I spent my summer working at a job that- besides broken nails, complaints, and paper cuts- involved a lot of waiting. In other words, a perfect opportunity to sprint-read through something I’ve had on my shelf for a while- All 56 original Sherlock Holmes stories. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that they aren’t always the easiest read (primarily because they lack the puzzle-solving element of a Christie, and also because some tales are just plain weird. They have a tendency to feature cartoony vilains (think eye patches and wooden legs) but when done well, these are worth reading. So Much.
And guys, I love Sherlock. I can’t help it. He’s a bit of a bastard sometimes but a brilliant one. These are my favourites, taking into consideration the creativity of the set-up, the writing, and What Sherlock Did. Enjoy.
5.) The adventure of the Dancing Men
A woman comes to Sherlock Holmes, plagued by the sudden appearances of lines of little dancing men carved into surfaces all over the house, which conceal an ominous message. Creepy and a bit different from Holmes’ usual adventures
4.) The Musgrave Ritual
One of Sherlock’s earliest cases which he tells Watson in retrospect and reveals a bit of the famous detective’s origins. A butler, after being caught reading private documents of the Musgrave family, disappears without a trace. The height of a tree provides points Sherlock to the location of a secret treasure and the fate of the butler.
3.) Silver Blaze
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” “That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
A prize race horse disappears from a stable leading to a brutal crime. This is the source of one of the better known quotes from the Holmes series (and also the title of the well-known book by Mark Haddon). Truly a lesson in hiding a mystery in plain sight.
2.) The Red-Headed League
One of the funniest Holmes stories, as well as a pretty efficient mystery – this one is actually solvable from the outset, it just requires a leap of logic around an absurd problem.
A man with flaming red hair is invited to work for the “red-headed league” and promised a good deal of money for what turns out to be hours spent in an office copying out entries in an encyclopaedia. One morning, he comes to work to find the Red-Headed League has been disbanded and vanished without a trace, and he contacts Holmes for help.
1.) The Speckled Band
Conan Doyle himself named this one as his favourite tale, and I can’t help but agree. A mud-spattered girl arrives at 221B Baker Street in real fear of meeting the same fate as her sister, who died a mysterious and startling death at the estate they live on with their step father.
This is another one that is pretty creepy – whistling in the night and the clanking of metal, as well as a touch of the exotic which I always associate with Victorian stories.
All in all, I really enjoyed these tales, even the more ridiculous one. It’s both a sign of the times and of the madness/brilliance of Arthur Conan Doyle himself- who after all not only created the patron saint of rationality and logic, but also believed fairies are real. As in the Tinkerbell kind. The scenarios of his stories reflect that ambiguity perfectly, and I think it’s what makes them so compelling and creative. Recommended!