The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This copy came from the Rotary Book Fair some years ago, and I recently also purchased a box set of adventures from The Bookman. It is the Reader’s Digest version, and is, of course, very beautiful, which was the reason I bought it in the first place.
Read: Apr. 17 – Apr. 23, 2023
I found quite a few readings of these stories and chose the one by Sherlock Holmes Stories Magpie Audio, which is classy and pleasing to the ear.
The first tale is A Scandal in Bohemia, which depicts Sherlock Holmes’ run-in with the famous Irene Adler as he attempts to recover a compromising photograph of the woman and the king of Bohemia, who is about to be wed. He uses a clever ruse with a false fire alarm to trick her into revealing the photograph’s location, but she realizes the deception and makes her escape with her new husband.
It is a very enjoyable, short read. The story is, of course, told from the perspective of John Watson, companion to Holmes.
The second is called The Red-headed League, which is about a man who came in to tell Sherlock and Dr. Watson about his strange happenstance over the past few weeks. He received a job purely for his red hair and received quite a bit of money for very little work, then was baffled by the disappearance of the job and people behind it. Sherlock and Watson are on the case and end up interfering with a bigger plan that was in place.
A very fun little case. It was longer than the last one, and is mostly told second-hand through the client, but the action at the end tied everything together nicely.
A Case in Identity is a peculiar one, and once again follow the narrative as told by the client to Holmes and Watson. The case starts even before the client, Mary Sutherland, enters the Baker Street address, as Holmes sees her out the window and remarks on her hesitancy. Once she enters, she tells them the story of her vanished bridegroom, and once she’s finished, Sherlock sends her away.
I’ve yet to be able to entirely figure out the case from the clues (before Sherlock explains everything), but I’m getting better at guessing what’s going on. I found this case fascinating and funny.
This case takes Holmes and Watson out of town for the mystery and is titled The Boscombe Valley Mystery. Much of what we learn is from Holmes during the train ride over, and with these clues, I’d convinced myself that this case was similar to a case in the modern-day BBC series Sherlock. I thought that the man had been killed by a boomerang to the back of the head, but I was wrong. As the narrative continued, I drew the correct conclusion, though the whole of it was confessed, not deduced.
An interesting case that hooked me just a bit more than the others. I’m enjoying Holmes and Watson heading out to inspect the crime scenes, as Holmes acts much different (described as a hound on the case) than when he lounges in his flat smoking. Also, I was delighted that Lestrade appeared in this case (I haven’t read the other mysteries yet: Study in Scarlet and all that).
The Five Orange Pips comes next, and with it, another case told to us mostly from the perspective of the client. A man by the name of John Openshaw recounts the story of his uncle, who once lived in America, and one day received a letter with naught but five dried orange pips and the letters K.K.K. He died seven weeks later. Next, Openshaw’s father received the same warning, and died as well. Only once Openshaw himself received the warning did he go to Holmes for help.
This case may have not ended favourably for Holmes, but it was taken care of nonetheless, and it carried enough suspense that I was not bored by the recounting of the tale. As always, every detail given is important.
This next one was very peculiar indeed. I recognize the beginning as inspiration for one of the BBC episodes of Sherlock; glad to now know where that scene came from. This case, called The Man with the Twisted Lip, revolves around the disappearance of Neville St. Clair, reported by his wife to Holmes. Holmes then stakes out the site of the disappearance, an opium den, until such a time that Watson finds him during a search for Isa Whitney, an old friend of his. From there, Holmes and Watson take a ride to Holmes’ current lodgings and solve the case—unravelling the mysterious connection of St. Clair and the professional beggar Hugh Boone.
This story dragged just a bit too long for me, but overall, it passed smoothly, and I enjoyed listening to it being read. I wasn’t able to solve it, nor did I have many theories throughout, but looking back I can clearly see how all of the clues were laid out to be pieced together.
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, or simply The Blue Carbuncle, is the next case, taking place around Christmastime. Watson was just visiting Holmes to wish him well when he is regaled with a story about Commissioner Peterson, who witnessed an attack on a Mr. Henry Baker, who lost his hat and a fat Christmas goose. Holmes was to solve the mystery of returning the hat to its owner when it is revealed that within the goose was found the missing blue carbuncle of the Countess of Morcar. Holmes and Watson endeavour to discover how the stolen gem ended up in the goose.
