Monday, July 26, 2010

Elementary?


There is a lot of Sherlock Holmes onstage lately. In London there is The Secret of Sherlock Holmes and right here in the Hub is a stage version of The Hound of the Baskervilles at the Central Square Theater.

With all this stage activity, I realized that I have never actually read A.C. Doyle's famous works - apart from several of the short stories in collections such as Dorothy Sayers' The Omnibus of Crime.

So I picked up the 1000 plus page Bantam Classics edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes Novels and Stories, Vol 1. I am having a great time reading it and I am already about halfway through.

Holmes is such a fascinating character, mostly because of what I DON'T know about him. I have been making note of, and then collecting some of the great detective's observations or quotes.

"There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if you can't unravel the thousand and first." -Sherlock Holmes - A Study in Scarlet


It takes a little doing getting through the first couple of novels that introduced Holmes and Watson. A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four both take strange detours about two thirds into them. Scarlet suddenly moves from London to Salt Lake City, Utah and Four moves from a heart-pounding chase on the Thames to a narrative about an uprising in India. Both these diversions are interesting and gripping tales of their own, and provide backstory for the crimes facing Holmes. However, they also seem a little superfluous. While Doyle may have wanted to imbue the stories with more exotic flourishes, reading the stories now, I find Doyle's foggy London to be exotic enough.

Doyle's powers seemed to heighten when he was writing the collected stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. More focused and urgent, these shorter tales are a little addictive.

For summer reading, you may want to pack this bargain Bantam Classics book in your beach bag. It's quite a bargain at almost $7.00.

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