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17. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1891) 309 p.

i say jolly good righto

This collection contains twelve short stories regarding the famous Sherlock Holmes and his perennially flabbergasted assistant Dr. Watson, and I was only required to read one (“A Case of Identity”) for my literary studies class. But since I’d bought the whole book, I figured I might as well finish it off.

And it surprised me by being not half bad – much better than the Maltese Falcon, despite breaking the age record by another forty years. I’m actually formulating a theory about that; my edition of the Maltese Falcon was published in the 70s, while my edition of this was published in the 90s. Every book published in the 70s has a very small and irritating font, leading me to subconsciously dislike it.


I like the characters. They are the kind of men whom you can really picture smoking pipes and speaking to each other in verbose, quick sentences in their upper-class British accents, which appeals greatly to me for reasons I’m unsure of. There’s just something hilarious about those kind of people, who don’t really exist anymore. The plot, as with any anthology of short stories, is sometimes good and sometimes dull. The mysteries are usually fairly interesting, and certainly paint an accurate sketch of London society in the late 19th century. I was also pleased to find that I solved some of them before they were over. It does occasionally require some suspension of disbelief, usually about Holmes’ observational skills. Part of this is the abundance of clues themselves, which reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s quote that “the footprints in the flowerbed were probably, in the real world, left by the window cleaner.”

The other thing that irritated me was that people were constantly amazed by Holmes’ skill, even Watson, who after twenty years of friendship with the detective really should have grown used to it. Worse are his Scotland Yard colleagues, who scoff at his “fanciful” solutions and insist that their solution to the crime is the correct one. In the space of a few stories it was quite easy for me to see that Sherlock Holmes is the Jack Bauer of the Victorian era: he is never, ever wrong, and if you want to solve a problem, just step aside and let him do his thing. Everyone he deals with fails to grasp such an obvious fact despite it being repeatedly shoved in their faces, and if this was typical of people at the time, then I guess I can see why the British Empire fell apart.

Fun fact: Sherlock Holmes was addicted to crack!

Books: 17/50
Pages: 5232

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April 2008