Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.

Reason read: Doyle died in July. Read in his memory.

If you were to read the Complete Sherlock Holmes in chronological order, you would not start with the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The short stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, twelve in all, start after Holmes and Watson have gone their separate ways and are no longer sharing rooms of a flat together. Watson is by this time married with a house of his own while Holmes is still on Baker Street. One constant that remains throughout all the stories is Holmes’s ability to confuse people with his keen sense of observation. “How could you know that?” is a constant refrain. Another constant is that all of the stories are told in first person from Watson’s point of view.

Short stories:

  • “Scandal in Bohemia” – a Duke and heir King is blackmailed by an actress. Sherlock, with the help of Holmes, attempts to end the threat but the woman outsmarts them.
  • “Red-Headed League” – what do you get when you mix a redhead, an Encyclopedia, a bank, and a scam? Answer: a Sherlock Holmes mystery, of course!
  • “A Case of Identity” – How far will a man go to keep his stepdaughter from marrying?
  • “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” – Did a man really murder his father or is there more going on?
  • “The Five Orange Pips” – a curse has come down through the generations, terrorizing a family.
  • “The Man with the Twisted Lip” – This was my favorite. A man goes missing and is believed to be dead while his wife has faith he is alive.
  • “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” – Who stole this precious jewel?
  • “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” – another crazy story about a father not wanting his daughters to marry because of losing the inheritance.
  • “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” – is it a spoiler to say this is one story where the criminals get away?
  • “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” – Just what the title says, a guy does the right thing.
  • “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” – family devotion illustrated with a coronet.
  • “The Adventure of the Copper Beaches” – a really interesting story about trying to thwart a wedding (another common theme for Sherlock).

Author fact: rumor has it, Sherlock Holmes is somewhat modeled after Dr. Joseph Bell, a professor of Dolye’s at Edinburgh University.

Book trivia: Despite publishing two novels previously, Doyle’s career didn’t take off until he started writing short stories. The twelve listed above were published together in 1892.

Nancy said: Pearl included the Complete Sherlock Holmes in a list of private-eye mysteries.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the really long chapter called “I love a Mystery” (p 117).

Sign of the Four

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. Sign of the Four: The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Vol. 1. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1930.

Reason read: in memory of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who died in July (1930).

Originally published in 1889, this is the second Sherlock Holmes mystery. We meet Dr. Watson’s future bride-to-be, Mary Morstan.
One of the most  prominent characteristics of Sherlock Holmes’s personality is his cheeky hubris, especially when he makes comments like, “Yes, I have been guilty of several monographs” (p 4), or “I cannot live without brainwork” (p 8). Aside from his ego, Holmes carries a sharp sense of reasoning and deduction and of course, the acute ability to draw unsuspecting witnesses out of their privacy, getting them to spill the beans by pretending to know everything they do already. An age-old police tactic.

To sum up the complicated mystery: it involves a secret pact between four criminals, a treasure and Mary Morstan. Mary’s father has been missing for ten years. He disappeared without a trace. Four years after his disappearance Mary started received a pearl a year from an unknown benefactor. Where’s rumor of a hidden treasure.

As an aside, it’s the sign of the times when I am shocked to read the details of Sherlock Holmes’s drug use – he’s shooting up cocaine on the opening page.

Author fact: Doyle’s full name is Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle.

Book trivia: This is the second Holmes mystery in the series.

BookLust Twist: sort of from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123), but not really. Pearl lists The Complete Sherlock Holmes but tCSH is made up of four novels and 56 short stories. In all fairness I wanted to list them separately.

Just July

July was a nutty month. Lots of music: Phish three times, Warren Haynes at Tanglewood, Dead and Company twice, and Coldplay. (August is only Pearl Jam and Mieka Pauley.) We made it up to Monhegan for a week and down to CT twice. And! And. And, I moved a lot of rocks (don’t ask). For the books it was:

  • Milk in my Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey
  • Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (AB)
  • The Last Battle by Ryan Cornelius
  • Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
  • 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames

I think, once I got used to Dickey’s style, I grew to like Milk but my favorite by far was The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. Is it a movie? Because if it isn’t, it should be. I said that in the review as well.

Full disclosure: I had Lost Upland on my list as well. I simply ran out of time and couldn’t get to it. I’m okay with seven books for the month.

Study in Scarlet

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. “A Study in Scarlet”. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. New York: Doubleday, 1930.

Reason read: Doyle died July 7th 1930. Read in honor of his passing.

Confessional: in Book Lust Pearl lists The Complete Sherlock Holmes but what she doesn’t say is that it’s a canon of sixty stories – four novels and 56 short stories totaling 1122 pages. I knew it would be impossible to read 1122 pages in 31 days – even if it would be the only thing I read in July I still wouldn’t finish it. In addition I couldn’t stand the thought of attempting something so boring. I need to visit other characters from time to time. So, my plan is this, read each work separately. I began with the first novel of the collection, “A Study in Scarlet.”

Study in Scarlet is in two parts. Part one: “Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., Late of the Army Medical Department.” It’s here that Dr. Watson and Mr. Sherlock Holmes meet for the first time. Watson, arriving in London and  needing a place to stay, learns of Holmes looking to share his apartment. From the very beginning they are thrown together in a murder mystery. Watson is astounded by Holmes’s ability to deduce facts from the smallest pieces of evidence.

Part two: “Country of the Saints” steps back in time and tells the story of the Brigham Young and the Mormons settling in the plains of Utah. John Ferrier meets up with the four elders, Stangerson, Kemball, Jonston & Drebber and they take him and his young companion in. This story sets the backdrop for the murder mystery Holmes is trying to solve.

Quotes. First where the title of the story comes from: “There is a scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it” (p 36). Second, one of Sherlock’s most quoted utterances: “…where there is no imagination there is no horror” (p 37).

Author fact: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack.

Book trivia: A Study in Scarlet is less than 100 pages long.

BookLust Twist (not really): from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love A Mystery” (p 123).