from the body. / 7
D / He said he had a quarrel with his father, but refused to say what the quarrel was about. / 11
E / James was instantly arrested, and a verdict of 'wilful murder' has been returned at the inquest on Tuesday. On the next day he was brought before the magistrates. / 8
F / On June 3rd, McCarthy left his home about three in the afternoon and walked down to the Boscombe Pool near his farmhouse. He had told his servant that he was in a hurry, as he had an important appointment to keep at three. / 1
G / Mr. McCarthy came running up to the lodge to say that he had found his father dead in the wood, and to ask the lodge-keeper for help. / 5
H / A few minutes after he passed Boscombe Pool, his son, James McCarthy, was seen going the same way with a shotgun under his arm. / 2
I / James said he had gone to Boscombe Pool with his shot-gun with the intention of visiting the rabbit-holes there. / 10
J / He was much excited, without either his shotgun or his hat, and his right hand and sleeve were stained with fresh blood. / 6
K / She said that they appeared to be having a violent quarrel. She heard Mr. McCarthy the elder using very strong language to his son, and she saw the latter raise his hand as if to strike his father. / 4

Sherlock Holmes has asked Mr Turner to write a statement admitting the crime. Imagine you are Turner and write the statement. A convenient way to do so is by telling the story (from Turner’s point of view) in a chronological way. You may begin like this: (Note for the teacher: This activity is similar to Activities 1 and 2 in that students retell the story chronologically. This Activity may therefore allow students to work on their own using the last two activities as the framework. With higher ability students, it may be rather boring to do all the three activities. So teacher can decide which one(s) to use.)

Statement by John Turner
I, John Turner, confess I have killed Charles McCarthy of Hatherly Farm in Herefordshire.
It all happened about thirty years ago. I was in Australia working at the mines. I was young and reckless. I got among bad company and became a highway robber. We robbed many mining stations and wagons. I was known as Black Jack of Ballarat, and our party was called the Ballarat Gang. One day a gold convoy came down from Ballarat to Melbourne, and we lay in wait for it and attacked it. We killed four of their men, but I set free the wagon driver, who was Charles McCarthy.
We got away with the gold, became wealthy men, and made our way over to England. I was determined to settle down to a quiet and respectable life, and to do a little good with my money, to make up for my crimes. I married, too, and though my wife died young she left a lovely daughter, Alice.
About twenty years ago I met Charles McCarthy again in the street. He was very poor and threatened me to tell my secret to the police. I had to give him everything he wanted, including the farm and the house.
But his greed had no end. Knowing that Alice is my only child and is going to inherit my property, he wanted me to let her marry his son James. But there I stood firm. I would not have his evil family mixed with mine. McCarthy threatened but I challenged him to do his worst. We were to meet at the pool midway between our houses to talk it over.
When I went down there I found him talking with his son. So I smoked a cigar and waited behind a tree until he should be alone. But as I listened to his talk all that was black and bitter in me seemed to come up. He was urging his son to marry my daughter with as little regard for what she might think as if she were a dirty woman off the streets. It drove me mad to think that I and what was dearest to me should be in the power of such a man as this. I was already a dying and a desperate man, but I must save my daughter. I decided I must make him keep silent forever.
I struck him down with no more reluctance than if he had been some fierce and fearful animal. His cry brought back his son; I quickly hid in the wood. However, I was forced to go back to fetch the cloak which I had dropped.
I know I have committed a serious crime and deserve to be punished by the law. But I must say I do not regret having done what I did because Charles McCarthy was a devilish man and I had been under his power these twenty years, and he has ruined my life. Now my mind is free at last, and most important of all, Alice will be free from his clutches.
That was all that happened.