If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been reading through the Sherlock Holmes canon (the original stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). After I read each one, I provide a review and my thoughts on each story. It occurred to me recently however, that I have never explained why I enjoy the Sherlock Holmes stories or why I want others to read them, so here goes! J
Why I love Sherlock Holmes
I love a good mystery story, however writers of books and television programs have a tendency to get too cookie cutter with their stories. You know what I mean, after a while you can sit down to any episode/book that you’re enjoying and go “that character is going to die either by being shot stabbed or poisoned, those three characters are going to be suspects, and the third suspect did it.” And then you sit back and watch exactly what you predicted unfold. All too often, when writers try to “think outside the box” they turn to the “spy theme” or to blood and gore to an extreme.
When I was young (around nine or ten) I was shown an episode of what I have seen termed as “Granada Holmes”. I am talking about the Sherlock Holmes series featuring Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. The episode was The Speckled Band. Never before had I seen a story so intriguing. Even that young I remember thinking “okay, the girl died of something in her room so let’s just see where the person could have entered from” I remembered thinking that, at best, there might be a secret hidden panel in the wall. But when Sherlock Holmes declared that no one could have entered that room and that that wasn’t the explanation, I was hooked. I won’t spoil the end for those of you who haven’t read/seen it but the conclusion was unlike any mystery I had ever encountered before. I remembered that episode. I didn’t remember Jeremy Brett’s name, or Sherlock Holmes for that matter at that age, but I remembered the show I saw and wanted more. Soon I had found a children’s classic of Sherlock Holmes with about five of the most famous cases in it, and I sat down and read the whole thing that night.
Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke "The Speckled Band"
I saw on Twitter that someone asked the Baker Street Babes (I love their account and recommend that if you love any incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, old or new, that you follow them @BakerStBabes ) what story would you use if you wanted to hook someone on the original Sherlock Holmes stories. They said The Speckled Band. I couldn’t agree more, that’s what did it for me. Over the years Sherlock Holmes had taken a back seat, but I never forgot about The Speckled Band and that series. “Granada Holmes” coupled with the new series on Masterpiece PBS and the BBC, Sherlock, has given me an interest in the original writings and now I’m reading through the whole series. I recently had the pleasure of reading The Speckled Band again and I cannot wait to share my thoughts with all of you.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in "Sherlock"
Why do I think the Sherlock Holmes series is good for others to read?
There are two major reasons why I think Sherlock Holmes should be on your bucket list of books:
First, the stories are short. There are 56 short stories all together in the Sherlock Holmes stories and none of them are incredibly long. These are stories that you can read while travelling, on your lunch break at work, waiting in a doctor’s office, and more. You get an entire mystery and an epic conclusion in a lot less time making them ideal to read in all sorts of places without getting bored. I love to read but sometimes I don’t have enough time for a full novel during the college semester so they are a great way for me to get to read during when my schedule gets hectic.
Second, the stories are exciting. And not just exciting for a person who likes to read! Moms, wives, sisters, friends, lend me your ears (or eyes since your reading this J ). I know that it is difficult getting our sons, husbands, brothers, or male friends to read, especially younger boys because they like to get up and get moving. But we also know that their development is furthered if they can enjoy reading something. Usually, if a book isn’t written on a subject they already like, such as sports or cars, it needs to be exciting to keep their attention. Not only are the short stories a good length, but the conclusions are exciting. Things happen that you will never see coming. The explanations of these problems are like nothing they’ve ever read before. I think that these will help the male reader in your life learn to enjoy reading just a little bit more.
A word of caution
Parents, I urge you to allow your kids to read the Sherlock Holmes stories, but I also urge you to pay attention to which ones their reading. Remember that Sherlock Holmes was written by an adult largely for other adults to read. Some of the stories have details that aren’t suitable for children such as one story I have read that takes place largely in an opium den, or the fact that Sherlock Holmes uses drugs and it becomes a topic of conversation. That being said, for your children I STRONGLY recommend that you start them on books of Sherlock Holmes that are specifically geared for children like the one that I read when I was young, because their editors have done the work for you. They have chosen the stories that leave out themes that aren’t suitable for children and edited out any other part that may be unsuitable for them as well.
This is the book I have been reading through:
What’s good about it:
It was about $10 and it prints the stories the way you would have seen them in the original Stand Magazine prints including the illustrations by Sidney Paget. I love getting to see the stories in this context and for that reason I am glad that it is a part of my collection.
What Does it lack?:
This collection is missing some of the stories and three of the novels. You remember that earlier I mentioned that there are 56 short stories and 4 novels in the Sherlock Holmes series. This collection only features 37 of the short stories and 1 of the novels.
You can buy this one on Amazon here
This is the recent addition to my collection that I am planning to use:
What’s good about it?
This book is fairly cheap. You can buy it online at a whole range of prices, but I got mine on Amazon from PBS’s selling account for about $7.48. I’ve seen it through the Amazon sellers for about $12 (still not a bad price) just shop around a little and you’ll find a copy and a good price for you. This collection also has all 56 stories and all 4 novels. There are two volumes in the box to make this possible and both books are travel size making them easy to take with you anywhere.
What does it lack?
The only thing that I have seen as lacking in this book set thus far is that the illustrations have been removed.
You can find it on Amazon here
I was also able to find the book I used as a child for those parents who want to start their children on the Sherlock Holmes.
What’s good about it?
The editing that I mentioned earlier has been done for you. It’s cheap. It’s slim to it’s easy to take in a travel bag or backpack.
What does it lack?
There are only a few stories in it, but it’s a great starter book for kids.
You can buy it here
Until next time,