Thursday, 1 November 2012

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes Stories (in 9 books: 4 novels and 5 collections)

I am part way through my mission to read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. It is an exciting journey and I cannot believe that I left it so long before attempting this. I am somewhat of a fan of mystery novels. I have devoured a number of different types by different authors, but the later part of this year I have dedicated to consuming the Sherlock Holmes narrative.

I have just completed The Valley of Fear; I am reading them in the following order:
  • A Study in Scarlet
  • The Sign of Four
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Valley of Fear
  • The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes
  • His Last Bow
I was reading them in this order as it appeared to be roughly publication order (of the compilations not the short stories themselves). Although I am not sure if this is chronologically the best order to read them in. I got a bit confused in terms of when this was set when I read The Valley of Fear because I was led to believe that in "The Final Problem" in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, that Holmes and Watson were talking about Moriarty for the first time. Watson appeared not to know about Moriarty and Holmes had to explain. However, Moriarty appears to be alive in The Valley of Fear so this must be set before "The Final Problem" and yet Watson appears to know all about Moriarty here! I can think only of two explanations:
1. Watson did know about Moriarty and had a lapse of memory during his encounter with Holmes as told in "The Final Problem".
2. The Valley of Fear was written up as a story by Watson after "The Final Problem" and Watson has provided information on Moriarty from Holmes that was supplied at a later date to make the story more detailed retrospectively.

Despite my confusion with the jumping backwards and forwards in time, I have really enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes books and think they could be entertaining read in any order.

The Valley of Fear reminded me of A Study in Scarlet in the way it is broken into two parts. The first part is the present day story of how Sherlock Holmes explains the mysterious events and the second part is the background story which led to the mysterious event occurring. Finally these are brought together and wrapped up. I love the way this is done. I found myself unable to put the book down with an irrepressible eagerness to discover the underlying motives of the main characters. I have seen other people criticise A Study in Scarlet saying that it was not as good as some of the other writings as Conan Doyle was still an inexperienced writer. I did not find this to be the case at all. I will admit however, that at first I was confused and a bit disappointed because it seems like Sherlock Holmes discovers 'whodunnit' without providing you with enough explanation or clues to be able to piece together how he knew. It then appeared to just delve straight into a completely different story. Thankfully I was patient enough to get into the 'other story' and realise that the two were in fact related. I am glad that I stuck with it because the results were fantastic. The break in The Valley of Fear was not so disjointed so it was obviously you were now reading the background story. ;)

At present I cannot pick a favourite. I shall wait until I have finished the collection and then pronounce. Two more to go. Perhaps finished by the end of the year? I have been side-tracked by P.D. James. :)

Before I forget, I recently found that apparently the "world's funniest joke" is suppose to be one involving Sherlock Holmes (according to Wikipedia):

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: "Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you see." Watson replied: "I see millions and millions of stars." Holmes said: "And what do you deduce from that?" Watson replied: "Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth out there. And if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life." And Holmes said: "Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent."