Daily Archives: February 26, 2013

Review ~ The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes, you can read the final twelve stories that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about his brilliant detective.

It is perhaps the most unusual and certainly the darkest collection that he penned. Treachery, mutilation, and the terrible consequences of infidelity are just some of the themes explored in this collection, along with atmospheric touches of the gothic involving a blood-sucking vampire, crypts at midnight, and strange bones in a furnace.

The challenging and often bizarre tales reflect the mood of the 1920s when they were written. Amid this grey miasma of crime stands the shining figure of Sherlock Holmes who is there to unravel even the most baffling mystery. (via Goodreads)

I decided to start my rereading of the Holmes canon (before I read A Study in Scarlet a few weeks back) with the collection I’m least familiar: The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. There might be good reason for my lack of familiarity. While I checked out ALL THE HOLMES from the public library when I was about ten, my rereads have been based on cheap editions (like Dover’s $1 paperbacks) or “collectors” editions (like the gilt-edged Franklin Mint books). Both of these rely on public domain to keep costs down. In the US, the copyright for stories included in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes does not end until 2016-2023, nearly 100 years after their initial publication. Ebooks has relieved this problem somewhat. There have been a couple free/cheap licensed-by-the-estate complete Holmes editions online, discovered with a little searching.

In all, yes, an odd assortment of tales. The tones vary. The POVs vary. In a couple cases, there is some question as to whether Doyle is the author of a specific story. Though not a Doyle scholar, I offer this view: Doyle had been writing Holmes stories on and off for 40 years (while writing novels and a slew of short stories). Wouldn’t you expect an author to maybe play around with the characters and the story at year 30+? Below are a few notes I took while reading. Your mileage may vary.

“The Adventure of the Illustrious Client” – This would be the “terrible consequences of infidelity” tale. Worth noting: Sebastian Moran is alluded to as still alive.  Has there been any further adventures with Shinwell (Porky) Johnson? Also, Holmes gets beaten to a pulp and admits to believing that women are unfathomable.  Watched the Jeremy Brett version of this story. The Baron is neither handsome nor sinister. Kitty’s actions are given a more solid reason and the scene in which Holmes retrieves the Baron’s diary is more chilling. (Read 12/29/2012)

“The Adventure of the Blanche Soldier” – Holmes narrates. An adventure that happens while Watson is off being selfishly married. Rather gothic in its sensibilities; strange house, strange people. Another old friend helps with the investigation, unnamed. Holmes is well-connected by this point in his career. (Read 01/03/13)

“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” – Includes Billy the page. Have we met Billy before? Third person POV. The only time that the POV was noticeably different from the Watson-first-person POV is when Watson is in the room. It’s rather jarring to not have Watson speak about himself. The story includes quite a bit of Watson-not-present action that would be clumsy to retell as is the usual habit of relaying Watson-not-present action. Unfortunately, this tale is dependent on the utter incompetence of its villains. (Read 01/06/13)

“The Adventure of the Three Gables” – Starts off with a “comic interlude” featuring a negro. Oh, Mr. Doyle. You were a man of your time… Another compatriot mentioned, Langdale Pike, a society writer. The Granada episode pads out this rather thin story with an exchange between Holmes and Pike, and a fist fight between Watson and the black pugilist (of course, he’s a pugilist). Spoiler for the TV episode, Watson loses. (Read 01/14/13)

“The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” – Pretty simple case. I am amused by this quote in light of Doyle’s investigations into spiritualism: “The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.”  Also puts in mind Shakespeare’s quote: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Read 01/20/13)

“The Adventure of the Three Garridebs” – Speaking of Shakespeare, the next tale begins, “It may have been a comedy, or it may have been a tragedy.” (The two stories follow one another in most collections of these tales.) Use of telephone! (Read 01/20/13)

“The Problem of Thor Bridge” – Another hot-blooded South American woman. We have some practical experimentation in this one. (Read 01/24/13)

“The Adventure of the Creeping Man” – Veers slightly into the realm of science fiction, using impossible science. Could be a weird companion piece to Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” A great mini-anthology would be those two stories and Ysabeau Wilce’s “Hand in Glove.” (Read 01/30/13)

“The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” – This it the other story told in first person from Holmes’ point of view. I don’t ever remember reading this story before (though I probably have), but manged to figure out what had happened from the start. (Read 02/07/13)

“The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” – Among lost adventures: the politician, the lighthouse and the trained cormorant. Doyle was just screwing with his readers at this point, wasn’t he? Again, a Gothic sensibility, the woman with he mutilated, veiled face. And the circus! But this is no case at all, just a tale. It does show Holmes to have some sympathy. (Read 02/17/13)

“The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place” – Watson has a gambling problem? This case is strangely told with the client starting with the least important facts first. Not a great way to woo a reader into the story. The last Holmes story to be written, though not the last in the American edition of Case-book. It’s a fairly good tale that probably could have been better told. The Granada Television adaptation features a young Jude Law. (Read 02/18/13)

“The Adventure of the Retired Colourman” – Holmes is busy with the case of two Coptic patriarchs, so Watson is on the case. (Poor Watson.) Do previous collections have so many mentions of other cases? I don’t recall. Much telephone use. Mr. Barker, Holmes’s rival: “My hated rival upon the Surrey Shore.” (Has there been any Mr. Barker fiction? Surely.)

Genre: Mystery
Why did I choose to read this book? I’m rereading Holmes and decided to start with the stories I’m least familiar with.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes
Craft Lessons: Doyle excels at crisp, untagged dialogue. Conversations aren’t entirely reactive. Holmes drives them.
Format: Kindle eText
Procurement: Kindle store