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27th September
2010
written by Steph

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not the biggest fan of the short story. I really prefer sustained narratives rather than tiny little bursts of story, and I often find it hard to shift gears from one story to the next. Also, I tend to find that there’s this trend with short stories where the stories just seem to end, often times abruptly, and I’m left wondering what the point of the whole exercise was. When I recently discussed Scarlett Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe, I mused about the notion of the “storyless story” and allowed that it’s something I don’t necessarily mind in my novels. However, I think that I’m anti storyless short stories! With this in mind, the Sherlock Holmes short stories are exactly the kind of story I would like. They’re mini mysteries, each with an obvious beginning, middle, and end, and they’re all sufficiently straightforward that I can just sit back, relax and enjoy. As much as I like giving my mind a workout when I’m reading, sometimes it’s nice to just romp about with a cocaine-addicted, sneering detective and have an adventure or two. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the first collection of short stories featuring Holmes and Watson to be published following Conan Doyle’s first two Holmes novels (A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four). Some of these I know I read when I was younger, but as is the case with most things I read, I certainly didn’t remember much about them when I took them up afresh this time round. They were lots of fun, and I actually found that unlike my previous encounters with this sly sleuth, I was actually able to predict several of the outcomes… Perhaps I’m finally learning Holmes’s tricks of the science of deduction? Normally I’d be perturbed by a mystery that I can solve on my own (rather than making me feel smart, I always feel as though the author was simply not clever enough to outwit me!), it hardly mattered in this case because I feel like the mysteries are only part of the charm of Sherlock Holmes. While it’s always interesting to see this dynamic duo engage in a clever caper, a good part of the fun comes simply from the characterizations that Conan Doyle paints upon the page, which are always remarkably strong and compelling. Additionally, the writing is always zippy and so very British, and you know that those are two things that are sure to tickle and delight me. The stories in this collection expand and further develop the characters of Watson and Holmes, while also introducing another infamous character to the series, Holmes’s one weakness (and one of the few villains to outwit him), the femme fatale Irene Adler. Through these stories, we see Holmes’s incorrigible nature deepen and even Watson comes into this own, his mind sharpening and his purpose serving more than simply a foil to Holmes’s brilliance (and a cipher through which the mysteries are explained to the satisfaction and understanding of the reader). I wouldn't say that any of these are stories that will blow your mind, but they were diverting, quick reads that were satisfying in their bite-size scope. I would certainly be happy to read more, and as I’ve been spending more time knitting, I’ve found that audiobooks are a good way for me to keep pace with my reading desires as well; these stories are actually perfect to listen to while I do other things as they’re engaging enough to hold my interest, yet they are not so complicated that they require intense focus and concentration or are overly confusing to a listener. I am sure I shall become acquainted with The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, the next volume of short stories, in the very near future! Rating: 4 out of 5

14 Comments

  1. 09/27/2010

    Next year my book club is reading Hound of the Baskervilles. I admit, I’m a little intimidated by Sherlock Holmes…

  2. 09/27/2010

    I still haven’t read any of these stories or novels, but every time they pop up on my radar, I get really excited about diving in to the great collection that I have here. I think I kind of agree with your assessment of short stories. Most of them just aren’t for me, but these sound different and like a lot of fun. I am glad that you enjoyed these so much, and I am looking forward to reading them sometime soon!

  3. I’m working my way through these as well, and my favorite thing about them is the characterization. I almost don’t care about the mystery! I read Adventures and Memoirs last year during the holidays, which was perfect. I found that even when things are busy you can squeeze in a Holmes mystery.

  4. JoV
    09/27/2010

    You knit Steph? Wow I’m always impressed with someone who knit! I wish I could do the same! 😀

    I do miss those old days of cosy mystery. No gory stuff, no blood, just spooks and haunts yet riveting. I read Hound of the Baskervilles when I was very young, but I would love to be able to read Sherlock and Agatha Christie one day, again.

  5. taryn
    09/27/2010

    Dude!! “Sherlock”, on BBC1 this past summer, with Tim from the Office (“Mr. Canterbury, Mr. Canterbury Tales…”). Watch it already! 🙂

  6. I haven’t read Sherlock Holmes in forever, but this line in your review made me want to: “… sometimes it’s nice to just romp about with a cocaine-addicted, sneering detective and have an adventure or two.”

    Funny 🙂

  7. 09/28/2010

    Sherlock Holmes is one of those books that I feel like I just “have” to read. I am definitely a bit skeptical of short stories though. Like you, they are not my usual choice.

  8. 09/28/2010

    @ Amanda: Don’t be intimidated! Sherlock is a hoot! Only issue is you don’t much care for mysteries, but I think you’ll find other things to enjoy!
     
    @ zibilee: These are definitely fun short stories that aren’t interested in playing with form or being insightful, they just are plain fun. Nothing wrong with that! 😀
     
    @ Shelley: Yes, these are great for picking up sporadically and you can quickly dip in and out of them. And the characters are really so fun and vivid that even if the mysteries were total flops it would hardly matter!
     
    @ JoV: Just learning to knit, so I’m far from impressive… yet! 😉
    I love me some Sherlock Holmes and some Agatha Christie… they’re so clever and fun without being creepy.
     
    @ taryn: Yes, yes, I know! Telly-watching time has been in short supply of late, but soon!
     
    @ Kim: I admit, I laughed as I wrote that line, too! 😉
     
    @ Stephanie: Don’t start with the short stories! Start at the beginning with A Study in Scarlet. It’s really very good – probably the best Holmes I’ve read thus far!

  9. 09/28/2010

    I read a couple of short Holmes mysteries but the poor detective was too overshadowed by Poirot’s brilliance in my view 🙂 But I do love the cosy British mysteries and I’m getting much better at reading mysteries other than Christie’s so I should give the poor man another chance (even if he’s always running about, picking up clues 😉 ).

  10. 09/28/2010

    Hi, Steph. I am new to your blog. 🙂 I can detect your great enthusiasm for this collection, and it would be a good intro to Sherlock Holmes for me. Well-written review!

  11. 09/29/2010

    @ Bina: I love Poirot too, but I guess I see these two as very different from each other… Either way, Holmes is TONS better than Miss Marple! 😉
     
    @ Suko: Thanks for stopping by! This would definitely be a fine intro to Sherlock Holmes, though I do think Study in Scarlet – the very first Holmes mystery – is the best place to start… it’s also the best mystery too!

  12. 09/29/2010

    You have convinced me I need to try reading Sherlock Holmes again. That’s saying something, as I am not a fan of mysteries generally so I don’t remember enjoying reading it years ago when I did.

  13. 09/30/2010

    Yay, Sherlock! Glad you’re enjoying these. I read them all when I was 12/13 and loved them then. I’ve been wanting to pick them up again, as I know they would still entertain, and like you maybe I would have some fun smart moments. 🙂

  14. 09/30/2010

    @ Rebecca: I hope you have better luck on a second go through. I think there’s a lot here to enjoy even if mysteries are not normally your thing! After all, it’s a great window in Victorian England, which I know you do love!
     
    @ Sarah: Yes, I largely remember these from when I was much younger, but I’m happy to report that they’re just as fun, 15 years down the line!

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