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

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Throwback Thursday ~ A Study in Scarlet

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Checkout today’s Throwback Thursday link up for details on the TT giveaway!

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

In the debut of literature’s most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes. (via Goodreads)

This is another multiple bird post, A Study in Scarlet being the 7th book I’ve read this year. I read the original and skimmed a “remastered” version by Leo Zanav. Also, I realize. Holmes…again.

It’s been a very long time since I read A Study in Scarlet. I had forgotten that it starts slow. There’s a lot of Watson background. It’s also a ways into the narrative before we really see Holmes at work. But, if I were reading this for the very first time, especially if I didn’t know who Sherlock Holmes was, his off-stage introduction would be very intriguing. The “remastered” version cuts pretty much to the chase, leaving Watson firmly in the background. I’m not going to cast too many judgements of this retelling for that, most of the language in the story is Doyle’s, though I am going to roll my eyes at the perceived need to quicken it up for a modern audience. Doyle’s original is pretty compelling even without Sherlock on stage all the time. Doyle’s sort of left-field switch to an American west flash-back (curtailed in the retelling) serves a purpose, to firmly set up the killer’s motives. But again, every Holmes story has been told and retold in so many ways that it’s difficult to be overly upset about it if you’re accepting of most adaptations.

The thing that did bug me is the sanitation of a few things in the “remastered” version. The Criterion is no longer a bar, but a bookstore. The subjects of the postmortem bruising experiments are dead animals when I’m pretty sure that Doyle meant to be rather sensational in suggesting that they were human bodies. There is of course some changing of tone concerning Mormonism and the “Avenging Angels” but far less than some of the reviews of the rewritten version would have you believe. In all, these changes just seem pointless. Read the original, it’s better.

The one thing that stuck me during this reread is how young these characters seem. Sherlock is overly enthusiastic about his hemoglobin reagent experiment and vital in his mannerisms. Watson isn’t returning from being a career soldier; he’s only old enough to have been through med school and briefly seen action before getting shot in the shoulder. When he returns to England, he’s pretty much a late twenty-something trying to figure out what to do with his life. (Doyle was 27 when A Study in Scarlet was published.)

Speaking of adaptations, I was also surprised at how many elements of the originals that the current BBC Sherlock incorporates into its episodes. I’d forgotten the importance of the cabby and the pills in this story. Both elements are used in a pretty creative way by the show’s premier episode “A Study in Pink.” I’ll leave you with the iconic moment of Holmes and Watson meeting, 21st century style.

Genre: Mystery
Why did choose to read this book? I do not tire of Sherlock Holmes.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes.
Craft Lessons: Is it really necessary to start with a bang? Hinting at a character’s character is maybe more interesting than purely showing.
Format: Kindle ebook.
Procurement: FREE at Amazon.com (though I can’t find it in their catalog now…)

Mystery/Crime Challenge

Throwback Thursday ~ Young Sherlock Holmes

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Movie directed by Barry Levinson, written by Chris Columbus, produced by Steven Spielberg; based on the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle


If you’ve visited this blog at all, it should come as no surprise that I am a fan of most things Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are the first literature I remember utterly devouring. During one summer in the 80s, I went through pretty much the entire canon. Doubtless, my interest in Holmes was probably sparked by two things. The first, the Granada TV series featuring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes which debuted in 1984. (Which could be the subject of a Throwback Thursday too, but I’m probably going to talk about that series a lot as I reread the canon this year.) The second, Young Sherlock Holmes.

I didn’t see this movie at the theaters, but caught it quickly when it was released on cable. As with much Sherlock Holmes pastiche, you have to turn a slightly blind eye to canon and just sort of go with it. Instead of Holmes and Watson meeting during the events of A Study in Scarlet,  they first encounter one another as boys at a boarding school. When his eccentric mentor dies after suffering from panic-inducing hallucinations, Holmes is on the case. This movies is good fun. The characters are fairly true in spirit. Holmes is overbearing, pompous, and a know-it-all, which is pretty much required. Watson is a bit on the bumbling side, but is the grounding factor in Holmes’ life. The movie is a full-on 1980s Spielberg adventure. Young, daring heroes smartly solve problems amid a movie filled with eye candy. Young Sherlock Holmes features the first fully computer generated character: a stained glass knight that features prominently in one of the hallucinations. The effects hold up pretty well considering that the movie is nearly 30 years old!

