The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
I always find it difficult to rate and review collections of short stories because I inevitably tend to see each story as an individual unit. As a result, I always have certain stories that I like more than others, which makes it difficult to decide on a collective rating, and in reviewing I find myself wanting to discuss each story separately rather than making generalities about the collection as a whole.
Luckily, in the case of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I at least have a common set of characters to work with, namely Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I found it very interesting to see how these two characters came to meet in “A Study in Scarlet”, especially as it gives Watson the opportunity to describe Holmes from the perspective of someone who’s just getting to know him. I would recommend this particular story as the starting point for anyone wanting to read about Sherlock Holmes. It also contains some of the most interesting exchanges in the collection, like this one:
“My surprise reached a climax… when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of Copernican Theory… That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to me to be such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.
‘You appear to be astonished,’ he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. ‘Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.’
‘To forget it!’
[Here Holmes explains his theory of the brain as an attic that can only store so much information, telling Watson that he wants no useless facts taking up this valuable space inside his brain.]
‘But the Solar System!” I protested.
‘What the deuce is it to me?’ he interrupted impatiently; ‘you say we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.'”
There are many great quotes to be found in regards to Holmes’ extraordinary character throughout the collection, but just as important, I think, is seeing him in action.
The collection jumps around through time, with some stories taking place as Watson and Holmes are living together in Baker Street and others taking place after Watson has gotten married. A couple are stories about cases Holmes has taken on before having met Watson. Holmes takes on big cases and small cases alike. There are several in which not a single law has been broken, and there are a few in which the mystery is solved through no very great effort of reasoning or deduction. Seeing Holmes work through such a variety of cases really gives his character depth.
In my opinion, this variety also renders the collection very believable. It is even mentioned that there are a number of cases that Holmes has not been able to solve, but this doesn’t make him any less of a great detective. I compare this to our modern day detectives on television who solve every single case and seem to receive far more than their fair share of the big, exciting ones. Now, certainly big, exciting mysteries are fun to watch, and I’m not knocking detective shows. On the contrary, Castle and The Mentalist are some of my absolute favorites. (Although I’m currently a little peeved at Patrick Jane for the stunt he pulled at the end of last season.) What I am saying is that it’s refreshing to see an author allowing his character to be completely human.
This book did take me a while to read, but that wasn’t because it was bad or boring so much as it was because of the way the book was written. Each time I started a new story, it pulled me in so that I had to read through to the end, but once I reached the end, it was perfectly easy to set the book aside for a long stretch of time before picking it up again. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it makes it a nice book for busy people who only have short snatches of time in which they’re able to read or for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. If that’s your situation, this book is a perfect choice.
As for the rating, I give it a solid