Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sherlock Holmes Stories You Have to Read

I talk a fair bit about the BBC modernised series of Sherlock (which is understandable as it is brilliant) but I'm not sure I spend enough time on the original stories themselves; without which Sherlock wouldn't be here *cue dramatic look at some scenery*.
So to counteract that, I'm dedicating a blog post to the top five Sherlock Holmes stories that anyone trying to get into the Sherlock Holmes Canon should read. It was a tough choice as Arthur Conan Doyle composed many classics, which I haven't included in this list. Joys such as the ingenious mystery of The Dancing Men, the confounding tale of the Red-Headed League and Holmes' first ever published adventure A Study in Scarlet lost their places to these following greats of the detective genre. These five stories perfectly capture the great strengths of the Holmes stories which have ensured their longevity; the intelligent plots, the dastardly villains and, most importantly, the friendship of Holmes and Watson. Now, read onward. The game's afoot!

A Scandal in Bohemia

Published in: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Story: The King of Bohemia himself calls upon the Great Detective to retrieve a compromising photograph from the beautiful - but dangerous - Irene Adler. Holmes thinks the job will be easy but has he actually met his match?
Why is it good?: Largely, because it's the only story to feature Irene Adler - the one woman the usually-cold Holmes shows anything akin to emotion for and one of the few people to actually beat him. It's a fascinating read that shines a light on the man underneath the cold mask.
Quote: 'To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.'


The Speckled Band
Published in: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Story: Holmes and Watson investigate a case involving a locked-room murder,cryptic cries and exotic animals. Culminating in an encounter with a deadly snake, the duo might themselves fall to the mysterious Speckled Band...
Why is it good?: Quite probably the most well-written Holmes story. Conan Doyle throws everything into it and it works brilliantly. It's Sherlock Holmes' most rousing adventure!
Quote: "When a doctor does go wrong, he is the first of criminals. He has the nerve and he has the knowledge."

The Final Problem

Published in: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Story: Sherlock Holmes is determined to defeat 'Napoleon of Crime', Professor Moriarty, whatever the cost. The two rivals lock in a battle of wits spanning the entire continent before meeting on the cliffs of the Reichenbach Falls. They both know there is only one way it can end...
Why is it so good?: When Conan Doyle decided to kill Holmes off he obviously went all out to make the story as climactic as possible. Not only do we get Holmes and Watson adventuring further than ever before, Holmes gets a truly memorable nemesis - a character who every super villain over the next hundred years would be drawn from.
Quote: '' I shall ever regard (Holmes) as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.''


The Hound of the Baskervilles

Published as: The Hound of the Baskervilles
Story: An ancient family curse is once again plaguing the Baskervilles of Dartmoor; A black demon dog is running amok through the moors! With Holmes apparently busy in London, Dr Watson finds his world turned upside down by the supernatural...
Why is it so good?: By far the best of Conan Doyle's Holmes novels, it rightly deserves its success as the most famous Sherlock Holmes adventure. The mystery is well plotted (without the long annoying flashbacks of other novels) and comes to an exciting finale on the moors. Set before Holmes' death but published afterwards, its success led to Holmes' eventual resurrection...
Quote: 'Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!'



The Empty House

Published in: The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Story: Dr Watson is shocked to find his best friend, Sherlock Holmes, did not die at the Reichenbach Falls but instead faked his death. Soon, they are off investigating once more; this time on the trail of Colonel Moran, the late Moriarty's right-hand man...
Why is it so good?: A triumphant return for the great detective. Yes, there's a few flaws e.g. Watson's reaction to Holmes' return (Fainting?!) but the whole thing is a rollicking runaround with some great turns.
Quote: 'With my face over the brink, I saw (Moriarty) fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounded off, and splashed into the water.'


So, there we are. My list of the top five Sherlock Holmes stories that you should read. There are, of course, many more as I have mentioned above but I heartily suggest that you pick these up first. If these, the very best of Sherlock Holmes, strike a chord with you then you may just find that the fogbound streets of Holmes' London, filled as they are with mystery, despicable cads and intrepid detectives, will stay with you forever.

Yeah, put that in your favourite clay pipe and smoke it.

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