Thursday, April 1, 2010

Adventures with Sherlock Holmes.

The character of Sherlock Holmes is synonymous with the mystery genre. His profile alone adorns books and there is an immediate connection between the shape of his hat, the curve of his pipe, and mystery. Even people who have never read any story or novel starring Sherlock Holmes know who he is. He is the master sleuth, the king of deductions, and the person you would want to call if, heaven forbid, anyone went missing in your family.

Sherlock Holmes is mystery. He has starred in countless films and television shows. His image and persona has been taken on by many, including the dashing Robert Downey Jr. in the 2009 film adaptation (no, I have not seen it. I am merely commenting that Robert Downey Jr, is, in fact, rather dashing). However, it is only in the books that Holmes seems to come alive and capture the hearts of readers.

What really makes my head spin is that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had no intention of continuing on with Holmes as a character. He considered his work with Holmes just a trial and never dreamed that Holmes would become what he did. It was only after public outcry that Doyle wrote more novels and stories starring the sleuth and his ever-present sidekick-Dr. Watson. His flyaway character resulted in 4 complete novels and 5 collections of short stories starring the master sleuth. I bet Doyle never imagined that mystery and Sherlock Holmes would always go hand in hand with each other.

I feel safe in telling you that I have minimal exposure to Holmes, and mystery in general. Granted, I went through a phase in middle school and my freshman year of high school where I read most of Mary Higgins Clark's work, but it was a passing phase. I have also read a few of Agatha Christie's novels, mainly for school. It would probably be safe to say that I simply cannot handle a lot of thriller/mystery novels. I am incredibly jumpy and scream at anything.

I cannot stand suspenseful or scary movies. I get nightmares easily and freak out for weeks afterward. The last scary movie I saw in theaters was I am Legend and I clawed at Matt's arm the entire time. By the time the film was over, I was almost in tears. I simply cannot stand to be surprised.

But I have read some of the Holmes stories. And I have read The Hound of the Baskervilles numerous times. I actually taught The Hound of the Baskervilles during my student teaching year to my ninth graders and really enjoyed it. It is a fast, fun novel that really catches your attention. My ninth graders loved it, and the super cheesy film adaptation we watched at the end of the unit.

I also read a bunch of the Holmes short stories throughout high school and college, and those I read, I loved. I think, more than anything, I love that Holmes is able to solve these crimes of murder and deception without the use of modern devices and knowledge. It makes him seem more of a genius. I love that Doyle doesn't have to give in to little tricks or devices to capture the hearts of his readers. He merely stays true to his character and the crimes he solves.

It makes sense then, that Doyle's work is on the list. When I added it on to my list of classics, I suppose I wasn't really thinking when I wrote "55. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle." On one little line, that word "complete" seems insignificant. Now that I am going to take on the mystery master, it is a little more daunting to realize that while "Book 55" on that original list will only count towards one book completed, it is actually the completion of 4 novels and 5 books of short stories. That is much more than it seems.

So this is how I am going to go about it. I will be reading everything starring Mr. Sherlock Holmes-all 4 novels and 5 books of short stories. They will be read in order of publication as follows:
  1. A Study in Scarlet (novel)
  2. The Sign of the Four (novel)
  3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short stories)
  4. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (short stories)
  5. The Return of Sherlock Holmes (short stories)
  6. The Hound of the Baskervilles (novel)
  7. The Valley of Fear (novel)
  8. His Last Bow (short stories)
  9. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (short stories)
If you haven't noticed yet, in the left hand column there is a progress section, which keeps track of the novels I have read and how many I have left to go. I added a section for Sherlock Holmes, which will be updated as I finish each book. Each book I finish will get its own review and post, and I will be writing a wrap-up post when I eventually finish all 9 books. None of these single titles will be added as a number for a book completed on my master list of finished books. Instead, they have their own section at the bottom of that list, where I will record what I have finished, as well as linking them back to their post (see the above link to see what I mean).

Only after I have finished all 9 books will I add "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" to my finished books list. And while it will only count as 1 out of 250, you and I both know it counts for much more.


  1. scary movies also scare the living daylights out of me but not scary books. I'm pretty sure it's because I am not a visual reader and I don't picture things when I read them. The Holmes stories are fantastic. I remember the Red-Headed League being especially good.

  2. Just dropping by to say I'm so glad you're joining in The Brothers Karamazov read-along! We'll have fun, I'm sure, discussing our impressions and thoughts as we both love the classics. Plus, I'm a teacher of 25 years; don't worry, your job will come.

  3. How cool. I've been meaning to try him as well.

    PS I'm a chicken butt too. My husband told me all about I Am Legend (i.e. eliminating the element of surprise) and I still refuse to watch it.

    I like surprises and mystery...I don't however like watching people suffer or get terrorized.

  4. That is a gorgeous book! (the last one) Is it Barnes and Noble?