Here are the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle as they first appeared in the British magazine The Strand. This edition contains 37 short stories, reproduced in complete facsimile plus the complete novel "The Hound of the Baskervilles." The drawings of Sidney Paget illustrate the stories -- illustrations as immortal as the stories themselves. Paget produced more than 350 Sherlock Holmes illustrations, and it was his depictions which gave Holmes visual reality for everyone, which projected him throughout the world, and which today still provide the mould of the original hero in productions on stage, screen and television. - Publisher.
I know it's not children's literature per se, but in my experience, in my own life, it had such a formative effect upon me and the way I read that I am not sure I would be the same kind of person today had I never read these books.
1) Sherlock Holmes is a great introduction to classic literature. It's easy to read and has stable characters who, although they are in very few ways dynamic, are usually not caricatures of themselves: the kind of characters anyone can enjoy, and the kind of characters children can easily understand. Furthermore, though the language is out of date, it is not difficult to read. These books bridged the gap between pulp fiction and literature, and they can have the same effect upon modern readers. If you want a kid to start reading old classics, then get them to read something like this first. It will get them comfortable with the idea of reading 'old books' and 'old language' while never overstretching their abilities. There are no 'difficult' characters here, but there is still certainly a lot to think about.
2) These books are simply excellently written. If you want a kid to know what solid, solid writing is, hand them some Holmes. These are perfect little short stories. They're not short short stories in the sense we may think of them today-- most are a bit longer than some popular modern ones-- but they're perfect for what they are. They certainly expanded my vocabulary when I first read them.
3) They're exciting. Children should be reading exciting, compelling things that make them think and wonder.
4) A child who enjoys a good Sherlock Holmes book is going to want to read them all. Now, this particular edition, the omnibus, took me about two weeks to get through when I recently decided to plow through all of them again-- and that was reading for quite a long time every day, and I was familiar with all the stories already. Get a kid hooked on these and they'll be reading for months.
5) Cultural literacy. If a kid speaks English, they need to know who Sherlock Holmes is just as much as they're going to need to know who Darth Vader, Julius Ceasar and Brutus, and Romeo and Juliet are. All of these characters have become part of our cultural lexicon. People certainly say "No shit, Sherlock!" as often as they say "Luke, I am your father!", "Et tu, Brute?", or "Wherefore art thou, Romeo?". In fact, I'd bet that Sherlock references, conscious or not, verbal or symbolic (the deerstalker, pipe, etc.), are all in all probably more common in our society than any of these others I've mentioned.
Everyone who speaks English should at least TRY to read these. I know you can't always get adults hooked on these stories-- a lot of the joy I get from reading them comes from remembering what it was like to read them for the first time when I was eight or nine. You've got to inculcate these things early. Part of the reason for this would be my final point:
6) The whole message of these stories is that, in the end, the smartest and bravest one wins. Look at Sherlock. He's like a genius scholar boxer swordsman adventurer extraordinaire. How did he get this way? By staying in school, kids. Yup. I'd guess that at least subconsciously I was effected by these stories-- it's not every tale where the hero manages to win the praise of all despite being rude, socially backward, and romantically uninvolved. Kids need to know that effort trumps all-- and that's certainly what these stories teach.
I don't know why I made the education/indoctrination of children the main point of this review. But I believe everything I've written. If you have a kid, quick, go grab them the first collection of short stories! You haven't much time to lose!
A Study in Scarlet:
I knew the bones of the mystery already - it's been riffed on so many times it's impossible not to. But I was struck by first, how charming the introduction of Our Heroes is, and secondly how wacky the random Western stuck in the middle seemed. I would have found it more charming if I had any patience right now for sinister Mormons and the caricatured portrayals thereof.
The Sign of the Four:
Similarly, this mystery is centered around discovering what happened in far-off exotic places that came home to roost. It feels more slight than A Study in Scarlet and there's a degree of period-standard racism than makes me flinch, but Watson and Holmes remain entertaining.
The Hound of the Baskervilles:
A pure English countryside mystery. Holmes is really kind of a dick to Watson, but one can't argue too much with success, and of course Watson doesn't. Definitely one of those where the reader really can't jump ahead too much, because the solution is dependent on clues we just don't get until the end. I don't mind that too much, but I know it infuriates some people.
The Valley of Fear:
Again a local mystery bracketed around an Exciting Adventure in Foreign Parts. I find this device baffling, although the interstitial story was much better than the previous two examples. Introduces Moriarty in a distant sort of way.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes:
The short stories begin! This and the following volume I had read previously. I can definitely see why Holmes and Watson are such resilient characters - their relationship is delightful. The actual stories are pleasantly short, and I was satisfied that while I couldn't actually solve the mystery most of the time (the reader doesn't get enough info) I could usually see the shape of it, which made me anticipate the reveal more than I would have otherwise.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes:
Just as entertaining as the Adventures. The Final Problem was one I'd heard so much about that it seemed like I must have read it, but it was nice to actually do so. The stories don't stick in my head much - they're fairly slight - but fun and worth the read.
