My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes
Series: Sherlock Holmes #4
Date Published: July 24th, 2012 (first published in 1894)
Publisher: BBC Books
Pages: 340 pages
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is the second collection of short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote chronicling the various cases that Sherlock Holmes works on accompanied by Dr. John Watson, the narrator of the tales. Originally, there were twelve stories that were each individually published in The Strand Magazine prior to being released together as a whole novel in 1894. However, for unclear reasons, only eleven of these stories were put into the first London edition and subsequent U.S. editions of this collection. The omitted story was later published in the fourth collection of short stories, His Last Bow.
Arthur Conan Doyle creates literary magic once again, continuing the adventures of his great detective. I was equally as absorbed by these new mysteries as I was by those in the previous novel. I found myself falling in love all over again with these iconic characters and Doyle’s extraordinary storytelling style. There were more surprising twists and turns, and each case kept me on my toes in the way I so enjoy.
This is the collection that contains some of the most iconic stories and characters of the Sherlock Holmes series, including Holmes’s brother, Mycroft. We also finally see him face off against his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, arguably one of the most famous characters from the novels.
Not only do we get new cases, but we are also given a glimpse into Holmes’s past. We see how he got his start, how he became the master of deduction. We are also treated to what I felt was a more thorough depiction of Holmes’s more human side; no matter how astounding he is, Doyle never lets us lose sight of that aspect of his character.
Doyle goes more in-depth in his intriguing juxtaposing of Holmes and Watson, further demonstrating Holmes’s remarkable abilities while allowing the highly intelligent doctor to hold his own. I felt there was even more of an equal display of their individual talents throughout these stories than in the first collection. Watson is given many an opportunity to show off his invaluable medical skills during a number of cases.
I loved every story in this novel, though I did feel like my opinions of each of them were a bit more varied than my opinions of the stories in the collection preceding this. There were a few stories that did not resonate with me quite as much as others. Despite this, the stories were overall enjoyable and enthralling, and I devoured them as enthusiastically as ever. This was a spectacular read and a welcome new addition to my list of all-time favorite novels.
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 Silver Blaze, The Adventure of the Yellow Face, The Final Problem, The Adventure of the Resident Patient, and The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter.
- Silver Blaze
In this story, Holmes is called in to investigate the disappearance of a famously talented racehorse right before an important race, as well as the coinciding murder of the horse’s trainer. I was completely absorbed in this horse’s tale, and loved the many bewildering events in and layers of the storyline; like many of the tales, it was not at all a straightforward plot. In my opinion, there was also a particularly good depiction of both Holmes’s and Watson’s individual talents. Silver Blaze was by far my favorite story in this particular collection.
- The Adventure of the Yellow Face
In this case, a man hires Holmes to discover, by any means necessary, why his wife keeps secretly and frequently visiting a nearby cottage. I enjoyed this because I found the themes that it dealt with to be uncharacteristic of the stories thus far and, delightfully, dealt with in a very open-minded way that was surprising for the time period this was published in. This was another one of my favorites; it was quite a unique story and had a very touching ending. It is also one of the few cases that Holmes does not solve correctly, and contains one of my favorite quotes: “Watson, if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.”
- The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk
In The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk, a young man by the name of Hall Pycroft comes to Holmes about a suspiciously well-paying job that he has just been offered. He had recently gotten a good job as a clerk with a company in London, after having lost his previous job at another stockbroker’s, when a man named Arthur Pinner approached him about yet another job. This job was a position at a hardware company and had nothing to do with stockbroking; it was a much better offer so he had quickly taken it. However, things soon started to feel off about this new position when Pinner asked that Pycroft not resign from the other job.
- The Adventure of the Gloria Scott
This story breaks from the traditional format, as Holmes takes over as narrator and relates this tale of his past to Watson. Holmes tells Watson about one of the first cases he ever worked on: helping out a friend from university, Victor Trevor, whose father received a seemingly insignificant letter that induced a stroke. I was very torn in my feelings about this story. I felt as though this was one of the weaker ones, and the actual mystery itself fell a bit flat for me. However, this story also shows Holmes in his early years, when he was only just becoming the incredible detective we all know him to be. It is one of the first looks we get into his past, and we are shown a new and fascinating side of him in his interactions with his schoolmate.
- The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual
This is another story where Holmes takes over as narrator and recounts one of his earliest cases to Watson. After going into business as a consulting detective, he receives a visit from Reginald Musgrave, a university acquaintance. Musgrave has come to him after two members of his staff, the maid and the butler, have gone missing. He had recently fired the butler after catching him reading a centuries old family document, the Musgrave Ritual. Musgrave gave the butler a week to leave, but he disappeared after a few days, leaving behind all of his belongings. The maid was found to be hysterical over the disappearance, and she herself suddenly went missing only nights later.
