Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Short Stories of Sherlock Holmes: New Wednesday Supplement!

Welcome, Genoshans, to the first installment of my new weekly supplement: The Short Stories of Sherlock Holmes! In honor of the new Sherlock Holmes film that's coming out Christmas Day, I decided it might be fun to go through the detective's entire canon (I was lucky enough to pick up The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Volumes I & II from Barnes & Noble for only $12!). Each Wednesday leading up to Christmas, I'll review 8 of Doyle's 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories. Then, as the release of the film draws closer, I'll review the four Sherlock Holmes novels as well. Due to the number of reviews this involves, I'm going to modify my usual numbering system and condense it significantly. All the short stories will include a brief description, followed by a review, and will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5. When I review the novels, I'll go into greater detail as to who Sherlock Holmes and his faithful assistant Dr. John Watson are, since that knowledge isn't actually all that crucial to enjoying these shorter works. I don't expect all of you to read every Sherlock Holmes story Doyle ever wrote, but hopefully this will help those of you who are interested find stories that you'd definitely enjoy!

From Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"A Scandal in Bohemia"

Synopsis—The King of Bohemia asks Holmes to retrieve a compromising photograph currently in the possession a past mistress, one Irene Adler.
Comments—A great introduction into the methods and characterization of Holmes and Watson. This one also lets readers know that, no matter how impressive the great Sherlock Holmes may be, he's still far from perfect.

"The Red-Headed League"

Synopsis—A red-headed man approaches Holmes in regards to the unexpected loss of a cushy job that the man had recently attained just for having red hair! Holmes, though, thinks that something sinister is afoot.
Comments—This one was kind of a stretch. Sometimes you can almost see what Holmes is thinking, but the results of this one come literally out of nowhere. All of these are unbelievable to an extent, but "The Red-Headed League" was a little too much for me.

"A Case of Identity"

Synopsis—A woman's fiance disappears on the day of their wedding. Could it have anything to do with her stepfather's objections?
Comments—Some of these stories are about terrible crimes with sinister motives involving cruel individuals, but many are just flippant curiosities. "A Case of Identity" is playful and enjoyable, and does a great job showing readers that Sherlock Holmes doesn't just deal with murders and jewel thefts.

"The Boscombe Valley Mystery"

Synopsis—A young man is accused of killing his father, and Holmes is brought in to consult on the case.
Comments—This is probably my favorite so far. In some of the stories I could kinda figure out who the culprit was ultimately going to be, and this was one of them, but the motives were totally unexpected. I like knowing that even the mysteries that seem easy to solve might have more to them than just "who done it."

"The Five Orange Pips"

Synopsis—Mysterious letters from the KKK prelude death to all who receive them! Holmes must find a way to stop these evil men before they strike again.
Comments—It's interesting seeing the KKK as this esoteric, post-Civil War organization, as opposed to the more modern group that showed up during the civil rights movement, but that doesn't pull this one through. It's a curiosity as far as Holmes stories go, though; looking back, all of the events that transpire would've happened with or without Holmes' intervention.

"The Man with the Twisted Lip"

Synopsis—A woman's husband goes missing, so she enlists the help of Holmes and Watson to track him down. The last place she saw him: a vile opium den!
Comments—I was so disappointed by "The Man with the Twisted Lip." I figured it out really early, and was hoping for some kind of twist that would cancel out my deduction, like in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery," but I ended up being right. It made it really uninteresting.

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle"

Synopsis—A friend of Sherlock Holmes' discovers a stolen jewel inside his Christmas goose. It's up to Holmes to determine how it got there.
Comments—Eh, I guess this was alright. It was fun watching Holmes and Watson work backwards from the stolen item for once, instead of trying to find something. Other than that it was just okay.

"The Adventure of the Speckled Band"

Synopsis—A distressed young woman approaches Sherlock Holmes when the terrifying events that led to the death of her sister seem to be repeating themselves.
Comments—"The Adventure of the Speckled Band" is one of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories. It's the first of the short stories that presents Holmes not just as an intellectual, but as a powerful adversary to those who would stand in his way. It also has a ton of interesting twists, I liked this one a lot.

So there you have it, Genoshans, the first installment of my new Wednesday Sherlock Holmes supplement. Next week I'll have eight new stories, moving right into Doyle's second book of Holmes short stories, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. And don't forget to come back Friday for the regular, weekly book review! This week's title is scandalous, to say the least.

Keep reading, Genoshans!

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting to see your takes on these tales and compare them with a poll of Holmes enthusiasts (Best Sherlock Holmes Stories). You agree that The Speckled Band is excellent, but you rate Boscombe Valley very high while Sherlockians put it at 29th of 56. Conversely they rate Red-Headed League as the second best story overall while you gave it middling grades.

    There's no right and wrong of course, but it is interesting to see how opinions differ.


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