Book Review: The Complete Novels and Stories of Sherlock Holmes Volume 1, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Bantam Classic Edition)

April 18, 2010


Mmmm…..Sherlock Holmes.  I don’t think I had ever read any Sherlock Holmes stories until the movie came out last Christmas–and even then, I really only started reading them at first just to see if Guy Ritchie took a lot of liberties with his version of the character, or if (as I had heard) it was actually a very accurate portrayal (which it was).  Now my thoughts on the stories:

A Study in Scarlet was the first Holmes story to be published, and honestly, I think that was evident from the reading of it.  A significant amount of the story doesn’t even involve Holmes (though it is filled with all manner of information that will help the reader understand the mystery later on), and I found this lack of the star character a bit disappointing.  Really, the best thing about Scarlet is that it is the very first description of Sherlock Holmes, and that in itself is a bit exciting.  I confess that after reading A Study in Scarlet I was a bit concerned about continuing the reading.  I decided to go for it, and ultimately, was glad I did.

The Sign of Four was the second Holmes novel, and in it, Doyle slowly morphed the construct of the story to fit the understanding we all have of them:  less intense focus on characters’ backstory (as in Scarlet), and more involvement in Holmes’ craft).  In general, The Sign of Four was good, though definitely not the very cream of the crop–it dragged on a bit for me.  I don’t know if Conan Doyle felt that way too, but after publishing this novel, he focused on short stories instead.  A good decision, I say.

The short stories section (really three different books:  The Advetures, Memoirs, and Return of Sherlock Holmes) contains some absolutely stunning stories.  Of course, there were a few here and there that were not as good as others, but in general, I think that any time I started reading one, I found that I couldn’t leave the couch until I had finished it.  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes contains at least two or three of my favorite Holmes stories (such as “The Speckled Band” and “The Copper Beeches”), and my absolute favorite story (“The Final Problem”) can be found at the very end of The Memoirs.  As I understand, Conan Doyle was a bit more reluctant to write The Return, doing so more out of public demand than his own desire to continue the series; I think that this shows a little bit in the quality of the stories, but even still they are fun and quite engaging.

My verdict:  Brilliant.  Highly, highly recommended for the lover of the fantastic, the the adventurous, and the classic.


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