2017: my year with Sherlock Holmes

  The Complete Sherlock Holmes  a-curious-collection-of-dates The Sherlock Holmes Book

2017: my year with Sherlock Holmes

As part of the Classics Club, I had decided to read The Hound of the Baskervilles. Well, as I usually tend not to do things halfway, lol, I thought I might as well read all the works about Sherlock Holmes. I actually ended up LISTENING to them, as my experience is that most mysteries are actually much better as audiobooks. Thanks to my library, I was able to listen on Hoopla to all the novels and short stories narrated by the amazing Simon Prebble.
I decided to listen to them in their order of publication.

I have to say, it was a powerful experience, allowing me to  notice recurrent themes or structure of the stories, as well as to discover an evolution as the books came along.

Influenced by the period, I imagine, many characters are handicapped or maimed. It could be due to life conditions and poverty, but also England has just fought its Second Boer War – Watson was there.
And in keeping with emigration, many stories are built on a former adventure that happened a long time ago, for instance in the United States or in Australia. Someone was ill treated, one way or another, and decades later, they seek revenge. It makes for more difficult mysteries to solve, but it also adds a very interesting dimension of historical fiction within the mystery. I actually had no idea I would find that element in these stories. It was a very nice surprise. The first novel, A Study in Scarlet, is typical in that respect, with a long second part taking place in Mormon land.

As for the evolution between books, if you read them in order, you can’t but notice how darker they become, with another war, the big one, looming on the horizon.

I have the feeling one of you is going to ask me if I have a favorite story. I have, that’s The Adventure of the Dancing Men. It’s my favorite because it’s about a mysterious code made with “a series of 15 hieroglyphic-like doodles of matchstick men in various poses”. It’s not the only story with a code, but I found it the most successful.

dancing men

I’m not giving you the clue, so you can read the story and see if you can decipher the message!

I accompanied my reading of each novel and short story with the extraordinary Sherlock Holmes Book (is there any non-extraordinary book published by DK??).
After introductions presenting the author and each of the main characters, each story is summed up, with some extra material on the context and relevant illustrations. I particularly enjoyed the last part on The World of Sherlock Holmes, the society of the time, an analysis on the art of deduction, a presentation on criminology and forensic science, on crime writing, and on detective fiction. It’s really remarkable to see how much Sherlock Holmes influenced forensics. He introduced many techniques still used today.
Then, they speak about adaptation for stage and screen.
Finally, we have a a whole list of Holmes presented by other authors, and of Conan Doyle’s other works. It’s ironic that we have totally forgotten all his historical novels, which he thought were best!
AND the graphics are fabulous!

And to make it a full Sherlock Holmes year, I also daily read a vignette from A Curious Collection of Dates. It’s a fun collection, for every day of the year, of events related closely or more loosely to Sherlock Holmes: it could be the day when a story is supposed to start (and boy, Sherlockians can have heated debates on the chronology of the stories!), or of course a day in the life of Conan Doyle, his marriage for instance,  or the birthday of an actor who played the detective, or about people mentioned in a story, Wombwell and Stanger, for example, or the inventor of a weapon now named after him and who is mentioned also in a story.
Please come this way to Lucy’s blog to read a much more detailed presentation of this work, as well as a fascinating interview of its authors. Thanks again to Lucy, I won the book in a contest she organized!

VERDICT: If you love mysteries, you definitely need to read or listen to the complete Sherlock Holmes, to see the character of a detective in one of his first and most complete presentations. I highly encourage you to have the DK’s Sherlock Holmes Book near you, to better understand the bigger picture where Sherlock fits in. And finally, for fun and for all the possible trivia on Sherlock, you also need A Curious Collection of Dates.


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What’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes story?

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34 thoughts on “2017: my year with Sherlock Holmes

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  2. Lovely! You characterize the whole arc of the canon of stories very beautifully and insightfully. Listening to all the stories on audio was a great way to get the big picture, along with all the fascinating and mysterious details. I like the historical fiction mysteries too! And I would cite The Adventure of the Dancing Men as a favorite as well. Another favorite of mine is The Naval Treaty with Holmes’ reflection on beauty that ends “so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

    Thanks for the kind mention and the link to my review and interview with Jaime and Leah!


  3. Although I don’t ordinarily listen to audio book, I can definitely see that Sherlock’s many adventures could be very enjoyable, especially with a good reader. I’m VERY slowly working my way through the entire Sherlock Holmes canon, in a book that attempts to put them all in chronological order.


  4. I’m hoping that one day I will too, read the Sherlock Holmes books in order as you have done.
    I’m adding the Dk book to my wishlist before I do so though!

    I have read the Tragedy of the Korvoso (spelling incorrect, but you get the gist) & thoroughly enjoyed the writing. So can recommend it next for you 😊


  5. You certainly throw yourself into these projects whol heartedly. Reading the Sherlock book along with the fiction was a great idea. Nderstanding the context in which a work of fiction was produced often enriches the experience for me though I don’t do it often.


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  7. So glad you enjoyed Holmes! I’ve been a huge fan since I was about 10, and The Dancing Men is my favourite story too. Did you know you can get a dancing men font to download and write your own secret messages? Haha – yes, I admit it – these things appeal greatly to my inner child… 😉


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