The Five Orange Pips is a story that has never really been adapted to the screen. BBC’s Sherlock made a pun about the title, without including any of the actual story. There are two five orange pips meaning forex, I think, for the lack of adaptations. Ku Klux Klan as the villain, especially one that focuses on their making rich white Englishman their victims, while largely ignoring their crime against African-Americans.
The second, and more important, reason is that, sad to say, The Five Orange Pips is just not a very good story. The mystery isn’t much of one. Granted, perhaps it just seems that way to me, because a 21st century American reader is much more familiar with the Ku Klux Klan, and the obvious meaning of K. K, than a nineteenth century British reader might have been. But we can’t forget what we know, and the Klan involvement is painfully obvious early on. And once again, it’s a case that Holmes has mostly solved before the client even finishes his story, which doesn’t make for the best mystery. There is little to no “action” in the piece.
Everything significant happens “off screen,” as it were. Holmes deduces who they must be, but he has been wrong before. To have him rail so much against the killers, and then never so much as see them, is frustrating. Add to the fact that their final fate is in no way due to Holmes’ actions. Because of this, they are by far the weakest villains in the Canon, all shadows and no substance whatsoever.
Watson writes that “there are points in connection with which never have been, and probably never will be, entirely cleared up. He may be right, but on a meta-level, that’s the author’s duty to fill in the missing information. It is particularly ironic, in that in this tale, Doyle has Watson confess that “it is no easy matter to know which” of Holmes many cases to publish. Some, however, have already gained publicity through the papers, and others have not offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend possessed in so high a degree, and which it is the object of these papers to illustrate. Some commentators describe this case as a failure for Holmes, as his client dies before Holmes takes any action.
Perhaps this is a bit of a harsh assessment, as the critics never seem to state what Holmes should have done differently. Young Openshaw had already gone to the police, and been dismissed. But the information Holmes needed to crack the case was in London. Have him stay at Baker Street? But the ninja-like ability of the Klansmen might mean they would not be afraid to strike there, and perhaps harm Watson and Mrs.
Openshaw was alert to the danger, armed, and supposedly traveling among crowds the whole way. The killers had only struck in lonely, rural areas. Hindsight, of course, says sending him back alone was a mistake. But I think it’s a mistake to blame Sherlock for Openshaw’s death. We are in a civilised land here, and we can’t have tomfoolery of this kind. In Doyle’s universe, England is the seething crucible in which foreign disputes are settled.
England may have been a “civilised” land, but it is also the place where people from uncivilized lands come to settle their scores. This story is an all-you-can-eat buffet of references to unpublished cases. Watson was staying at Baker Street while his wife was “on a visit to her mother’s. The Sign Of The Four is mentioned in this story, and she and Watson became engaged at the end of that story! This is the type of things that drives players of The Great Game mad.