16/11/2013

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

I was about ten when I first came across Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. Staying with a relative, I was hunting for some reading matter, and thought the Sherlock Holmes books sounded interesting. As, indeed, they were.

I know that one of the books I read around that time was ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’, the first of the volumes of short stories. I know that because I also remember being utterly terrified by one of them - ‘The Speckled Band’ - and developed a rather irrational fear of hanging light switches as a result.

I’m pretty sure I re-read this book perhaps fifteen years ago (with the exception of ‘The Speckled Band’!), and then when I spotted it free for the Kindle, I downloaded it some time ago. I was inspired to read it while we were visiting family, and introduced to the recent British TV series 'Sherlock'
based on the famous detective. And, this time, I read the whole book including the chapter that frightened me; I was relieved to discover that from an adult perspective it really wasn’t as bad (or indeed as worrying) as I had found it at then. While Holmes’ habits of heavy smoking and opium use seem shocking today, they were apparently far more acceptable over a hundred years ago.

The fictional character of Sherlock Holmes is famous throughout the world for his incredible observation and brilliant deductions. His job was that of a freelance private detective, and the stories in this book provide a range of different backgrounds, people and crimes or other puzzling circumstances to be solved. The books were written as contemporary stories shortly before the end of the 19th century, but the language used is still quite accessible, and the plots, while rather far-fetched, make very interesting reading.

The twelve short stories in this book, narrated by Holmes’ friend and companion Dr Watson, are supposedly a kind of casebook of some of his more interesting cases. We get the idea that Holmes usually solved everyday problems that didn’t require much ingenuity; but he revelled in problems where the solution was not obvious. We meet him in this volume saving lives, donning fantastic disguises, rescuing people from horrible dooms, and finding jewels. I remembered the outlines of some of the plots, but it didn’t detract at all from my enjoyment at re-reading them.

I don’t know if many of today’s ten-year-olds would find the somewhat rambling style all that interesting, but for eclectic readers, and those who enjoy classics, this is a very readable and enjoyable volume. Probably more appropriate for teens and adults, and unlikely to be of interest to children less than the age of ten - although anyone watching the modernised versions of the stories may be interested in learning about the originals.

So, in general, I would recommend this. The Amazon links are to the paperback version of this, but it can often be found second-hand, and since it’s long out of copyright, it can be found (along with Conan Doyle’s other volumes) free for the Kindle on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews 16th November 2013


1 comment:

maryom said...

It's along while since I've read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories and since the Sherlock series has been on TV I keep meaning to go back and read the originals. Maybe you've given me an extra push to actually do it!