Why watch it/read it today? Right now is a great time to dip into the Holmes mythos. Two of the three current franchises would seem to owe a debt to Young Sherlock Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock could be an on older, slightly more severe version of Nicholas Rowe’s wavy-haired Holmes, and Guy Ritchie’s action-filled movies could be direct sequels. Well, after Watson gives up custard tarts.  (CBS’s Elementary is the exception, and still good TV.) Doyle created an enduring character with Holmes and popularized mysteries solved through ratiocination. The stories are still entertaining, quick reads.

Book #37 ~ What We Saw At Night

This book was provided to me by Soho Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Cover via Goodreads

WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT is the story of three outsiders, teens with a deadly allergy to sunlight that forces them to live a life opposite of everyone in their small hospital town. When they discover the extreme sport Parkour, it seems that they’ve finally found something uniquely theirs—even if leaping from buildings in the dark feels somewhat suicidal. But the stakes go far higher when they witness a horrible crime while practicing on an allegedly empty building. Worse: what they see, sees them, too. (via Soho Press)

I decided to read this despite it being YA because the premise sounded fairly interesting. I want to read more mysteries and thrillers, and this seemed to fit an interesting niche. Mitchard avoids some of the things that particularly annoy me about YA. The “does he/doesn’t he” love story is pretty much “he does” and the passages about fashion are minimal. As a teen with xeroderma pigmentosum, Allie’s musings about the her future (according to Wikipedia: “Fewer than 40% of individuals with the disease survive beyond the age of 20. Some XP victims with less severe cases do manage to live well into their 40s.”) are much less maudlin than many other teen heroines’ might be. Additionally, Mitchard has a nice way with prose. The writing is crisp and clear and sprinkled with enough slang and new grammar to make the characters sound young, but smart. The passages about XP and Parkour slowed the plot down, but were interesting none-the-less. Not needed was the recounting of Allie’s research into serial killers. I can see where her interest in forensics sets up future books, but it felt a little tacked on.

As most books are, this one isn’t quite what the blurb says it is. The conflict isn’t just between these teens and a murderous villain, but between the members of the group. Information is kept from each other…and parents…and police. It becomes a little too necessary to the plot that Allie not pass on information. As a genre, mysteries  are all about the gaining and passing of information, whether from character to character or author to audience. Situations may confound the flow of facts, but there were a few moments in this book that I thought, “There’s no reason not to go to the police now…” Allie’s justifications for not doing so didn’t seemed compelling. (The 1986 film River’s Edge handles teens witnessing a murder in a more real-feeling way.)

What We Saw At Night also included a somewhat muddled meditation on abusive relationships. Interestingly, I read the Sherlock Holmes story “The Illustrious Client” this past week which also includes a charismatic man with a collection of women.

Finally, I would not have read What We Saw At Night if I had known it was the first in a series. I’m not interested in involving myself with series, especially ones that have little stand-alone qualities. The ending is extremely open-ended and unsatisfying. An interesting question for me as a writer is why some books in a series are satisfying on their own and why some are not.

What We Saw At Night is set for publication on January 8, 2013.

Genre: YA Mystery
Why did I choose to read this book? The blurb sounded interesting.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Finished it.
Craft Lessons: (or rather craft questions) What is an acceptable (to me) flow of information in mysteries? Are there rules? Also, what make a book in a series satisfying on its own?
Format: Kindle ARC – Not terribly well formatted.
Procurement: NetGalley

Christmas Spirit Update #2

On Monday or Tuesday of last week, I ended up Googling some combination of Sherlock Holmes, steampunk, and Christmas.  What I ended up with was Steampunk Scholar’s 2011 entry about the combination of these things, or lack thereof. Which reminded me of what I had forgotten: there already is a Sherlock Holmes Christmas story, “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” I did chase down the pieces mentioned in the article. The radio show “The Night Before Christmas” is pretty awful. Don’t believe me? It’s fairly readily available online. The two television versions of The Blue Carbuncle can also be found through a YouTube search.

