Friday, February 26, 2010

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

When I was a kid, my Dad had wanted me to read his old Sherlock Holmes books. I never did, and now that I've finally read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I really wish I'd heeded Dad's advice at the time. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories about his beloved detective are enjoyable, and Holmes is a fascinating character, but I would have absolutely adored these stories as a thirteen-year-old.

The Adventures is a collection of twelve stories which were published in the Strand Magazine from 1891-1892. All are narrated by Holmes' friend and colleague Dr. Watson. As Watson frames each story, the reader gleans just a little about Holmes' life and personality. The two men had been roommates until Watson's recent marriage, and Watson holds Holmes in the highest of regards. I'd always pictured Holmes as quite the stuffy Brit, so I was surprised to learn on the first page that he flirted with both cocaine and morphine at times.

The stories are a bit formulaic, which makes sense as they'd been a magazine serial. Each story begins with a page or two about how the current client came to tell his or her story to our dear detective. After each tale, Holmes, or Watson, or both of them exclaim something to the effect of "This is a most unique case!" Then Holmes (usually with Watson in tow) goes to the scene of the crime, toodles around for some period of time, and returns after proving his prevailing hypothesis. Holmes solves all the cases by being exceedingly observant (based on the number of mud splotches on your left sleeve, it is clear that you were on the passenger seat of a two-person horse-and-buggy, driving at great speeds the morning after a rain storm) and applying logic (clearly the stepfather stands to gain the most by these girls not marrying). He then presents his findings with Scooby-Doo dramatic flair, everyone gasping in surprise about what really happened.

All in all, these stories are a fun read, though they didn't blow me away. I would save their highest recommendation for young readers.

Up next: Rabbit, Run by John Updike

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