Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Sherlock Holmes stories have been on my TBR list since forever (partly because of my love for the Sherlock TV series, admittedly!), so I’m glad I have finally got round to reading these canonical works of detective fiction. Whilst I often find Victorian literature a little hard-going (I have still to this day never made it all the way through a Dickens novel, despite my best efforts), I absolutely breezed through this collection of 23 stories as I always found myself eager to know the outcome of Holmes’ latest mystery.
At the centre of these intriguing tales are the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson, and it is the relationship between these two radically different personalities that really puts the heart into what could have otherwise ended up as formulaic mystery fiction. Holmes’ reputation as one of the most intelligent and charismatic characters in literature is in my opinion more than justified, and the way he deduces things from seemingly insignificant observations is nothing short of astonishing, as is emphasised by the reactions of everyone around him. His eccentric habits make him all the more intriguing and three-dimensional, and his close friendship with Watson despite his solitary nature is heart-warming.
I also really enjoyed the format of the stories, as events are told from the perspective of Watson who as your typical everyman character stands in for the reader (unless you just so happen to be a genius detective as well, in which case, good for you!) as we marvel at Holmes’ incredible power of deduction along with him.
I also loved the bizarre nature of most of the cases taken on by Sherlock Holmes, as they genuinely left you mystified and eager to reach Holmes’ ingenious explanation of seemingly unexplainable events. Some of my favourite tales were:
- The Red Headed League
Holmes and Watson investigate a curious case involving a club for red-headed men.
- A Case of Identity
Holmes and Watson set out to track down a woman’s missing fiancé and find that all is not as it seems…
- The Beryl Coronet
A banker who was entrusted with the safe-keeping of a priceless beryl coronet finds himself the victim of a theft, and is convinced his own son is the culprit. It falls to Holmes and Watson to discover the unexpected truth.
- The Man With The Twisted Lip
When a woman who is convinced her husband has been murdered turns to the famous Sherlock Holmes for help, he and Watson set out to discover the truth about what has happened to him.
- The Noble Bachelor
Holmes and Watson investigate the strange disappearance of a high society woman from her own wedding breakfast.
- The Blue Carbuncle
The unlikely discovery of a priceless gem inside a Christmas goose leads Watson and Holmes on a quest across London to trace the gem’s path and find out how it came to be there.
- And honourable mentions to…
A Scandal in Bohemia, The Speckled Band, The Copper Beeches and The Yellow Face.
I just loved how in most cases the endings were totally unexpected, and it was often impossible to guess how things would work out, despite Holmes’ cryptic inferences throughout that he already knows what is going on and that it is fairly obvious. When he finally offers his full explanations at the end it does all seem so obvious, which just goes to show how cleverly the stories are plotted.
If anyone else has been meaning to read some Sherlock Holmes stories for a while and hasn’t yet got to them, I strongly urge you to do so! The central characters are incredibly engaging whilst the mysteries are intriguing, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single one of these 23 tales. It’s so easy just to dip in and out of them as well, and it would be entirely possible to read any one of these stories as a standalone, with no prior knowledge of what has come before.
I definitely intend to try reading some of the novel length Sherlock Holmes stories soon, such as The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four.