“Movies” Watched

It’s interesting comparing the Peter Cushing/Jeremy Brett versions of this story with the text. The Cushing version especially adds a few things to pad out the story (a scene between Holmes and the Countess, and a more dramatic reaction by Ryder to his incarceration) as well as adding a few details that Holmes gets wrong.

Turning again to non-Doyle stories, George and Gertrude Fass wrote “The Case of the Christmas Pudding” for the mid-50s Holmes series staring Ronald Howard. It is far superior to “The Night Before Christmas” radio episode, and involves a crime committed with a Christmas decoration.

Of course, the most Christmasy portion of these stories involves food: Christmas goose and Christmas or plum pudding. I’ve never had either of these things. Growing up, our Christmas tradition food was meat salad sandwiches (egg salad with the addition of bologna). The animated series Sherlock Homes in the 22nd Century updates the tale to avoid food altogether. Here, a carbuncle is the much sought-after Christmas toy. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable adaptation.

Short Stories Read

Obviously, “The Blue Carbuncle” by Arthur Conan Doyle

Besides, it is the season of forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward.

It’s one of Doyle’s earlier Holmes stories and is pretty solid.

I also read “Brass Canaries” by Gwendolyn Clare

It is shopping season. We know because they cover their hands in cloth, and the sky falls white and fluffy around their feet.

As a complete coincidence this may be a story that fits the category of steampunk Christmas. It’s an unsettling tale and weirdly the flip side of Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century‘s blue carbuncle episode.

I’ll leave off with a bit from one of my current favorite Holmes incarnations:

R.I.P. VII – Progress Post #2


The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as: Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I’m going to post my R.I.P. progress on Tuesdays during September and October and link them to the review site if they contain reviews of short stories, TV shows, or movies. Books will get their own posts.

“The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman, from the anthology A Study in Sherlock, edited by Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger. It’s a gem of story covering Holmes’ time in the Far East and his sudden interest, in retirement, in bee keeping. With, of course, an oblique twist.

“The Companions” by David Morrell, from the anthology Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle. This story seemed flat to me, the first to disappoint in this anthology. It is a take on guardian spirits, but the set up was too long and detailed. In comparison, the payoff was barely a page or two. I was expecting a turn that would take the story into the realm of unsettling, which seemed warranted, but it never happened.

I also read Bradbury’s “Laural and Hardy Love Affair,” which is not perilous in the least. Yet, it served as the basis for one of the things that scared me most as a kid: The “Gotcha!” episode from Ray Bradbury Theater. According to IMDB, it was episode 4 in season 2 and aired in 1988. Meaning I was 13 at the time, but man, the ending of that episode did a number on me. Haven’t watched it since…

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Rachel @ Resistance is Futile reminded me of this story. Probably a decade ago, someone mentioned this story to me, but I forgot about it before I tracked down a copy. (The internet was a very different place in ’01/’02!) Wow, what a story. It can be read from a traditional gothic approach (bars on the window of the top floor nursary and a gate at the top of the stares) or a feminist approach (a husband *always* knows what’s best for his wife) or, you know, both. Really good literature should hit on numerous fronts. You don’t need to know the conventions of a gothic or be a feminist to enjoy the truly unsettling aspects of this story. (Read at The University of Adelaide Library)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – If I could take the best bits of the US version and the Swedish version of this movie, it might rank in my top 20 movies. As is, I think I prefer the US version. Especially if I turn it off 20 minutes before the end.

