I just finished reading all of the canonical Sherlock Holmes stories, and finishing them was, I admit, bittersweet.  I had never read them nor even seen the movies – all I knew of Holmes was just pop culture stuff – the deerstalker cap (which he is never said to wear in the stories), “Elementary, my dear Watson” (again, never said in that order in the books) and so forth.  So reading each of the four novels and 56 short stories was a new thrill, and the bittersweet thing kicked in towards the end when I realized that soon there would be no more…

I first had the idea to finally read the stories when we got a membership at BJs and I rolled the cart by the book section.  Everything was so cheap that I was like “I want this one!  I’ll buy that one!”.  You can imagine.  Well, I did see The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which contained 12 short stories.  I bought it, read it, and was hooked.  I was pleased to find these two complete volumes on Amazon for $6.95 each, ordered them, and began devouring the stories in between all my other readings.

The mysteries are very entertaining but not really the kind where you can anticipate the villain or the solution, which is often bizarre.  They are set in Victorian England but seem very fresh except for the ones involving mistaken identity such as A Case Of Identity, which strikes me as being ridiculous.  Then again, at one point I guess things like this did happen – I remember reading the true story of The Return of Martin Guerre in college.

The dialogue is outstanding and frequently more entertaining than the story itself.  Some examples of the Holmes wit:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

(from Silver Blaze)

“It was all very confused.  Sir Charles had evidently stood there for five or ten minutes.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because the ash had twice dropped from his cigar”

“Excellent!  This is a colleague, Watson, after our own heart.”

(from The Hound of the Baskervilles)

“How do you know that?”

“I followed you.”

“I saw no one.”

“That is what you may expect to see when I follow you.”

(from The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot)

Holmes is also a man (as is Watson).  He smokes a pipe, has a drink socially, is a true gentleman yet capable of great feats of physical activity and courage.  He is comfortable with firearms and knows how to use them (and always with strong judgment).  He is heroic yet shuns fame and publicity and is modest about his gifts.  Holmes is equally at home in the bustling metropolis of London as well as the deepest countryside.  He is not after fortune but making his world (and the whole world, for some of his adventures involve foreign sovereigns) a better and safer place.

Great stuff.  The stories are the perfect length to read one here and another another night.  Again, it is bittersweet that I have finished them.  Perhaps on to Solar Pons?

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