Readers of my humorous Lawrence Pinkley detective storys will know that he always uses the Sherlock Holmes books as text books to help him learn the skills to be a better detective. Today I thought it would be nice to take a look at Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation.
Modern day Sherlock Holmes re-enactments depict him exclaiming, ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!’ In Arthur Conan Doyle’s original detective stories, however, Holmes would only respond to Watson’s ‘Excellent!’ with ‘Elementary!’ a phrase which was as well-known at the start of the 20th century as the previous is now. Holmes’ sharp wit, keen observation skills, and wild imagination make him an eternally, loveable character. His popularity began with a series of short stories in the 19th century magazine The Strand. Doyle wrote four Sherlock Holmes novels and 56 short stories (which have been published as compilations), during his career. These are:
- A Study in Scarlet (1887) – Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson, are first introduced to the world. The title comes from one of the detective’s rambling speeches, in which Holmes describes his amateur murder investigation as a ‘study in scarlet.’
- The Sign of the Four (February 1890) – The plot of this novel is remarkably complex, including aspects of service in India, the Indian Rebellion, a stolen treasure and a secret pact among 4 convicts & 2 prison guards. Holmes connects with his audience more, and his drug habit is revealed. Dr. Watson’s future wife is also introduced in this novel.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) – Believed to be the best Sherlock Holmes novel, this was written as a series in The Strand, and then published. The story is of an attempted murder, which has been inspired by the legend of a diabolical hound.
- The Valley of Fear (1915) – In this final novel, Holmes receives a cipher message but not the key with which to read it. By the time he figures out the meaning, the target has already been killed. Holmes is then invited by Scotland Yard to help solve the case.
Short Story Collections
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1891-1892) – This collection of twelve short stories are completely unrelated, and they focus on Holmes trying to correct social injustices. Arthur Conan Doyle’s favourite Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, is included in this collection.
- The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894) – Another twelve stories including The Final Problem in which Holmes plunges to his death (even though he is resurrected by the author).
- The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905) – This collection has thirteen stories in which Holmes returns but then retires in the final one, as narrated by Dr. Watson.
- His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes (1917) – This is a collection of previously published stories, and includes a preface which assures readers that up to the time of publication Holmes (though retired) was still alive and well, even though he was now suffering from a mild case of rheumatism.
- The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1921 – 1927) – This collection of twelve stories included Doyle’s final Holmes narrative, The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place.