My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes
Series: Sherlock Holmes #1
Date Published: May 1st, 2012 (first published October 14th, 1892)
Publisher: BBC Books
Pages: 324 pages
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the first collection of short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about his famous detective. Each work chronicles the various cases that Sherlock Holmes works on, accompanied by John Watson, who narrates the tales. Originally, the twelve stories featured in this collection were individually published in The Strand Magazine between 1891 and 1892; they were then released together as a whole novel in late 1892.
I had read one or two individual stories in school over the years, but this was my first real experience with Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle’s work; and I completely fell in love with everything about them. I love a good mystery that makes me really think, and that is exactly what I got over and over again throughout this collection. I found each story to be incredibly absorbing, and they kept me guessing right up until the very end. Each one is full of twists and turns that constantly surprise, but wrap up perfectly in the final pages.
Doyle’s writing style was so captivating, making this a very enjoyable read for me. He is a master at pulling the reader completely into the story, fully into the characters’ lives, and making you care for each and every one of them. In Holmes, he has created a character that does extraordinary, seemingly impossible things in a completely believable way. Despite his extreme intelligence and astonishing powers of observation and deduction, Sherlock Holmes is still realistic. Relatable. Genuinely human.
Watson is a perfect narrator and companion for the great detective. He also works as a great foil for Holmes. This may be a bit surprising because Watson is an exceedingly intelligent man in his own right, so he doesn’t function as a complete contrast to Holmes. Instead, he highlights Holmes’s abilities with his own intelligence by being unable to fully understand his process of deduction. However, Watson as a character still holds his own, and proves to be invaluable at many points during the cases. Overall, they are a wonderful pairing.
So, in short, I absolutely adored this book. Reading these stories gave me that warm, cozy feeling of curling up by the fire with a cup of hot tea while it’s snowing outside. I can’t wait to continue on with the other books in the series, and dive back into this world and these amazing adventures.
Now, I’ll very briefly go more in-depth with a summary of each of the individual stories in the collection. Note: These are spoiler-free descriptions.
My favorite stories from this collection were The Red Headed League, A Case of Identity, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, and The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.
- A Scandal in Bohemia
This is one of the most famous stories in the collection, starring Irene Adler or, to Holmes, “the woman”. In this story, Holmes is hired by the King of Bohemia to retrieve blackmail, in the form of a photograph, from opera singer Irene Adler, with whom he had been romantically involved with a few years earlier. Now that he is engaged to a woman of noble birth, Adler has been threatening to send this photograph to the family of his fiancée, which would cause them to call of the wedding. It was fascinating to watch Holmes match wits with Adler, who is almost as intelligent and as cunning as him.
- The Red Headed League
A redheaded man named Jabez Wilson comes to Holmes with questions about a job he was urged by a friend to take that offered a high salary, but was solely for redheaded men. Wilson was the only one chosen for the job, simply because his hair was the right shade of red. In this story, Holmes is able to connect and solve two cases that appear to be completely unrelated. This was one of my top favorites of the collection.
- A Case of Identity
In A Case of Identity, a woman named Mary Sutherland comes to Holmes when her fiancée mysteriously disappears on the morning of their wedding. That very same morning, he had made her promise to remain faithful to him no matter what happened. Holmes soon discovers that this man is not exactly whom he has made himself out to be. This was another one of my favorites!
- The Boscombe Valley Mystery
Inspector Lestrade enlists Holmes to solve the murder of a man named Charles McCarthy, whose son has been linked to the crime. The evidence points very strongly toward the son, but his fiancée, and Holmes himself, maintain a belief in the man’s innocence. The twists and turns that this story took were incredible; they hooked me immediately, and kept me thinking until the very end.
- The Five Orange Pips
A man named John Openshaw presents Holmes with a case about multiple strange deaths in his family. Openshaw’s uncle received a letter from India containing five orange pips, then passed away no more than two months later. A few years after this, his father also received a letter with the five pips and died three days later. Openshaw himself has just received this very same letter, and is certain he will meet the same fate.
- The Man with the Twisted Lip
A man named Neville St. Clair has disappeared, but his wife tells Holmes that she is certain that she saw him looking out of the upstairs window of an opium den. St. Clair is a respected businessman, and not only is it unlikely he would be in there, when she went into the house, the only person inside was an old beggar. I loved the way that this mystery played out, and it was one of the few that I was actually able to deduce the answer to myself!
- The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
A former thief is arrested when the Countess of Morcar’s priceless blue carbuncle is found missing. However, a man with whom Holmes is acquainted discovers this blue carbuncle in the throat of his Christmas goose. This was a definite favorite of mine because, as well as being an intriguing mystery, I found it to be incredibly funny and witty at times!
- The Adventure of the Speckled Band
This is arguably Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous short story about Sherlock Holmes, and his own personal favorite. A woman named Helen Stoner approaches Holmes with fears that her stepfather is trying to kill her after he makes her move into the bedroom in which her sister died two years prior. Apparently, her sister passed away just before her wedding saying, “it was the Speckled Band”. This is the only one that I had read prior to reading the full collection, and it remains one of my favorites.
- The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
Watson attends to a man named Victor Hatherly, whose thumb has just been cut off. While in his office, he relates the story to Holmes and Watson of how he was very secretly hired to repair a machine that compressed “Fuller’s Earth” into bricks. Hatherley was not allowed to know the location of the machine, and was taken to it in a carriage with frosted glass windows to prevent him from learning the route. When he discovered something that implied that the machine is not being used for what he was told it would be, his employer attacked him.
- The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
This case involved the disappearance of Hatty Doran following her wedding to Lord Robert St. Simon. She attended the wedding and they were married, but she disappears from the reception, and her wedding band is found floating in a nearby lake. Holmes also discovers that the servants had kept a former lover of hers from forcing his way into the house earlier that morning, and that she had been seen having a secret discussion with her maid shortly before she went missing. There were elements of this story that I guessed as I was reading, but the ending was very surprising, and even more complex than I thought it would be.
- The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
A banker named Alexander Holder presents Holmes with a case after a client he loans money to leaves a beryl coronet, an extremely valuable public possession, with him as security. Holder heard a noise and woke in the night to find his son holding the coronet, which had been damaged, and now has three beryls missing from it.
- The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
A woman named Violet Hunter comes to Holmes after she is offered a job as a governess that has some very unusual requirements attached to it, some of which have to do with altering her appearance in a specific way. Holmes urges her to take this oddly high paying job, and to call him in to investigate as she discovers more about the position, and the family. This was another one of my favorites: a very complex and interesting case.
I most definitely recommend this novel to anyone and everyone, especially if you enjoy classics and a good old-fashioned mystery!