Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

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

Only being familiar with Sherlock Holmes through pop culture references and modern adaptations of the character, I decided late last year to read through the canon in publication order. This is the third volume of the canon, with the first two being the novels A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four. While I enjoyed those books to an extent, Sherlock Holmes doesn’t really work as a novel-length work. The story tends to get bogged down and both books feature very long expositions at the end of what actually happened.

Fortunately, the bulk of the canon is in short stories: and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starts them off. Holmes works much better in the short story medium.

Each story has roughly the same format: Holmes and Watson are enjoying some aspect of mundane, everyday life. Suddenly, a case arrives! Holmes listens to the story and asks penetrating questions. They then rush to the scene of the incident where Holmes is rude to someone before examining things with his glass. Holmes may or may not need to put on an excellent disguise to acquire some additional information. He then makes enough deductions to hint at what had happened in order to convince the perpetrator to make a full confession.

Even though the basic framework of each story is similar, it doesn’t get old because the cases themselves tend to be rather fascinating (with a few exceptions like "The Five Orange Pips"). But even the ones that bog down are over so quickly that you can’t really hold it against them.

Primarily, though, I think it’s safe to say that short stories work for the character because it lets him do his thing and move on. Compared to the novel-length works, this short-story Holmes seems to possess a much more formidable intellect: if only because he necessarily solves the cases much faster with much more pin-point precision. There simply isn’t room for him to take his time or go down dead-ends.

And that’s how I think of Holmes: a master of the science of deduction who can solve most cases without even getting up from his easy chair. And that’s who was portrayed in this work.

I look forward to starting The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes as I continue this journey through the Holmes canon.

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