Of the four Holmes books I’ve read so far, this one has been my favorite. Even my least favorite stories are solid, and there are several that are excellent.
For context, these stories were all published between 1892-1893, at the height of both Conan Doyle’s and his famous hero’s popularity. Conan Doyle was growing extremely tired of his creation, and he wanted to write other, newer and more challenging things (he did, almost none of which is read now by anyone other than Conan Doyle scholars and really dedicated Sherlockians). He knew this would be at great expense to his finances. Writing Sherlock Holmes, though it bored him, was a profitable enterprise.
My favorites of the collection include “The Adventure of the Yellow Face” (one of the few stories where Holmes gets it wrong), “The Adventure of the Reigate Squire” (which features Holmes and Watson being adorable, Holmes being tricksy, and an exciting confrontation at the end), “The Adventure of the Crooked Man” (because it had a human element to it that I quite enjoyed, in addition to being a good mystery), “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” (for Mycroft, whom I quite enjoyed in his literary form), “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty,” (the longest story so far, by about double), and of course, “The Final Problem,” which though only introducing Holmes’s nemesis Moriarty here for the first time, was really very well done. You can see Conan Doyle’s giving it his all, as he really believed he would never write Holmes again and wanted to go out on a high note. Quite literally.
None of the stories struck me the wrong way, though. My edition (the Stephen Fry audio) includes “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box,” which most American editions move to His Last Bow, because originally American publishers didn’t want to include a story that featured adultery? I guess. That one had severed ears, so: fun! We also got two stories narrated by Holmes for the first time. I thought one was much more successful than the other. “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” had a strong enough story to overcome the loss of Watson’s narrative voice (which comments so nicely on Holmes’ eccentricities), but I thought “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott suffered for it.
Starting The Hound of the Baskervilles today, and very excited about it, as it’s almost universally acclaimed.
CBR Bingo: This Old Thing (Review a book that was published at least 100 years ago.)