Sherlock Holmes is a cantankerous, brilliant man with an infectious laugh, reckless habits, and a great sense of compassion. One of the best things about Sherlock Holmes is that, like another strange genius most of us love, each generation has their own Holmes, with a new face and slightly different quirks. That’s what makes Holmes lasting and immortal, as he is reinvented by directors and actors, from Rathbone to Downey, Jr. to Cumberbatch. The same goes for his trustworthy partner, Dr. Watson, who has remained a steadfast and endearing companion through countless film and TV versions.
But in the end, where would we be if it wasn’t for the stories, in the first place? Whether films and series interpret the existing stories, or use them as a departure point for new episodes that seem in line with Holmes and Watson’s adventures (BBC’s Sherlock has done a good job of that), Doyle’s stories are still the source. So, in the spirit of appreciation, I’ve put together a short list of a few of my favorites (it was so hard to narrow it down). So if you haven’t had a chance to read Doyle’s mysteries before, I hope this peaks your curiosity. I admit, all my favorite stories are from the first three volumes written by Doyle (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and The Return of Sherlock Holmes). The e-books are available for download for free.
Now then, the list in an arbitrary order of preference. I’ve done my best to avoid any major spoilers.
1) The Adventure of the Speckled Band (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) This story combines some of the best elements present not just in Sherlock Holmes stories, but mystery stories in general. (Doyle also considered it his favorite Holmes story and I’m obviously in agreement.) There is a damsel in distress, an intriguing and eerie death, and a cold-hearted father figure. It’s an example of a “locked room mystery,” where Holmes and Watson have to figure out the nature of the crime that took place in a supposedly locked and inaccessible room. Plus, if you’re into satisfying endings where the bad guys get their just rewards in the best way possible, this one has it, too.
2) The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) The Industrial Revolution brought with it many new and exciting elements to be included in mystery fiction of the time. In this case file, Watson recounts the story of a young hydraulic engineer who arrives at the Baker Street digs with a severed thumb and a confusing story that needs to be untangled. It’s a creepy little story (no supernatural elements – just criminals) that made me really terrified about enclosed spaces when I read it as a kid.
3) The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes) In short, this is a story about a man’s disappearance and about a secret society with its mysterious rituals. Holmes deciphers the hidden meaning in the riddle that