Saturday, February 8, 2014

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

I DID IT!  I read the entire Sherlock Holmes Canon in less than twelve months.  I began back in March of 2013 with A Study in Scarlet and read each novel and collection of stories in order.  I'm so pleased to have finally read the entire canon!  There were only a few stories I hadn't read, all at the end of this book, but I hadn't read most of them in many years, and this was altogether a delightful experience.


Anyway, about this particular book.  I regret to say there are no outstanding stories here, though there are several enjoyable ones.  I liked "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place" and "The Problem of Thor Bridge" best, and "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" was undoubtedly my least-favorite, as it was basically a reworking of "The Red-Headed League."  

Two stories are actually narrated by Sherlock Holmes in this collection, "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane," and "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier," which is quite a departure from the rest of the canon.  Also, "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" is told in third person.  It's entirely possible that several stories here were not written by Doyle at all, but merely approved by him and published under his name.  Certainly, facts, turns of phrase, and characterizations in "Mazarin" and "The Adventure of the Three Gables" in particular don't line up with the rest of the canon.

As I mentioned above, I had never read "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane," "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger," "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place," or "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman."  This is because the last time I tried to read through the whole canon, back in high school, I got as far as "The Adventure of the Creeping Man" and was so weirded out by images in it that I never read any farther.  This time around, I did find that story creepy, but not too disturbing.

All in all, I'm glad to have read the entire canon at last, and to have read it all in one year like I intended, but The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is not a collection I'll be rereading any time soon.

Particularly Good Bits:

"He has breeding in him -- a real aristocrat of crime, with a superficial suggestion of afternoon tea and all the cruelty of the grave behind it." ("The Adventure of the Illustrious Client").

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for themes of murder, violence, and suspense.

This is my second book read and reviewed for The Classics Club.

12 comments:

  1. I read The Creeping Man for the first time in my early twenties, and wigged out when the trees outside my window cast a shadow into my room that night. Scary, scary, scary! But it's one of my top favorites of the Holmes stories.

    It would surprise me if the Casebook was written by someone else, honestly. The style might be altered in some places, which it is, but I blame that solely on Doyle. He had wanted to kill off his great detective and leave him dead, so I think a part of him would have resented Holmes for the rest of his writing career. The last collection could have just been laziness. Although I do love The Three Gables. The Jeremy Brett episode for that story is one of my favorites! And The Three Garridebs will always have a fond place in my heart for Holmes' momentary exclamation of affection for Watson. That scene is marvelous, rather like a similar moment in The Devil's Foot.

    I'm glad you got to finish the canon, and in record time! :)

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    1. Oh, I don't think all the stories in the Casebook are by someone else. Just a few of them. After all, these weren't originally published as a book, they appeared individually as short stories in the magazine The Strand over a period of several years. I did a little digging, and found others who suspect that "The Mazarin Stone" and "The Three Gables" in particular seem to be authored by a different person. Here is one, and I checked my Barnes & Noble Classics version of the book, and some of the notes suggest the same.

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    2. How very strange. Sort of like the thoughts that Shakespeare never wrote Romeo & Juliet which, I suppose, could be true. Have you ever watched any of Jeremy Brett's Holmes episodes? The early seasons are quite brilliant, before he got older and his wife died and he became ill. He was Holmes for a very long stretch of time, and I think is probably my favorite rendering of the great detective. Of course, I just love Jeremy Brett. ;)

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    3. We have the box set of all the Jeremy Brett versions! LOVE them. Even the later ones, when his depression medication made him retain water and look so unhealthy. He still knocked the role out of the park.

      And the reasons I think those two particular weren't written by Doyle? Stuff like one of them mentions an extra entrance to the 221B flat in Holmes' bedroom that was never ever ever mentioned before. And in one of them, Watson says that Holmes came the closest to laughing that he'd ever seen... huh? What about Holmes' hearty, silent laughing that Watson mentioned over and over and over in earlier stories? Little details like dates of Watson's marriage I can see a writer forgetting over the decades of writing. But the sudden appearance of an entrance or a total difference in a character's behavior? Being a writer myself, I don't buy it. Who knows. I suspect Doyle was tired of writing them, asked someone else to try their hand, read over them himself none-too-carefully, and sent them in. But again, who knows -- and they're still pretty enjoyable, either way.

      Anyway... not sure I've asked you this before, as I tend to mention it to a lot of people, but have you ever read The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King? It's an amazing Sherlock Holmes book where he acquires a protege. Just so happens I started re-reading it this morning for I think my 4th reading. I've decided to keep on with my Holmes-related reading trend this year because I'm still in the mood for him.

      (As for Shakespeare not writing all his stuff -- I don't believe a word of that nonsense.)

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  2. Congratulations on reading the whole Holmes canon and in the time you allotted! You've reminded me that I need to re-read him. I've read The Hound of the Baskervilles recently but I haven't read any of his other stories in years. So I will put it on the TBR list with Agatha Christie, who I need to get to as well. If only there were more reading hours in the day!

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    1. Thanks! If you're looking for suggestions, I would read A Study in Scarlet and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Sign of the Four. Those are the 3 others that I love, other than Hound.

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    2. Thanks, I'll make certain that I focus on these stories first, in case I don't get through the whole canon!

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    3. I look forward to finding out what you think of them :-)

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  3. That's quite an accomplishment (especially since it's not the only reading you did), congratulations! I'm gonna' start them this year, but I doubt I'll finish them all in twelve months since that won't be my priority.

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    1. Thank you! I thought for a bit I wasn't going to make it because the LOTR read-along is so dominating my reading time right now. But I decided I should ease off on LOTR to finish off the Holmes stories because I really wanted to get them read in just a year. Like I read all of Jane Austen's novels in the year 2012. This year I just am focusing on finishing the LOTR read-along and kind of catching up on all the books I pushed aside to read Holmes last year. Next year, I'm thinking of trying to read all the Anne of Green Gables books.

      I'm eager to read what you think of them when you start!

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  4. That's awesome that you read them all in a year! Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks! I enjoyed spending all that time with Holmes so very much I'm kind of continuing it for the rest of this year, just reading other books about him or the history of the stories, etc. I have almost a whole shelf devoted to him by now, and have only read maybe half the books there, so it's about time I read more of them!

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