There was an intriguing reference made in last night's 'Sherlock' on BBC One. Mycroft Holmes disdained the suggestion that he might be subject to nepotism, in advising a course of action involving his younger brother. He said words to the effect that it wasn't a consideration for 'the other one', so why would it be for Sherlock Holmes?

My ears pricked up. As soon as the programme was over, I rushed to search for a third Holmes brother or sister. It seemed that the rest of the Sherlock-osphere was buzzing on precisely that same question too. Naturally, we were all turning to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon for clues.

There wasn't much there, but neither was it ever explicitly stated that Mycroft and Sherlock were the only siblings in the Holmes family. In fact, the inferences were that there were more children. Remember that originally these were 19th century characters, and Victorian families tended to be huge. (One of my own forebears was one of fifteen; another was smack bang in the middle of a brood of twenty-one, though the majority of his siblings didn't make it through infancy.) It would be more amazing if there were only two Holmes sons.

In 'The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter', we were told that the Holmes family were country squires. That implies a large estate somewhere outside London. As Mycroft lives and works in London - and he is the elder brother - than we have to suppose that there's at least one sibling who is his senior. That's the Holmes brother who inherited the country estate. (It can't be a sister, as both Mycroft and Sherlock would have inherited over her back then.)

In 'The Adventure of the Copper Beeches', Sherlock mutters a lot about 'no sister of mine would insert moralistic injunction'. It could be a figure of speech, or he could be hinting at the fact that he has sisters. It would be expected that he'd say 'my sister would not....', if there was only one.

So while the Sherlock Holmes world has been focusing upon just two brothers, the canon allows for at least one older brother and two or more sisters. Maybe a lot more. Though the BBC production does leave us with major questions surrounding their possible existence in the show. After all, they weren't at the Holmes family home at Christmas, despite the presence of Mycroft and Sherlock.

Anyone else excited by the inherent possibilities for season four of 'Sherlock'? If only to clear up the question of to whom Mycroft referred in that most cryptic statement about 'the other one'.

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