Ever since I purchased and reread my autographed replacement copy of Nicholas Meyer’s Sherlock Holmes novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, and then went on to read Murder at Sorrow’s Crown by Steven Savile and Bob Greenberger, I felt compelled to go back and indulge once again in some of the original tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
It had been so long since l last read this collection that I’d forgotten most of them, although I remembered that at least two—”The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” and “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”—were used as source material for the BBC series, Sherlock.
So great was the demand for Sherlock Holmes stories that Doyle, tired of penning tales about the master detective by the turn of the 20th century, was compelled to resurrect Holmes from the dead after what was thought to be his demise in “The Final Problem” wherein Holmes and his arch-rival, the nefarious Professor Moriarty, had together plummeted from Reichenbach Falls in Germany.
Of the 13 marvelous stories detailing some of Holmes and Watson’s continuing investigations, my favorites include…
“The Adventure of the Empty House,” in which Holmes describes to an astounded Watson how he managed to escape death and travel about Europe and Asia for a few years before returning to London, compelled by an intriguing and high-profile murder of the son of an Earl.
In “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” Holmes and Watson are called into decipher a series of encrypted messages consisting of dancing stick figures. The messages are being left in chalk on the walls of a nobleman’s manor as well as on notes around the property. Could they be a warning… or a threat?
In “The Adventure of the Priory School,” a frantic headmaster calls upon Holmes to investigate the missing son of a local Duke. Did the boy flee the school of his own accord, or was he led away for a fiendish purpose?
In “The Adventure of Black Peter,” Inspector Stanley Hopkins requests Holmes’s assistance on the peculiar murder of Peter Carey, a former ship’s captain and a miserable drunkard, who built a small cabin on his property where he often stole away for days—until one morning when his body is discovered impaled by one of his own harpoons!
Holmes is once again called in by Scotland Yard when a series of cheap plaster Napoleon busts are senselessly and randomly smashed all over England. However, when one of these incidents leads to murder, Holmes suspects that there is something more to the matter than a mere dislike of the legendary emperor in “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.”
When an elderly professor’s intern is brutally murdered in the professor’s own study, Holmes and Watson are called into investigate. The only clue to the killer’s identity are spectacles clutched in the victim’s hand and one-way footprints in the grass outside a set of french doors. In “The Adventure of the Pince-Nez,” could the killer still be close at hand?
A college athlete from Cambridge implores Holmes to help find his missing teammate, rugby star Godfrey Staunton. Upon receiving a hand delivered note, Staunton simply disappeared on the eve of their match against Oxford. Holmes and Watson track the missing student to a cantankerous and clever physician who manages to elude Holmes for a short time before he and Watson finally discover the tragic truth in “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.”
When the brutal and abusive Sir Eustace Brackenstall is murdered in his mansion, Holmes and Watson are once more called in by Scotland Yard. However, by the time they arrive, Inspector Hopkins seems to have the case already classified as a burglary gone wrong. As it happens, a trio of master thieves had already been seen in the area and the Lady Brackenstall identified them as the ones who bound and gagged her before murdering her husband. However, a cursory inspection of the crime scene leaves a nagging doubt in Holmes’s mind in “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange.”
In “The Adventure of the Second Stain,” a former British Prime Minister and the Secretary for European Affairs seek Holmes’s help in recovering a stolen letter from a foreign potentate that, if exposed, could lead to war in Europe. However, Holmes comes to learn that the situation is far more personal to the Secretary than the young man realizes.