Thursday, December 3, 2009

Short Stories: Continued!

It's only 22 more days until the Sherlock Holmes movie, but I've decided not to find out what the screenwriter has chosen as the main plot. It could be any one of the many, many tales that Doyle wrote about his cunning detective, so here are the reviews for eight more short stories—any one of these could be in the film!

From The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"The Adventure of the Norwood Builder"

Synopsis—A young man is accused of murdering an old builder after the builder, a complete stranger, makes the young man the benefactor of his will. Can Sherlock Holmes find the real murderer before the young man is executed?
Comments—This one starts off very well because for once Watson is smart enough to pick up on some clues on his own. When the young man first enters Holmes and Watson's residence on Baker Street, Holmes declares that the man is "a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an asthmatic." Usually these kinds of deductions confound Watson, but not this time. It's also a curious case in that Holmes comes his closest so far to failing completely.

"The Adventure of the Dancing Men"

Synopsis—Holmes and Watson are approached by a man in a happy marriage whose wife has been acting strangely. The only clue he has as to why her attitude has changed is a slip of paper covered in a series of stick figure drawings.
Comments—Eh, alright. I like when there are diagrams and pictures and things like that to break up the monotony of a block of text, but how many stories can Doyle come up with that turn out to involve old lovers? Not his best work.

"The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist"

Synopsis—A beautiful young music teacher begins to fear for her life when a strange man begins following her on her weekly bicycle route. Sherlock Holmes is brought in to discover who the man is and what he wants.
Comments—This one is pretty clunky. There are all kinds of clues strewn throughout, but without any real twists or turns at all. The explanation at the end almost isn't even worth it. I must say that it does include some of Doyle's better descriptions of setting, but honestly, who care?

"The Adventure of the Priory School"

Synopsis—Holmes and Watson are hired by the head of a priory school to find the missing son of one of England's most decorated subjects. One of the school's teachers is missing as well, could the two have gone off together?
Comments—Following two lackluster stories, "The Adventure of the Priory School" comes out of nowhere as a fantastic piece of writing. Doyle plants so many false leads and twists the results around so well that I couldn't help but be pleased with the final result. Not only that, but this one also includes a cute little map. Maps are fun.

"The Adventure of Black Peter"

Synopsis—A constable named Stanley Hopkins, a young protégé of Holmes', tries to solve the murder of Black Peter Carey on his own, but ends up coming to Baker Street for some help. Not many people liked Black Peter, but someone hated him enough to nail him to a wall with a harpoon!
Comments—Similar to the "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder," a man who had visited the victim shortly before the murder is suspected of the crime, and it's up to Holmes to clear the man before he reaches the gallows. I wasn't very impressed by any of the particulars of this case, although it was nice to see a new character introduced.

"The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton"

Synopsis—Holmes is asked to pay off Charles A. Milverton, a terrible man who makes his living by paying for incriminating letters and then blackmailing people. What will Holmes do, though, if Milverton's price is too steep?
Comments—I liked this one a lot. It wasn't a mystery, so it was nice to break out of the usual formula, and it involves Holmes making some questionable decisions, which adds a depth of character. Nicely done.

"The Adventure of the Six Napoleons"

Synopsis—There's a madman in London breaking in to houses and destroying busts of Napoleon. Scotland Yard enlists the aid of Sherlock Holmes in order to put the man away in a mental institution, but is something more sinister afoot?
Comments—I don't like when the stories are obvious right from the beginning, and this one had all the subtlety of an Indian elephant. Wait, what? The man is looking for something inside the busts?!?! Noooooo, you don't say?

"The Adventure of the Three Students"

Synopsis—Holmes and Watson visit a small university town and stumble upon a small university mystery! Can Holmes discover who stole the answers to the Fortescue Scholarship application exam before the cheater sits down to take the test?
Comments—It's refreshing whenever Holmes and Watson are looking into a mystery that isn't life or death. It makes the story more fun in general. There were a lot of different things going on in this one that made it difficult to clearly predict the ending, but more importantly I enjoyed reading it.

Make sure you tune in tomorrow for the Daily Genoshan's next Sherlock Holmes novel review, The Sign of Four!

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