Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book Review: The Complete Sherlock Holmes


The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I and Volume II

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Introduction and Notes by Kyle Freeman

Softcover, 709 pp. and 709 pp.

Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003




These Barnes & Noble Classics editions of Sherlock Holmes are authoritative, affordable, and printed in good-quality format with few typographical errors. Mr. Freeman's editorial contributions include a couple of enthusiastic and informative introductions, a detailed timeline, and a number of textual notes; all this adds significantly to the book's value. If you want a complete edition of Sherlock Holmes, then these two volumes will serve you well.

Some of the tales collected here aren't worth reading nowadays (I'll give details below), but much of The Complete Sherlock Holmes is still first-rate detective fiction. As soon as I finished The Complete Sherlock Holmes, I added Conan Doyle and his works to my continually updated list of favorite genre fiction.

The Sherlock Holmes tales have certain conventions and repetitive features, which might be tedious for some readers. However, these Holmesian and Watsonian hallmarks are effected differently from story to story, and having all of the stories next to one another also reveals variety within the genre: there are examples here of the puzzle story, the diplomatic intrigue, the urban crime story, and the Gothic horror tale. Some of my favorites, in chronological order:

A Scandal in Bohemiathe story with Irene Adler
The Adventure of the Speckled Banda tale of the macabre
Silver Blaze
The Musgrave Ritual
The Reigate Puzzle
The Naval Treaty
The Final ProblemHolmes dies...or does he?
The Hound of the Baskervilles (novella)atmospheric adventure on the moors
The Adventure of the Empty HouseSherlock Holmes returns!
The Adventure of the Priory School
The Adventure of the Second Stain
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
The Adventure of the Lion's Mane

On this website you can see how Holmes aficionados rank the stories. And here is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle naming his own favorites.

Skippable:
  • Most of the stories in the 1927 collection The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes
  • Study in Scarlet (novella) 
  • The Sign of Four (novella) 
  • Valley of Fear (novella)
Fans of Sherlock Holmes usually rate Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four more highly, but I found the former work immature and the latter work convoluted and overlong. For that matter, I assume that a single Holmes novella is all the average reader really wants to invest in, and in that case there's no question that the novella you want is the Gothically delicious Hound of the Baskervilles.

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