Up until a couple of months ago, I didn’t know anything about Sherlock Holmes, save that he was a detective and that he had a sidekick named Dr. Watson. For whatever reasons, the story of Sherlock Holmes had eluded me; I hadn’t read any of the stories, and I had avoided all the television and film incarnations. So, finally, this summer, I decided to rectify the situation. Not knowing anything about the stories, I figured that the logical way to begin would be to start with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
As soon as I sat down and started reading, I knew I had made some mistake. “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the first story in the book, is clearly not the first Sherlock Holmes story; it opens with no introduction to the characters and assumes that you know what’s happening. I went online and discovered that A Study in Scarlet is actually the first Sherlock Holmes book. But I had The Adventures in my hands already, so I decided to plow ahead and read it.
For a first look into the world of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which comprises of twelve short stories, is an odd book, but I guess that’s what you get when you read works out of order. While reading “A Scandal in Bohemia,” I very nearly gave up because I couldn’t connect to the characters; I felt that something vital was missing in my understanding of both Holmes and Watson. But as I continued reading, the case, after all, intrigued me, and its ending was clever enough for me to continue reading the stories.
But I soon found that I wasn’t quite sure if I enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s presentation of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Most of the stories employ “tell” over “show,” which I found to be tiresome. Essentially, in most stories, someone would come to Holmes and Watson and tell them in detail what he needs help with, and then Holmes would somehow solve the case and explain it to everyone. And by telling the stories through Watson’s point of view, Doyle makes Holmes almost an alien creature, popping up, cracking cases, and then explaining how he did so. In fact, in some of the stories, Holmes disappears from the story while solving the cases, so it is difficult to follow or – dare I say it? – care about what he is doing.
Nevertheless, the stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are intriguing enough that I will likely read more of Doyle’s books. I found “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League” to be rather amusing, whereas “Five Orange Pips” and “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” were among the creepier stories. Certainly, these three were enough to pique my interest in Sherlock Holmes. I hope to read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four, and after that, we’ll see if I decide to read more. But at least now, I’m not completely ignorant about the world of Sherlock Holmes.
If you’ve read any Sherlock Holmes, what was the first one you read? Did it compel you to read any others?