The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

by Arthur Conan Doyle
Reviewed date: 2013 Dec 17
272 pages
cover art

Sherlock Holmes may be the world's most famous fictional detective, but it's hard to see from this collection of stories the qualities that set him apart. Perhaps it's because Holmes is the archetype from which a hundred years of writers have drawn. His logical manner of crime-solving is not so unique anymore. Still, it's not a bad set of stories. Some cases are too easy to solve (the Man with the Twisted Lip, A Case of Identity, and The Adventure of the Copper Breeches). Others are too difficult because we are not given all the facts until Holmes mentions them while explaining how he cracked that case (the Adventure of the Beryl Coronet, the Five Orange Pips, the Boscome Valley Mystery). But in every story it's hard not to be impressed with Holmes's confidence and his powers of deduction.

These stories were written in the 1890s, mostly, and I was surprised to learn so much about London in that time period. For example, the mail was delivered up to a dozen times a day. The mail--within London at least--could be used to carry on short conversations during a single day: Holmes would often send letters to invite clients to meet at a particular time that same day. The telephone has made that kind of postal system unnecessary, but I had no idea that the mail had ever been delivered more frequently than once a day.

  • A Scandal in Bohemia: Someone is blackmailing the King of Bohemia, and it's up to Sherlock Holmes to recover the incriminating photograph.
  • The Red-Headed League: A pawnbroker asks Sherlock Holmes to investigate the sudden dissolution of the Red-Headed League, which had been paying him four pounds a week to copy the Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • A Case of Identity: Sherlock Holmes uncovers the identify of a suitor who leaves his bride waiting at the altar.
  • The Boscombe Valley Mystery: A landowner is bludgeoned to death in the woods, and everyone except Sherlock Holmes is convinced his son is the killer.
  • The Five Orange Pips: Holmes deduces the mystery of a man whose uncle and father have both met with mysterious accidents after receiving letters marked K. K. K.
  • The Man with the Twisted Lip: A disfigured beggar is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Neville St. Clair, but it turns out the beggar is Neville St. Clair.
  • The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle: Sherlock Holmes follows the trail of a stolen blue carbuncle discovered in a goose.
  • The Adventure of the Speckled Band: Helen Stoner lives with her stepfather, who she suspects of murdering her twin sister, and Helen fears she is next.
  • The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb: A hydraulic engineer is hired for a secret job in the dead of night, and ends up losing his thumb in the process.
  • The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor: An Englishman noble's American wife vanishes immediately after their wedding.
  • The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet: A banker takes a priceless beryl coronet as collateral for a loan. The coronet is broken and three beryls stolen, and the prime suspect is the banker's son--who Holmes believes is innocent.
  • The Adventure of the Copper Breeches: Miss Violet Hunter is hired by Mr. Rucastle to be a governess for his six-year-old son, but he makes unusual requests of her: to cut her hair, to wear an electric blue dress, to sit in a particular chair and read a particular novel aloud.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain and can be found at Project Gutenberg:

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