Review: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -  Arthur Conan Doyle


As far as I can recall, I’ve never read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  The most exposure I’ve had to Sherlock Holmes prior to reading this book has been through the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Data assumed the role of Sherlock on the holodeck.  This book consists of twelve short stories detailing various mysteries that Sherlock solved as narrated by Dr. Watson.
I normally prefer to read related works close together, but these stories are a case where I think it might be better to read them over a period of time.  The reason for this is that they are quite formulaic and, while I enjoyed the stories themselves, I sometimes got a bit tired of the repetitive aspects.  Nearly every story involved the following elements in some order:

● We’re told why Watson is at Sherlock’s home.  Watson takes a moment to consider his good fortune to be able to frequently participate in Sherlock’s cases and watch his keen mind at work.


● A client comes to Sherlock’s home in need of help and explains the problem.  

● The client always presents their story in an organized and factual manner, no matter how distraught they may have been when they arrived.  All of his clients had a similar “voice”.  I would have enjoyed a little more variety and individual personality.

● Sherlock observes characteristics of his client and impresses them with his ability to deduce things they didn’t believe he could know.

● Sherlock encourages Watson either to stay and listen to his client and/or to participate in his investigation.  Sherlock may sometimes comment on how helpful it is for him to have a trusted friend he can rely on helping him, even though Watson never seems to actually do anything to help solve the mystery.

● Sherlock asks various questions and/or examines various things and/or disappears to perform mysterious tasks, and then he declares the mystery solved and explains the chain of events.

Since these stories were written in the late 1800’s by a Scottish author, and I'm an American reading them well over 100 years later, some of the language occasionally amused me.  There was one story in which people, males and females, were getting knocked up all over the place.  “Knocked up” in this context meant getting woken up, not getting pregnant.  There was also an astonishing number of “ejaculations” taking place throughout all of the stories, which was of course intended to mean that somebody had said something suddenly.  I was also a little startled to learn on the very first page that Mr. Holmes used cocaine.  I had to do a little Googling to learn that this was common in that era.  I guess it's probably obvious from my comments that I don't read older books that often!

The stories really were pretty entertaining, though.  I usually became interested in the story being told by the client and I enjoyed speculating about the solution.  Determining the solution wasn’t always that difficult, since the solution was often the “unexpected”, but I was usually less successful at figuring out how Sherlock would figure it out.  Although I don’t feel any need to go read more Sherlock stories in the near future, I am glad I read these.  I gained some entertainment from them and I’m sure I’ll also be able to better appreciate references to Sherlock that I run across in more modern forms.