• The Good: Holmes! Watson!
  • The Bad: Forget what you know from the adaptations, this is the real deal.
  • The Literary: “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. “

From his residence at 221B Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes solves a series of baffling and bizarre cases as recounted to the reader by his faithful friend and colleague, Dr. John Watson. This third installment is a collection of twelve short stories, originally published serially in The Strand Magazine between July 1891 and June 1892.

Reading the Holmes tales in order, this is the first time experiencing Sherlock in the short story format, as the first and second installments are the two novels A Study in Scarlet and A Sign of Four. The short story form is perfection. Every story follows a similar format, with the introduction of the case, some background, a visit to the scene in question, Holmes solving the case, and Holmes revealing the details. But every story is a treat.

The Watson-Holmes dynamic is perfection, as Watson plays the straight everyman to Holmes’ genius. I love that the cases tend toward exploration of injustices toward those with less power, as if aristocratic privilege was beginning to lose its hold. Holmes himself is tempered by his idiosyncrasies of playing dress up and falling under the spell of addiction.

My favorite stories include:

  • A Scandal in Bohemia. Starring Irene Adler, or The Woman, who outsmarts Sherlock in the first story. Adaptations usually make her a love interest, but none of that is in the original story. The satisfaction lies in Holmes’ ability to learn and grow after their interaction.
  • The Adventure of the Speckled Band. Filled with suspense and horror, Helen Stoner is terrified she will die in the same bed her sister died in two years previous, when her stepfather says she must sleep in there the nights before her upcoming wedding.
  • The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. Violet Hunter accepts a position as a governess despite unusual conditions, including being required to cut her hair, because the post pays so well. After a series of strange occurrences and the discovery of a sealed off wing of the house, Violet consults the experts.