Sunday 2 January 2011
The Extraordinary Cases of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Anyway, I decided it was high time I tried again, with no accents required. Sherlock Holmes is a freelance detective who uses logic and a scientific method to solve a number of cases from the smallest of clues that others might overlook. His friend Watson records them. This collection contains eight short stories, including "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", "The Reigate Puzzle" and "The Musgrave Ritual".
Score: 3 out of 5
I don't think I am the kind of reader that will ever get the most out of detective stories or mysteries. I know that you are supposed to be trying to solve each case as you go along, and that you're supposed to see if you can outwit Holmes and notice something from the clues, but I'm just not that kind of reader. I'm content just to read and see what happens, so in that sense I didn't solve any of the mysteries for myself. I am impressed with Conan Doyle's construction of the stories though, and how he buries the clues subtly throughout each. I can see why this is regarded as detective writing at it's best.
One problem I had whilst reading the collection was that I found Sherlock Holmes himself to be insufferably smug. At one point, he introduces himself as "My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know" and generally gives off an air of 'I know everything and would tell it to you but your brain is so under-developed you wouldn't be able to understand.' He constantly reminds Watson that he's already solved it, but he doesn't feel like telling Watson about it yet. How annoying would that be in a friend?
Despite all that, I found each story to be engagingly written and I enjoyed the content of the mysteries. My favourite was probably "Speckled Band" because I loved the idea of the crazy step-father preventing his young step-daughters from marrying with a selection of wild animals roaming the grounds. I also liked "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" because I enjoyed how Holmes decoded the new 'language'. In general, each story was action packed, full of old-fasioned things like diamonds, bizarre rituals, snakes, gentleman killers, rubies and chivalrous doctors.
So whilst my opinion of the book has improved since the age of 11, I don't think I'll be hunting down any more Sherlock Holmes as the detective genre maybe just isn't for me. I actually preferred Conan Doyle's "The Lost World" to his Sherlock Holmes mysteries.