The first case that Watson records involves a murder in an abandoned house with “RACE” written on the wall. Scotland Yard investigator Lestrade (we never learn his first name) invites Holmes to consult on the case; though the budding detective initially feigns reluctance, his intellect won’t let him turn down the chance to solve a mystery.
While A Study in Scarlet serves as a great introduction to Holmes and Watson, no story itself is as well done as The Hound of Baskerville. Using the length of a novel rather than just a short story, and without the need for much expository ramp-up, Conan Doyle is able to fully explore the depths of the most head-scratching case in the series.
Label Wilson, a man with flaming red hair, consults with Holmes about a mysterious job he took in reply to a want ad in the newspaper. Placed by “THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE,” it announced that “All red-headed men who are sound in body and mind and above the age of twenty-one years” were eligible for a well-paying but nondescript job.
Wilson showed up for the interview, was declared to have just the right hue of red in his locks, and was set to work copying the encyclopedia. Though he takes a central role in only this one story (he’s reminisced about in others), no Shylockian villain is as nefarious as Professor James Moriarty; “He is the Napoleon of crime,” Sherlock tells Watson.
On the eve of an important horse race, a prized thoroughbred, Silver Blaze, has gone missing, his trainer has been murdered, and some sheep in a nearby pasture have been found lame. The famous exchange about “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” in fact inspired an excellent novel which used that line as the title.
Some better-written Holmes stories are somewhat predictable, and some better plot lines aren’t as well written or structured; “The Silver Blaze” is one of those that combines all the best elements of Doyle’s work. The beauty of the Sherlock Holmes stories is that you’re sure to find one with a tone that appeals to you; there’s quite a range on a scale that runs from fun and playful to dark and twisted.
Holmes takes the case, thinking it’ll be a piece of cake to trick the woman and retrieve the photograph. This story has as memorable a start as you’ll find in the canon: a young lawyer, John McFarlane, comes into Holmes’ office knowing full well he’s going to be arrested and charged with murder.
We also see a fuller picture of Lestrade in this story; rather than just begrudging competition, the relationship between him and Holmes seems to flourish into real comradeship. While Holmes always has justice in the eyes of the law as his primary pursuit, every once in a while a case comes up that challenges his ideas about right and wrong.
Holmes is enlisted in the fight against Silverton by Lady Eva Blackwell, who’s keen on retrieving some compromising documents. Silverton is as dastardly a fellow as London has ever seen, and though Holmes is aware of him, he hasn’t had the chance to nail down evidence of his breaking the law; this is his opportunity, and he leaps at it.
The reader gets the gift of clever disguises, a false engagement, breaking and entering, safe-cracking, and as surprising an ending as you’ll come across in these stories. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 60 Sherlock Holmes cases in all: 56 short stories and four full-length novels.
But where is the best place for the reader who is new to Sherlock Holmes to begin exploring these classic works of detective fiction? Inspired by a story Doyle heard from his friend, the sportsman and journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson, about the legends surrounding a seventeenth-century squire, The Hound of the Baskerville is one of the best -known Sherlock Holmes cases, featuring supposedly demonic hounds on atmospheric Dartmoor.
This is the short story that launched Sherlock Holmes’s successful ‘career’ in the pages of The Strand in 1891. Until this story, he was the star of two short novels, A Study in Scarlet (1887) and The Sign of the Four (1890), and known to a small group of readers.
After the short stories began to appear in The Strand, he became one of the most famous fictional characters in the history of literature. Sherlock Holmes’s quick eye took in my occupation, and he shook his head with a smile as he noticed my questioning glances.
“Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labor, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.” “I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him that my grip was not much more feeble than his own.” As he spoke he picked up the steel poker and, with a sudden effort, straightened it out again.
The case will require Holmes not only to save his client’s life but to solve the mystery of how her sister died two years ago. Like many of the Sherlock Holmes stories, the British Empire lurks in the background (Dr Boycott had met the girls’ mother out in India, and has a menagerie of exotic animals from that country), and in this connection, the story also reveals a debt to one of the first detective novels, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone.