His Last Bow:
A few interesting variations - a story written in the third person, one written from Holmes' perspective - but otherwise more of the same.
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes:
The joy does seem to have gone out by this point. Fairly rote, although reading for homoeroticism remains a delight.
Incidental note: This is a huge cheap edition that I picked up for a song. Wouldn't recommend it - heavy, unwieldy, and unlovely.
A Study in Scarlet: The first Sherlock Holmes story, which I was inspired to read by my recent rewatch of the brilliant first series of the BBC show Sherlock. I think I may have read the first part of ASiS before but never finished, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if I had, as the story veers off into a flashback which sets up the conclusion of the mystery but takes us away from England, Watson, and Sherlock. Even though I figured out why we were flashing back pretty quick and the flashback works reasonably well, I found it fairly off-putting. It seems an odd move, to set up one's main characters, to lay out the mystery, to have the detective declare the case solved and himself open to questions, and then move into a completely different time, a completely different setting, a completely different cast of characters (at least at first). It rather steals the thing from Sherlock, too. I'm conscious of this being an after-the-fact, not-entirely-fair-to-the-story-itself complaint; because I know who Sherlock Holmes is, because I've seen film versions, because he's entered the public consciousness, and particularly because I've come to the story directly from a retelling I really liked, I'm waiting to see magic--and I don't want to spend twenty-five of seventy pages of the story without Sherlock on the page. But even acknowledging that, I still wonder what Doyle's thinking was here.
But ASiS does quite successfully make me want to read more Sherlock stories (I've read shockingly few--The Hound of the Baskervilles for sure at some point in the teenagerish years and a few of the shorter stories, perhaps right after Sherlock first aired here last year). And reading this story so soon after watching the Sherlock episode "A Study in Pink" illustrates how masterfully that show has adapted and updated the original material. I mean, I could tell that just watching it, but obviously actually looking at the original material shines a slightly different light on the thing. There were a few moments where I was tempted to watch the episode again with the book in my lap and make notes. It's that good. I haven't felt like that about an adaptation since The Lord of the Rings. (If you've been paying goodly attention over the years, you know that cleverly-done retellings button-smash the nerd-scholar bits of my brain but hard.) So while I don't think I'll be tearing through all 1122 pages of my copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes immediately, I don't think I'll be putting it back on the shelf just yet either. I may need to dip in again soon. 27 Dec 2011
These stories "give the prefrence to those cases which derive their interest not so much from the brutality of the crime as from the ingenuity and dramatic quality of the solution."
This make a welcome change from the many blood thirsty books and movies out there. Yet many of the Holmes stories are thrillers. Perfect reading for a dark and stormy night.
Just started this. The first story introduces us to Watson, who is trying to find suitable apartments to rent. A friend of his mentions a rather odd if pleasant gentleman who is looking for a roommate for an apartment he just found...
Great so far! Love that Holmes disses other literary detectives.
12-24 Still loving this. More than halfway done with the 1,700 some pages. I'll really miss it when I'm done.
I have not quite gotten through the last of these... but I'm marking it as "read" because I've simply gone through way more than half of these numerous stories. Definitely fodder for a re-read sometime.
The inconsistencies bugged me: Watson marries, then suddenly moves back with Holmes, moves out again, but no mention is ever made of his wife afterwards. Each set of stories engages a convenient spy/source for Holmes, but the gang or street kids in the first is my favourite.
Sometimes Holmes is just around when a mystery sorts itself out, sometimes he just noses into the right room or question, sometimes he gets shit lucky, sometimes he figures it out.
As short stories, they work -- read one or two an evening and you're good. Doyle obviously had a fascination with America and its wildness, as the landscape and dark characters factor in occasionally. Women are spineless and ridiculous, except for Irene Adler. I wish she had been recurring.
At least I can finally say I've read Sherlock Holmes. (But I don't advise this edition: for the page count it gives me, I'm not done justice! 8pt font, 8x11 size pages! It's like reading the Bible cover to cover.
Sherlock Holmes is Arthur Conan Doyle's famous creation - a creation we all know the author would later come to despise.
Sherlock Holmes is blunt, crass and just plain rude, but because is a genius the people who come to him for help really just have to put up with it. He's an addict; several times in the book, in different stories, we see him taking cocaine much to the chagrin of his friend John Watson.
One of my main gripes about this book though is Mary. She just disappears without warning halfway through! Only when I finished the book and researched what happened to Mary Morstan did I realise she had an off-screen death that prompted John to move back in with Sherlock. And then we don't even see John upset by this. His wife just died and he's all "Meh" about it.
Ah, true love in the Victorian Era. How quaint.