The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a review

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Every. Single. Sherlock story. This collection from Penguin comes in at 1122 pages. And I read it in a week. Ejit πŸ˜‚

The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This collection includes all of the short story collections, as well as the longer standalone short stories. These are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear, His Last Bow, and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.

In a slightly backwards step, I read The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes first. It was the only short story collection in there that I hadn’t read a single story from, and I was reading this to fulfil the prompt for MiddleEarthAThon of reading a short story collection. Unfortunately this was also one of my least favourites out of the collection. This was the very last thing Conan Doyle wrote for Sherlock and he was pretty fed up of him by this point. It shows. These cases were really easy to solve, I was solving them straight away. They just had a lot less care put into them.

But I wasn’t being deterred! I went back to the start and continued reading this collection! After watching so many adaptations, it was quite odd to read some of these original stories for the first time. Because I knew the plot so well I’d just assumed before that I’d already read them, but I’m pretty sure now that I hadn’t. So at least I’ve fixed that!

A Study in Scarlet is the first ever Sherlock story, introducing Holmes and Watson to the public, as well as to each other. We have American’s being mysterious murdered on our shores, apparently due to their relation to some sinister groups that have been growing in power in the US and the UK. This is a fantastic introduction to these characters and definitely a staple for any Holmes fan.

The Sign of Four is where we meet Watson’s future wife. A young woman comes to consult Holmes, she is mysteriously receiving a large pearl each year but this year she has apparently been contacted by the provider, wanting to meet with her. This unfortunately is laced with racism, with the story having an Indian setting and the thoughts of the time coming out in full force. The actual mystery is still interesting, but because of the racism I wouldn’t place this as a staple.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes contains a lot of the core short stories, but it also contains a fair few that our detective never manages to solve. The primary of these being our first introduction to The Woman, Irene Adler, in A Scandal in Bohemia. A great collection.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes are where we first meet Moriarty, and also where Holmes and Moriarty visit Reichenbach falls. The rest of the short stories in this collection are a little tame, although enjoyable. But The Final Problem is definitely worth a read. Conan Doyle had wanted this to be the final Holmes story, but the public didn’t agree.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes involves the detective coming back from his presumed death, and that story itself is great fun. There are 13 other stories in this collection which are interesting and a little bit tricky. Again Conan Doyle wanted to end things here for Sherlock, and again he failed, but The Second Stain is an interesting (attempt at a) final short story which I really enjoyed.

The Hounds of the Baskervilles is a classic for a reason, this is an engrossing story and one which Conan Doyle was the most proud of I believe. It’s so in depth and well crafted, even knowing the story from adaptations I still wasn’t exactly sure what was coming on the next page. This is an absolute staple and is arguably the best of all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Valley of Fear is one that is a lot more niche. I’ve seen adaptations of it of course, but it’s definitely less prevalent. Moriarty is involved in this story, but primarily in the background. Instead we follow a man who is being hunted for acts he committed in the US. I found the UK side of the story fine, but I didn’t enjoy Conan Doyle’s writing once we moved across the pond and followed these events first-hand. Although I can’t deny that they were interesting.

And finally, because of my weird reading order, His Last Bow. In this collection Holmes has been drawn out of retirement to assist the Government during the approach of the First World War, and we see him assisting the Prime Minister. But we also are provided, thanks to Watson, stories from Holmes’ earlier cases that are no longer restricted from being told. This wasn’t one of my favourites, but I did still enjoy it.

Overall, I’m so so glad that I’ve finally read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories! And even for those stories that I didn’t love, I did enjoy all of them. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing in the Holmes stories is one I greatly enjoy, and whilst I’ve heard that his writing in other works is not the same, I would like to try some of his non-Holmes stories.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving an average of 7.29 and a 4* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: drug addiction, death, body shaming, racial slurs, racism, misogyny, ableism, forced marriage, homophobia, kidnapping, murder, domestic violence (referenced).

I still can’t quite believe that I managed to read this in a week, but I’m glad that I managed it! I’m also really glad that I’m now able to say definitively that I’ve read all of the Sherlock works. These are classics for a reason and were a lot of fun to read, but I might be all Sherlocked out for a little bit πŸ˜…

Have you read any Sherlock books? Whether the originals from Conan Doyle or any of the myriad of adaptations? I’ve read a fair few of the retellings and the adaptations over the years, as well as watching them! There’s just something about Holmes that the public can’t get enough of.

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10 thoughts on “The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a review”

  1. It really is incredible how much you managed to read 😍and I definitely will pick up at least some of these sometime. I’m sure I probably have read a retelling – but nothing immediately comes to mind. I adored the films with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law though

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I don’t know if I could do it again πŸ˜‚ That’s one I’ve actually not seen yet, I need to! I’ve seen BBCs Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary mainly

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      1. Both of which I also love 😍 but the cinematography just gets me in the films – and the soundtrack. I was, and still am, obsessed. I hope you enjoy if you do give them a go!

        Liked by 1 person

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