This is a collection of the first dozen Holmes short stories, containing stories that were first published in the Strand Magazine in 1891 and 1892. The first two novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, had previously appeared in 1887 and 1890, respectively.
This collection begins with the only appearance of one of the series most notable characters, Irene Adler, in "A Scandal in Bohemia." As time has passed and as the Holmes legend has been continued by authors beyond Doyle, she has become an iconic character. If these stories were written in the modern era, I imagine Doyle himself would have brought her back into later stories himself.
It is interesting to note that Holmes is not always successful in the stories in this collection. I will pay attention to see if this trend continues as the legend of Holmes grows throughout Doyle's writing of the character. The great detective loses to Irene Adler, for example. At the beginning of The Five Orange Pips, Watson reveals that not all of Holmes' cases end in success -- in that case specifically, Holmes' version of justice is stolen by an act of God on the high seas. This story deals with the Ku Klux Klan, in a way that is reminiscent of how Doyle used the mysterious Mormons as a way into the story in The Sign of Four.
Some of these stories have all of the action taking place in the drawing room, the consulting detective truly doing his work with only his mind. I appreciate this element of Holmes, but am glad that not every story is of this variety, as I tend to enjoy the "on location" stories more. Another interesting point is how Doyle seems stumped by how to deal with Watson's marriage. He continually has to invent reasons for the men to come together to tackle a case. In a trick that Doyle will later come to rely on ever more, he presents a few of these stories as having occurred earlier in Holmes' career, one even before he had met Watson.
|Ummm, spoiler alert?|
There are many stories in this collection that have become classics, and have been revisited often in the many adaptations of Doyle's work. This category of story include "The Speckled Band," the solution of which is revealed on the cover of one version of the printed book -- perhaps the concept of "spoilers" was not a concern at this point in publishing. "The Copper Beeches" and "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" are also among the memorable stories contained in this volume.
I have read every one of the stories at least once, probably twice, and some many more times than that. But certain of the stories had completely fled my mind, and I found it delightful to read the strange "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb," the mysterious "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" and the bizarre "A Case of Identity" without knowing where the stories were going. This was a pleasant experience for me, and I hope that as I progress with the Holmes canon I run across more of these stories that are "new again" to me.
source: public library.