Evening Primrose (1966) – This was a surprising fit for Peril on the Screen. I was perusing Hulu when I came across the addition of this ’66 TV musical starring Anthony Perkins . I expected light comedy. Instead, I got Twilight Zone: The Musical Episode. When disillusioned poet Charles Snell decides to live in the picture-perfect world of a department store, hiding by day and writing at night, he finds that he isn’t the first person to have the idea. An entire society exists with its own rules and its own police, the dark men that live at a mortuary. Unfortunately, Charles falls in love with social pariah and muse, Ella. Will they be able to escape back to the outside world, or will the dark men turn them into store mannequins? (Watch on Hulu)

Dexter, Season 5 – Yeah, I’m behind. I don’t have cable and we haven’t had Netflix DVD service in a while. Season 5 seemed short to me. And it’s not that it lacked plot, but it felt sort of anticlimactic. Or rather, not very perilous. (Yes, I am going to over-use the word peril in the next two months.) It never felt like wacky ol’ Dexter was in a really tight spot that he could get out of. I was pleased with the guest cast, but **spoiler** [sorry to see them go].

R.I.P. VII – Progress Post #1


The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as: Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

I’m going to post my R.I.P. progress on Tuesdays during September and October and link them to the review site if they contain reviews of short stories, TV shows, or movies. Books will get their own posts.

“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”

Arthur Conan Doyle

Steven Moffat has teased the three word for series 3 of Sherlock. They are rat, wedding, and bow. Of course, with the premiere a year away, speculation abounds. What canon stories could these words allude to? Which tales will be liberally adapted? Both “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”  and “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” have been bandied around for “wedding,” but don’t I think either are likely aside from maybe an allusions-in-passing.

Regarding “Noble Bachelor”: I forget how crisp and untagged Doyle’s dialogue sometimes is. This is one of Doyle’s one-set stories. While characters come and go from Baker Street, all the action occurs in the sitting room. Not the most exciting of Holmes stories, but probably responsible for many of my people-in-a-room-talking-and-eating scenes.

In contrast, “Solitary Cyclist” takes the show on the road. Doyle is as adept at describing the countryside as he is setting a meal a Baker Street. Tor has seemingly picked this story for “wedding” if wedding doesn’t refer to Watson’s wedding. The story is fairly sensational, but doesn’t really engage Holmes/Watson (apparently a criticism that the editor of The Strand had as well).

Murder Rooms

Murder Rooms is a BBC series. It is a *very* liberal dramatization of the mentorship/friendship between Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell. The first movie-length episode was listed as Dr Bell and Mr Doyle (2000) when I first rented it from Netflix. I didn’t know there were four other episodes (each 90 minutes in length and released in 2001) until recently.

The series is much closer to a Sherlock Holmes pastiche than a historical drama. That’s certainly not a bad thing. Doyle, played by Robin Laing in the first movie and Charles Edwards in the further episodes, is a more intellectual Watson and Ian Richardson is more of a tough-love grandfather figure than a Holmes. In fact, Dr. Bell reminds me of THE Doctor; humorous and eccentric.

As with Sherlock, the stories are not adaptations of canon, but allusions to canon. For example, “The Patient’s Eyes,” the episode I watched this past week, heavily relies on “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist.”

Movies

The Toybox (2005) – I think I vaguely remember Mondo Movies or Mark Kermode talking about this movie as one of numerous English horror movies that involve children/youth culture vs. adults. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t the best of the lot. It wasn’t particularly scary, but the hand-held camera was occasionally nauseating. (Watch on Hulu)

The House on Haunted Hill (1959) – I rewatch this William Castle classic every couple of years. Despite the schlock, it’s so earnest. Vincent Price’s character is a bit loathsome. His wife, played Carol Ohmart, is chilly and queenly, and Carolyn Craig completely sells her mounting hysteria. It’s a Scooby-Doo of a horror movie, fun and contrived. I watched the colorized version and had to wonder whether there were production notes to follow during the process. Everyone was so drab aside from Annabelle Loren (Ohmart). Her wardrobe is purple, maroon, and baby blue. (Watch on Hulu)

I read 13% of 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz before setting it aside. It wasn’t creepy enough. The characters weren’t interesting enough. I thought about continuing to see if anything good was going to happen plot-wise, but honestly, that doesn’t happen often. I have too many other things to read.