The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes | Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The cover of Doyle's The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

The Sherlock Holmes cannon is expansive. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories for his detective which have been collected into 5 books. Holmes and Watson also star in four novels including The Hound of the Baskervilles. I have started my exploration of the Holmes stories at the back end.

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, first published in book form in 1927, is the final collection of short stories. By this time in his career, Doyle was tired of writing Sherlock Holmes stories. He even killed his detective off in the last story in The Final Problem. No fictional character, however, is ever truly dead.

David Stuart Davies, in the afterword to this book, claims that these stories are the bottom scrapings of the barrel. The stories are not bad, “rather they are disappointing in construction and surprising in their unpleasantness. … We can see that while some of the stories are weak in plot development they are also fascinating because of the dark and cruel nature of their content” (297).

Despite Davies’ write-up, I enjoyed the stories. The darkness in content reflects the ethos of a world at war. It was also interesting to read the voice of Sherlock Holmes in two of these stories. (Typically Doyle wrote in the voice of Watson, Holmes’ assistant.) Doyle did well at differentiating his perspective from Watson’s in the prose.

If this is the weakest collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, I’m really going to enjoy the strong ones!

—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2004).

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