- The Adventure of the Reigate Squire
In this story, Holmes has just finished up with a rather stressful case and Watson, worried for his health, takes him to a friend’s estate for a rest. However, when they arrive, Holmes finds out that his detective skills are needed there. A burglary has recently occurred at the Acton estate nearby, where the thieves only took a very random assortment of items that were not very valuable. Then, a few mornings after they arrive, Holmes and Watson are informed of a second burglary at the Cunninghams’, yet another nearby estate; however, this time, the coachman at the estate has been murdered. The only physical clue found in the murder case is a small piece of paper in the man’s hand with a few mysterious words written on it. This was one of my favorite cases that Holmes worked on in this collection, and also contains what I thought was one of the most hilarious scenes that I have read in these stories so far.
- The Adventure of the Crooked Man
In this case, Holmes visits Watson’s practice and asks if he would like to join him in the final stage of his investigation. Holmes has been investigating the apparent murder of Colonel James Barclay. His wife Nancy is the prime suspect, though acquaintances said that they appeared to have a happy marriage. However, on the night of his death, the servants heard the couple have a terrible argument, during which Nancy called her husband by a different name. Everything suddenly went quiet and the servants were unable to gain access to the locked room. When they finally did, James Barclay lay dead and his wife remained passed out nearby, having supposedly used the Colonel’s club to commit the crime. Of course, there is much more to this case than meets the eye, as Holmes soon finds out.
- The Adventure of the Resident Patient
In The Adventure of the Resident Patient, Holmes is approached by Dr. Percy Trevelyan, who has found himself in a rather unusual working situation. Though he had done well in medical school, Trevelyan did not come from a wealthy background and therefore had been unable to begin a practice for himself; however, he had eventually been contacted by a benefactor by the name of Blessington, who gave him the money he needed in order to build this practice. The two men had worked out a deal where Blessington would receive three-quarters of the practice’s daily profits and, suffering from various illnesses himself, would become Trevelyan’s resident patient. Things worked out well until a week before Trevelyan comes to Holmes, when Blessington had become increasingly nervous about the security at the practice. Then two men had come to be treated by Trevelyan, and it later appeared that one of them had searched through Blessington’s room. This mystery was absolutely fascinating and was another one of my personal favorite cases in this collection.
- The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
This is the first story that introduces us to Holmes’s brother, Mycroft. He not only has the same deductive and observational powers as Holmes himself but also, as Holmes states, Mycroft surpasses him in these areas. Mycroft presents him with the case of a Greek interpreter named Mr. Melas. Melas was visited one night by a man who needed his translation abilities for a business matter. This man took Melas to the location of the transaction in a coach with blacked out windows to prevent him from knowing where they were headed. The man also produced a weapon that he held by his side and told Melas that if he let anyone know of the events of this evening, he would be dealt with. When they arrive at their destination, he was brought into a house to speak with a man who, having a taped over mouth, was forced to write down his responses. A young woman who appeared to know this man interrupted their meeting and, as the two were being separated, Melas was rushed back out of the house and into the carriage. This was a very unique and intriguing case, and this story ended up being another one of my favorites from the collection.
- The Adventure of the Naval Treaty
In this story, Watson brings Holmes a case that an old classmate of his, Percy Phelps, has just written him about. Phelps has been suffering from a “brain fever” for a number of weeks following an incident at his workplace involving a document of international importance. He was given the task of copying this top-secret naval treaty, a task which caused him to have to stay quite late at the office one evening in order to finish. Phelps had rung for coffee from the commissioner at the office, but when it did not turn up, he went looking for him. At the same time as he found the commissioner asleep at his desk, Phelps heard the bell that indicated that someone was ringing from his office. He rushed back upstairs to find that the room was empty and the naval treaty was missing.
- The Final Problem
This is the first story to introduce another iconic character: Holmes’s arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. It is also the first story to make me cry. A criminal mastermind with an intellect on par with his own, Moriarty was Holmes’s greatest adversary. The pair matches wits as Holmes attempts to bring him and his organization to justice, but neither can best the other. This causes a stalemate, which ends in the famed fight at the Reichenbach Falls. The Final Problem was definitely one of my favorites from this collection. It is one of the most well known Sherlock Holmes stories so, going in, I was prepared for the concluding events. However, I must admit, those final couple of pages still made me tear up.