Sherlock Holmes & the Red-Headed League: A Guest Post by K.B. Owen

I’m so excited to welcome mystery writer, K.B. Owen, to The Happiness Project today! She is on a whirlwind blog tour promoting her newest book, Unseemly Pursuits, and I asked her to stop by Wisconsin for some midwestern hospitality, and she obliged. *curtsy*
Since she knows redheads are some of the greatest people ever, she’s sharing some tidbits of history about Sherlock Holmes and “The Red-Headed League”.
There’s also a swag-a-licious giveaway at the end of the post, so be sure to leave a comment and you could win!
The floor is yours, Madam.

KB OwenK.B. Owen taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature. A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

Unseemly Pursuits is the second book of the series. The first book, Dangerous and Unseemly, was published in early 2013.

K.B. currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.


Many fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories consider “The Red-Headed League” to be one of their favorites. The story was published in The Strand Magazine’s August 1891 issue, and later collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892).

red01Illustrated by Sidney Paget, 1891. Wikimedia Commons.

A brief synopsis:

A red-haired businessman, Jabez Wilson, consults Holmes about a curious incident. There had been an advertisement in the paper by an organization calling itself the “Red-Headed League” looking for red-headed male candidates to fill a well-paying position with light work. Wilson had won the job, and began earning a handsome salary for basically “busy” work, copying the encyclopedia during daytime hours. Since Wilson’s own shop mostly operated in the evenings, with his assistant on hand to take care of anything that came up while Wilson was gone, the red-headed man considered it a happy arrangement. But abruptly one morning, Wilson found a sign stating that the League was “dissolved.” Reluctant to let go of a good thing, Wilson comes to Holmes to solve the mystery.

Holmes and Watson are amused, and Holmes’ curiosity is piqued. He agrees to investigate.


Holmes eventually deduces that Wilson’s assistant, John Clay, has been digging through the basement wall of Wilson’s shop into the bank vault next door. Clay had thought up the “red-headed league” scheme as a way to keep Wilson away during the day while he and his cohorts did their digging. When the work was completed and they were making final preparations to break into the vault, Clay dissolved the league. Holmes, Watson, Wilson and the police wait in the bank vault for the criminals, and nab them when they come through.

red02Illustrated by Sidney Paget, 1891. Wikimedia Commons.

If you’d like to read this story online for free through Project Gutenberg, click on the link below and scroll down to the middle of the page to “Adventure II.”

The Red-Headed League

An outlandish story, yes? Ah, but wait: in 1874 (15 years before Doyle’s story was published), a New York bank experienced a similar incident – without the red-headed part – where crooks attempted to tunnel into the vault. Below is an excerpted account from the New York Times, regarding the scheme of bank robber John Clare (very close to the name Doyle selected for his criminal) and the sharp policemen who thwarted him:


For the rest of the article on the sentencing, and how Clare was eventually captured, click here: New York Times

In my searches, I have yet to find evidence that Conan Doyle based “The Red-Headed League” on any bank robbery incident, but the coincidence is interesting nonetheless.

Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan? If so, what is your favorite story?

Jess, thanks so much for having me! It was really fun. 😉

Thanks for teaching us about the Red-Headed League! Maybe I’ll start one of my own…


Now the for book info!

A deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

UnseemlyPursuitsCover 266x400It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  An ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

Where to buy Unseemly Pursuits:







I so want to read this book!


SwagKitDuring K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which goes through the first week of March, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop (including here!). The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits. At the end of the tour, she’ll hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style. Check the sidebar on the home page of for the full tour schedule and other info.

28 responses

  1. Red headed league is one of my favorites of his! The villain is so smart. 🙂

    1. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any Sherlock Holmes stories. Well, maybe we read parts of one or a short story in school. I know we studied him briefly. This story seems like a great one to start with.

    2. Ah, but not smart enough for Mr. Holmes… 😉

  2. How fun! I have Sherlock Holmes on my kindle, I’ll have to get to reading.

    1. Tell me how you like it! I’m thinking I need to add some to my goodreads queue.

    2. The nice thing about the Holmes canon is that each short story is a stand-alone, and can be read in one sitting.

  3. […] Click here: The Red-Headed League […]

  4. I’m convinced a really good name is crucial to a story, and Concordia Wells is perfect. A little outlandish but not too over-the-top. I like it.

    My Sherlock Holmes knowledge can be summed up thusly: Robert Downey Jr. The end.

    1. Yes Kathy’s professor is well named!

      And Robert Downey Jr. Is about where I’m at too, but now I have reason to explore more.

    2. LOL, thanks Mark! That’s what I was going for… 😉

  5. I wonder how many times Doyle got asked, “WHERE do you get your ideas?!”

    1. Some alluring redhead perhaps? 😉

    2. Lots of criminal mayhem to inspire him…

  6. Great post! Thanks for hosting Kathy, Jess. The Adventure of the Red Headed League was my first Holmes story. 🙂

    1. Thinkin it may be mine as well!

    2. You’ll love it! Nice to see you, Margot! 😉

  7. You always come up with these interesting tid bits! Totally enjoyed the blog. 🙂

    1. Kathy is a fabulous historian! Love the way she tells a story. 🙂

    2. Thanks, Sharla Rae and Jess! 😀

  8. I love everything Sherlock, especially Robert Downey, jr. Great post, Kathy! Hi, Jess! Hey, aren’t WE the redheaded league? Or the Redhots league? 😉

    1. Both! The redhot redheaded league! Lol

    2. Watch out for those red-heads! 😉

  9. How cool!

    1. Kathy’s posts are always cool. 🙂

    2. Thanks Nicole and Jess! There’s so much to love about the Holmes stories!

  10. I haven’t read any Sherlock Holmes stories unfortunately, but Mathair has and she absolutely loves them. I’ll have to ask her about the Red-headed League, she’s read the Hound of the Baskervilles though and she loves it. Love K.B.’s synopsis for her book. Very intriguing and Mathair and I love mysteries. We’ll definitely be checking out Unseemly Pursuits. Great post, K.B.

    1. Rooting for you in the giveaway! Promise me you won’t fight over who gets to read it first. 😉

    2. Thanks so much, Inion! You’ve made my day! 🙂

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