The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle — Reread Review

Cover: bookshop.org

Previous in the series: The Sign of Four.

After getting angry at period-typical misogyny and racism in the first two Sherlock Holmes novels, Nickie suggested that I might find the short stories to be more palatable, so I was curious to find out whether that would be true for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Though I’ve read (or listened to) all twelve stories before, it’s been a long time, so my tastes might definitely have matured out of them.

There was only one instance, in A Case of Identity, in which I felt that Arthur Conan Doyle really mistreated one of his female characters: Holmes works out exactly how his client, Miss Sutherland, was manipulated and deceived but declares that she won’t believe him if he tells her, so just leaves her to get on with her unhappy life! Clearly, it’s the solving of the puzzle that matters to Sherlock (and Dr Watson), and not the actual result of his actions. That would be okay, except that I increasingly feel as though the same is true of Arthur Conan Doyle, and what’s forgivable in a flawed character is less so in a real person.

Outside the wind still screamed and the rain splashed and pattered against the windows. This strange, wild story seemed to have come to us from amid the mad elements — blown in upon us like a sheet of sea-weed in a gale — and now to have been reabsorbed by them once more.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

For the most part, the beginnings of the stories were a little tediously repetitive: Watson notes that Sherlock solves cases for the nobility, but says that these are sometimes less interesting and shows off Sherlock’s skills less well than whichever case he’s introducing. There’s nothing wrong with a formula that works, I suppose, but I might recommend not reading these stories back to back to back.

For many years [Sherlock] had adopted a system of docketing all paragraphs concerning men and things, so that it was difficult to name a subject or person on which he could not at once furnish information.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

The problems and their solutions are clever, and anyone reading these for the first time would likely be carried along by that alone. (Except in the case of The Five Orange Pips, which is sadly incredibly obvious to a modern reader. I can only assume that the Klu Klux Klan was less familiar to British readers in 1892 than it would be today.) Remembering the endings of ten out of twelve stories definitely put me in a position to notice more of the flaws!

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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