The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Updated: 4 days ago

The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Wordsworth Classics, 1992)

For this Mysteries on Monday posting, I'm reviewing stories about the most famous fictional detective of all time. Who doesn't love Sherlock Holmes?

Many of the most iconic Sherlock Holmes stories are told in full-length fiction such as The Hound of the Baskervilles, however this five-hundred-page volume of short stories presents 23 tales that absolutely encapsulate the best features of Sherlock Holmes detective stories.

Twelve 'adventures' form the first half of the book starting with A Scandal in Bohemia. This is a taut little narrative featuring the central elements of the relationship between Holmes and Watson, the use of disguise to amuse the reader while also advancing the plot and the detective's unparalleled art of observation and deduction. This story is also important because it contains a rare personal note for Holmes: the attraction he feels for his nemesis Irene Adler, who is always (to Sherlock Holmes) 'the woman'.

My personal favourite in this section was The Speckled Band because of the snake, which is used to kill one sister and almost murders another. Murder mysteries are choc full of unusual means to slay the victim, and they sometimes get out of hand and verge on being ridiculous. Not so here. This plot was audacious and unexpected while also being simple to understand once Holmes explained it. The genius lay in his deduction of a very odd way to do away with someone and in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's layering up of fact upon fact so that the strangeness is accepted by the reader and suspension of disbelief is never violated.

The second half, the Memoirs, was published separately a year later, in 1893. Together they form the early canon of Sherlock Holmes stories, after which there would be a lengthy hiatus until The Hound of the Baskervilles was published in 1902. The last story in the Memoirs is The Final Problem, during which Watson concludes that Holmes and his arch rival Moriarty fell to their deaths locked in a fatal struggle.

It was a long time for loyal readers to wait to discover that Holmes had survived, with The Return of Sherlock Holmes not being published until 1905. By the time the Adventures and the Memoirs were published Sherlock had won the public's heart, and it was not for want of trying that loyal readers and publishers alike had to wait for nine years to 1902 for another story to appear.

The cover of The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle shows Holmes and Moriarty fighting.
The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My personal favourite in the Memoirs is The Crooked Man. This strikes an unusually personal tone, with the return of a long-lost returning lover who has suffered terribly in intervening years causing havoc in the sedate, middle-aged, married life of the victim and his wife. I've seldom felt so little sympathy for a dying man as in this story.

The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is such a great place to start with Sherlock Holmes narratives. Each tale is tense and tightly written. There's a lot of variety in the setting and characterisation. I was also struck by how varied the endings were. Sometimes, the criminal escapes and justice is meted out via a subsequent gristly end rather than a prompt criminal trial within the English legal system. It intrigued me because we are very used in modern detective fiction to the story ending with an arrest rather than an escape.

Thank you for reading my review of The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The comments section is open for you to share your thoughts, and I'll see you on Wednesday.

You can buy The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as an e-book here or as an audiobook here. You can subscribe to my blog here.

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested in reading my review of The Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene here. Or you might like to take a look at my review of Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers here.

If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover here.

Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Classic
  • Twitter Classic
  • Google Classic