An exciting little adventure! I found it quite entertaining as Holmes and Watson go from one person to the next, gathering clues together. Holmes also shows a bit of his True Neutral alignment, as he doesn’t really care for following rules or breaking them, so long as they benefit him. He also doesn’t show Good or Evil intentions, as his goal is solving the mystery, not arresting the culprit. While these are all clear observations, I still think Holmes has heavier leaning toward Good because of how the story wrapped up.
The next case rudely awakens Watson from his bed because a young woman has come to them in terror (the story comes from a time when Watson and Holmes shared a flat and is only now being released). The Adventure of the Speckled Band comes to them by Helen Stoner, whose sister died suddenly two years previously, days before she was meant to be married. Now that Helen is also set to be married and has been moved into her deceased sister’s old room due to renovations, she fears she may meet the same fate. Holmes sets about investigating immediately, and later that night, solves the case in the very room where the would-be murder was to take place.
I was absolutely surprised by the outcome of this case. The clues were all there, but I didn’t draw the proper conclusions from them. Still, I very much enjoyed the mystery, even though it was interrupted part-way through so I could make myself lunch.
This next case is gory and action-packed, so I advise the reader’s discretion. The case called The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb was one of two referred to Holmes directly by Watson, which came because he received a patient early one morning whose thumb had been sliced off by a cleaver. To Holmes and Watson he recounts his whole tale of the night before and how he came to lose his appendage. If only he’d recognized that mysterious new client for the danger that he was.
This case got my heart racing, which was only made more invigorating by the strength and passion of which it was read aloud. I think it’s my favourite so far.
This next case takes place during a bland rainy autumn afternoon, in which Watson has buried himself in newspapers. The only thing to entertain them is a letter that has arrived for Holmes, and thus The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor begins. The letter is from Lord St. Simon, asking for help from Holmes about the sudden vanishing of his newly wed American wife. Holmes, of course, after hearing information about the case from Watson’s papers, has solved the case even before the entrance of the client later that afternoon.
There was no action in this case, nor anything too exciting, but the mystery was compelling all the same. I was intrigued to hear about the disappearance of the wife on the morning after the wedding, and it was different enough to hear all the information in snippets from newspaper clippings. I also love how Holmes can be so polite and so insulting at the same time; it’s always a laugh!
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet was one mystery that I was mostly able to piece together myself. I had my suspicions right away from the list of characters presented, and I liked that there was an obvious red herring that I could easily determine as innocent.
The case involves three gems stolen from the famous beryl coronet, which was entrusted to a bank manager as insurance for a loan. Believing that the item would be safest with him at all times rather than left at the office, the manager brings it home, where the gems are thus stolen, and he discovers the damaged crown in the hands of the main suspect. Holmes is retained to recover the stolen gems, and in doing so, he proves a man’s innocence.
This final case, the Adventure of the Copper Beeches, was both the slowest to get started, but the easiest for me to make my own theories about. It starts one morning when Holmes is complaining to Watson that there are no new and unique cases—that all criminals have lost their creativity and now he is being bombarded with cases of lost pencils and askance for simple advice. This latest letter asks the simple matter of whether Miss Violet Hunter should accept the job as a governess, as she is suspicious of some of the requirements and the unusually high pay. Upon hearing Holmes’ advice, she takes the job, and weeks later, sends a telegram requesting his presence. From there, she recounts the past few weeks, and Holmes solves the mystery presented to him.
As I mentioned, this case was the easiest to draw my own conclusions from, though it only came to that about halfway through, as Miss Hunter recounted her story. Before that, I wasn’t sure as to what the mystery would be, as it was slow to begin, but not so slow that it was boring. I was drawn in by the strange eccentricities of the employer and listened eagerly for the main issue of the case to present itself.
I see now that I should’ve postponed The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for after reading the other cases (the full books) such as A Study in Scarlett or A Sign of Four, but since the cases are mostly self-contained, have no spoilers, and I already know the characters well enough, I see no harm in it. I am eager to read the rest of the mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and have enjoyed this mini-series of stories in the meanwhile.
I highly recommend reading these to anyone interested in mysteries, though I think you should read the other books first, as this collection is chronologically later than the others.