The story concerns a missing racehorse and sees Holmes donning his famous deerstalker to investigate. I put the question, with a hint that it was my companion’s modesty which made him acknowledge his brother as his superior.
The mystery itself revolves around a Greek interpreter named Mr Meals, who is engaged in a rather cloak-and-dagger way to translate for someone who is being held captive by some sinister criminals. Its code-themed story probably inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Gold-Bug’, ‘The Dancing Men’ is one of Holmes’s greatest code-breaking triumphs.
Mr. Hilton Cubist of Riding Thorpe Manor in Norfolk, and husband to a nervous wife, tells Holmes a series of stick figures have started to appear chalked up on the window-sill of the house. Rather pleasingly, the story also appears to be the origin of the term ‘smoking gun’ to refer to an incontrovertibly incriminating piece of evidence.
While recovering from a taxing case in France, Holmes travels to Surrey where he ends up investigating a series of mysterious burglaries involving a note written by two different people… It’s also noteworthy for being the one Sherlock Holmes story penned by Doyle to feature the evil criminal mastermind, Dr James Moriarty, ‘the Napoleon of crime’.
Jane Austen's Practical Concerns About Marriage Are Still Relevant I wasn’t the type of young person to seek out Jane Austen on my own. Shylockian from around the world selected the best Sherlock Holmes stories in the largest and most comprehensive survey ever conducted.
“The Man with the Twisted Lip” (4)46327 Volume Rating 12Rank Adventures (1892)10051, 2, 3, 5, 12 Memoirs (1893)5834, 6, 7 Return (1905)5338, 9, 10 Last Bow (1917)39111 Case-Book (1927)140 Although the Holmes series began with a novel, you should start by reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This provides a simple value for comparing the relative positions of stories within a category.
Although “The Cardboard Box” is often included in His Last Bow, it was counted as part of the Memoirs because of its original publication date. See the best Sherlock Holmes book recommendation for the best print edition of these stories.
Randall Stock, “Rating Sherlock Holmes,” The Baker Street Journal, December 1999, pp. 1999: Randall Stock, “Rating Sherlock Holmes,” The Baker Street Journal, December 1999, pp.
1989: Nicholas Ute chin, “The Twelve Best, ” The Sherlock Holmes Journal, Winter 1989, pp. 1959: Edgar W. Smith, “The 'Ten Best Contest,” The Baker Street Journal, October 1959, pp.
1954: Edgar W. Smith, “The 'Ten Best and the 'Ten Least',” The Baker Street Journal, April 1954, pp. 1944: Edgar W. Smith, “The Twelve Best, ” The Baker Street Journal, October 1946, pp.
Sir Arthur later gave his choices in “How I Made My List” in the June 1927 issue of The Strand Magazine. This page also provides supplementary “story rating” information below for a four-part series of articles by me that appeared in the December 1999 Baker Street Journal.
The Baker Street Journal reported on three polls to rate the Canon from 1944 to 1959. My article “Irregular Participation” clears up some mysteries surrounding these prior polls.
The 1999 poll of Baker Street Journal readers was the largest and most comprehensive survey ever conducted. My article “Rating Sherlock Holmes” describes and analyzes the 1999 poll results, including rankings for the short stories, the long stories, and the collected tales.
Since the number of first-place votes provides additional critical insight, this information also appears in the table of results. I had never seen any demographic information on Shylockian and thought that the 1999 poll offered a great opportunity to get a better sense of this community.
I also wanted to see if a voter's experience or affiliations would relate to their choice of the best stories. Because of the large number of participants in the 1999 poll, it was worthwhile to compare the choices of various groups of voters.
Results from five polls reported in the BSA and SHE between 1944 and 1999 were analyzed to determine the all-time greatest Sherlock Holmes stories. The December 1999 BSA article listed only the top choices from these polls.