Sherlock Holmes is probably the most famous literary detective to have ever existed. Arthur Conan Doyle's work has inspired countless books, films, and shows, been translated into 98 languages, and continues to fascinate us even today.
Doyle often had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Sherlock Holmes whose name, he felt, vastly outshone his own. So it's hard to say whether the author would be happy with Holmes' continued popularity, or annoyed by it. However, I think we can say he'd find a certain satisfaction in seeing how timeless Sherlock Holmes is. Are you a fan of the great consulting detective and eager to jump into Doyle's work? Below are four great titles to get you started reading Sherlock Holmes.
A Study in Scarlet is one of four Sherlock Holmes novels that Doyle penned in his lifetime. It's a great place to start because it introduces us to the series' two primary characters: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson! This novel is the origin story of Holmes and Watson's partnership—aka one of the great literary bromances. We learn about Dr. Watson's backstory, how he meets Sherlock, and the beginning of their lives as two bachelors living at 221B Baker Street.
Of course there's a gripping mystery at the center of it all too (or else it wouldn't be a Sherlock Holmes story!). A man dies mysteriously in an abandoned house...the only clues a wedding ring and a single word written on the wall in blood: RACHE. You'll have to read this gripping short novel to, as Holmes puts it, unravel "the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life."
This is probably the most famous Sherlock Holmes mystery, and often considered to be Doyle's best. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a gripping combination of gothic suspense and supernatural horror, and should definitely be on your list of essential Sherlock Holmes stories.
When Charles Baskerville is found dead on the moors with a horrified expression on his face, Holmes and Watson are dispatched to investigate. They learn of a local folk tale about an enormous demonic hound that haunts the area, and who many believe has cursed the Baskerville family. There's plenty in this novel to keep you spooked, including mysterious candle signals, chilling fog, and yes, even a sighting of the hellish hound by Holmes himself.
If you'd rather read short, self-contained mysteries, why not dive into The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? This is Doyles' first set of short stories and each one offers a little more insight into Sherlock Holmes' unique methods and abilities.
Perhaps the most well-known of these short stories is Scandal in Bohemia which features Irene Adler. She is the closest Holmes ever comes to a love interest, and the first person in the series to outwit the brilliant detective. The Speckled Band also deserves a special mention, as Doyle claimed it was his favorite!
This is a great collection of short stories that is also quite worth the read. But, if you choose to read any story it should be The Final Problem. This is the story that reveals Sherlock Holmes' arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty.
There is some speculation around why Doyle waited so long to introduce a major villain into his Sherlock Holmes stories. It's not such a mystery when you consider that, by the time The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes was published in 1894, Doyle had dedicated nearly a decade of his life to the consulting detective. Simply put, Doyle created Moriarty as a way to kill off Holmes. The author's attempt to free himself of the character didn't work for long though. Doyle continued to write and publish Sherlock Holmes stories up until 1927!
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