Shamrock Jolnes

Cover art for an audiobook version of "The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes".

"The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes" is a Sherlock Holmes parody by the American author William Sydney Porter who wrote under the pseudonym of O. Henry. The short story was first collected in the 1911 anthology Sixes and Sevens.

Although many of his stories involve crimes or contain some elements of mystery, O. Henry never actually wrote detective fiction of the "whodunit" or puzzle-solver variety. In "The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes", he spoofs the "marvelous powers of observation and deduction" displayed by the great detective Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous mystery series.

The character of Shamrock Jolnes also appears in the short stories "The Sleuths" and "The Detective Detector".


The story is narrated by Whatsup, a friend of the great New York City detective Shamrock Jolnes. Whatsup visits Jolnes one morning. To Whatsup's surprise, Jolnes knows right away that he has just had his house wired for electric lights. Jolnes explains that he has deduced it from the smell of the cigar Whatsup has been smoking – few men can afford to smoke such an expensive cigar and pay gas bills.

Jolnes then moves on to the problem of a piece of string tied to his own little finger. He tells Whatsup that the knot was tied by his wife to prevent him from forgetting something. He then amazes Whatsup by quickly deducing that, since it is a forget-me-knot and a forget-me-not is a flower, he is to buy a sack of flour today.

It being a slow day, Jolnes decides to explore the city with Whatsup. They meet an acquaintance named Rheingelder. Jolnes amazes Whatsup once again by correctly deducing what Rheingelder had for breakfast. Although Whatsup sees yellow egg stains on Rheingelder's shirt and chin, Jolnes says the man had sausage, pumpernickel, and coffee this morning. Afterwards, Jolnes tells Whatsup that Rheingelder, an economical man, had eggs yesterday when their market price dropped. Today the price is up, however, so he went back to his usual breakfast.

Jolnes and Whatsup board a crowded streetcar. They see an elderly man seated in the middle of the car. Despite being glared at by women standing over him, the man remains in his seat. Whatsup remarks to Jolnes that New Yorkers have lost their manners. Jolnes tells him that the man is not a New Yorker but a chivalrous gentleman from Virginia. He says the man is visiting the city with his wife and two daughters but is planning to leave tonight. Whatsup is astonished.

As the elderly man gets up to leave, Jolnes speaks to him and learns that he is Major Ellison of Virginia. Ellison says he is getting ready to go home after a week's stay in New York with his wife and three daughters. Jolnes is annoyed to hear of the third daughter. He quickly recovers, however, and deduces correctly that one of the daughters is adopted.

Jolnes explains to Whatsup that Ellison could not have been a New Yorker because he was clearly uneasy on account of the standing women, and his appearance indicated he was a Southerner. There were small red marks on his face and semi-oval imprints on his shoes. The man had clearly been stabbed by parasols and trampled by high heels in the shopping district – explaining his temporary hostility towards women. Since he would not have gone along if he had only an elderly wife, and a young wife would not have taken him along, Jolnes knew the man had a wife and daughters. Jolnes noted a carnation and a rosebud in Ellison's buttonhole. No woman ever combined those two flowers, so Jolnes imagined a daughter pinning a carnation and her jealous sister following with a rosebud. The third daughter who did not offer a flower must have been adopted. Jolnes adds that he knew the man was leaving tonight because there was a bulge in his pocket of a liquor bottle purchased for the long journey home.

Whatsup admires the deductive reasoning but wonders how Jolnes knew the man was from Virginia. Jolnes tells him that there was a faint but unmistakable smell of mint[1] in the car.


  1. Mint julep, a cocktail associated today with the American South in general, was originally known as a cocktail of Virginia. Thought to have been invented by its high society, the cocktail was a popular breakfast drink in Virginia at the time when "The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes" was written.

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