February 9th, 2011


Book Review: "The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read this book when I was middle or high school. At least I think I read the complete book, maybe I only read some of the stories. Anyway, I'm reading a lot more now than I ever have, and I'm making an effort to read (or re-read) a fair amount of public domain works, especially since I can get free eBooks for my Kindle. As part of that effort, I have a goal to read the entire Holmes canon by the end of the year. In the past few months, I read A Study In Scarlett and The Sign Of The Four. I was thrilled to get to the first collection of short stories.

This book contains 12 Sherlock Holmes short stories. Each story features a specific case Holmes worked on, narrated from Dr. Watson's point of view. Doyle does an excellent job of keeping to the Watson-centric point of view. We get to watch Holmes solve the cases as Watson watches him. We get to experience the charming arrogance as Holmes explains what is so "elementary" about solving each case. The short story format works very well since the cases are easy enough to completely explore in a shorter amount of space than a novel takes, without becoming tedious. It's also perfect that a complete story can be easily read in one or two sittings. I used this fact to allow myself to read portions other books between reading the Holmes short stories.

While almost all the stories are quite formulaic (Holmes is presented with a problem that stumps everyone, Holmes does a lot of thinking and observation, Holmes solves the problem), they continue to be entertaining to read. The situations and solutions presented are plausible enough to be believable. It's fun to play along and try to guess the solution as Holmes solves the case.

Of the stories, one that particularly stands out is "A Scandal In Bohemia," as Holmes faces a worthy adversary in the main female character. "The Red-Headed League" was fun just because of the absurdity of the central plot point. In "The Five Orange Pips," the reader has an advantage of Watson, because the KKK plays a role -- modern readers are familiar with the KKK, Watson is not. All the stories are good, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. I'm sure I'll be back to read some, if not all, of the stories.

A special joy about reading it on the Kindle. More than once, I came across an unfamiliar word: sometimes because it was more British than American, sometimes because it was more 19th century than 21st. Being able to quickly get the definition from the built-in dictionary was a huge help.

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