If you have never read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories and are debating reading them, I would highly suggest that you read them! At first I was unsure whether or not the tales themselves would live up to the hype that TV and Film has created in recent years, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The stories are interesting and suspenseful. Not mention they are quick, easy reads. In total there are four novels, and 50+ short stories that were published between 1886 and 1927.
The Hound of Baskerville, the second of the novels, is my favorite. It probably has the most action. It is also one of the few stories where Watson takes the lead on the investigation. A Study in Scarlet, the first of the novels, would be my favorite, except for one thing; the investigative part of the story itself is very entertaining, but I thought the narrative was a bit disjointed. It’s divided into three chapters, in the first, Watson meets Holmes and they investigate the crime and discover the murder. The second chapter is intended to give the back story of the murder. The murderer acted out of vengeance, and chapter two explains the whole story of why the murder has hunted these men down. The transition is very awkward. Actually, because I was reading a Project Gutenberg copy and I knew that A Study in Scarlet was originally published in a magazine, I wasn’t entirely sure that what I was reading when I reached chapter two. It wasn’t titled chapter two or anything, there was just a page break and suddenly there was a man and a child wandering the salt plains in Utah. What? The writing even seemed to be different. At first, I thought it was the article that had followed the original publications had mistakenly been reproduced attached to the Holmes story. I have had the
misfortune of spending many hours reading through old editions of Lippincott’s Monthly and the Edinburgh Review and sometimes it can be hard to tell where one article ends and the next begins… As it turned out about half way through the chapter I recognized one of the character’s names and the mystery was solved. So basically, the narrative jumps from the arrest of a murder in Victorian London, to Mormons on the salt plains in Utah. The final chapter is the murderer explaining his crime to Holmes, a bit redundant, but it does fill in some of the details, or at least ties everything together. A great story, but as I said, a bit disjointed.
The short stories are great! They move right along, and are really just a pleasure to read. After you’ve read enough of them, they do become a little formulaic, but that is to be expected. They are serial pieces after all. Most of the time it goes something like this. Someone comes to 221B Baker street with a problem. (Unless, it’s one of the few where Watson is not living with Holmes, in which case they usually run into each other and Sherlock is already on some case.) They investigate. The cops thinks it’s guy A, but Holmes proves it’s guy B and they all live happily ever after. Despite being formulaic, Conan Doyle does an amazing job keeping the stories interesting. In a one or two of the stories, I think Holmes doesn’t even leave his apartment to solve the cases. Those are a bit amusing.
I think my biggest concern, was that in a Victorian fashion there would be an exorbitant amount of time devoted to describing the numerous settings, characters and objects. I was very pleasantly surprised with how quickly the stories moved a long, in fact very little time is spent describing the people, places and things in the stories.
At any rate, if you’ve been thinking about reading some or all of these stories, definitely check them out. For one, they are interesting and fun to read. Two, you don’t even have to buy them, most of the stories are available free through Amazon or Project Gutenburg. Three, they are all independent stories, so you can read as much or as little as you want. As a matter of fact, I’ve been a little busier than usual, having just started a new job, and I listened to a few of the short stories on a Librivox app on my phone during my commute. (On a side note, although the quality of the readers on Librivox can be hit or miss, there were a few VERY good readers.)
Finally, I have good news for some, and bad news for others. Since, I’ve been reading these stories for the last few weeks, and have taken a great interest in them. This is the first of a three part “review”. Part two, will be some of my comments on the characters in the stories. Part three, is a comparison of Conan Doyle’s stories and Steven Moffat’s telling of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. So hopefully, you’re now interested in the many tales of Sherlock Holmes and will stay tuned…
Again, if you haven’t read the books check them out at Project Gutenburg or Amazon, and if you haven’t seen the show, do yourself a favor and check them out on Netflix.