Saturday, June 22, 2013

"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by A. Conan Doyle

I've read this collection of Doyle's first short Holmes mysteries at least three times before this.  I've read many of the stories more often than that, as quite a few of them are among my most favoritest Holmes adventures.  Still, there were two that I didn't really recall at all!  Those were "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" and "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet."  I don't know why.  Curious, no?

But anyway, these are twelve of the finest short mysteries ever penned.  Magnificent.  Terrific stuff, full of intrigue and menace and brilliant deductions.  And excellent writing, nothing draggy or drab at all.  Really, even if you don't care much for mysteries, try one or two of these stories just for the pure deliciousness of it all.

My favorites, in no particular order, are:

  • "A Scandal in Bohemia."  Yeah, the one with Irene Adler, aka The Woman.  Great fun.
  • "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle."  I used to read this every Christmas, and have bits of it memorized.
  • "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."  Exceedingly creepy.  Makes me shiver just thinking about it.
  • "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches."  Parts almost foreshadow The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Also quite creepy. In a good way.

What I'd never noticed before is how many of these do not involve murder, or even the threat of murder.  These days, if no one's been killed (or in danger of being killed), audiences get bored.  Or at least, authors seem to worry about that.  Think of all those police forensics shows on TV -- every episode of every show begins with some innocent person stumbling over a dead body.  But six of these twelve stories don't have any death in them at all, not even a body that's presumed dead and later found alive!  And still, they're engrossing.  

(My dad has a gorgeous set of the complete Sherlock Holmes canon, and I took the liberty of doing a quick photo shoot with one volume while at my folks' a couple weeks ago, hence all the lovely pictures.)

EDIT:  I forgot to include my favorite lines!  Here they are.  Silly me.

Particularly Good Bits:

"My life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence."  ("The Red-headed League")

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact," he answered, laughing.  ("The Boscombe Valley Mystery")

"You have a grand gift of silence, Watson," said he.  "It makes you quite invaluable as a companion."  ("The Man with the Twisted Lip")

"I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner."  ("The Man with the Twisted Lip")

"My name is Sherlock Holmes.  It is my business to know what other people don't know."  ("The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle")

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  PG for dangerous situations and suspense.


  1. The copper Beeches was always one of my always cracked me up that Watson almost wanted to matchmake for Holmes in that one :) And Violet Hunter was always one of my favorite clients.

    I also love a Scandal in Bohemia, of course, and The Speckled Band was the first Holmes story I ever read!

    1. Violet Hunter is awesome! And also Mrs. St. Clair in "The Man with the Twisted Lip," which I probably should've added to my list of favorites from this collection.

      The first Holmes story I read was The Hound of the Baskervilles, and the second was "The Red-headed League," which I am a bit fond of as a result, even though it's almost a little silly in spots. I think the third one would have been "The Speckled Band," though I think I read a condensed version first for some reason -- I can still remember the illustrations for it.

  2. What a beautiful copy of Sherlock Holmes! I loved a scandal in Bohemia too. I haven't yet gotten to the other stories you referred to. I can't wait!

    1. Isn't it lovely? Though I have to say that I really like my Barnes & Noble edition better as far as the text because it has lots of great footnotes and endnotes.

      I'm so excited for you -- I remember reading all these for the first time and being enthralled. How lucky you are!

  3. I love this one! This is where ACD really began to hit his stride I think. All of the stories in this book are great. The only story that I don't really like in this collection is the 'A Case of Identity' one because the villain isn't punished and doesn't even seem very remorseful for what he did to his poor stepdaughter. But the rest of the stories are fantastic! My top three would be The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, The Red-Headed League and Speckled Band.

    1. I agree. I think he struggled to sustain the suspense for a novel, hence those tiresome flashbacks in the first two. It wasn't until Baskervilles that he really made the novel-length mystery work well.


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