Friday, 2 October 2015

'The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes' by Arthur Conan Doyle (1927)

Synopsis: The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes is the ninth and final book in the Sherlock Holmes canon. The book was published in July 1927 and is a collection of twelve short stories that were sporadically published between October 1921 and April 1927. The twelve stories in this book are The Adventure of the Illustrious Client, The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier, The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone, The Adventure of the Three Gables, The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, The Adventure of the Three Garridebs, The Problem of Thor Bridge, The Adventure of the Creeping Man, The Adventure of the Lion's Mane, The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger, The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place and The Adventure of the Retired Colourman.

I can finally say that I've read all of the four novels and fifty-six short stories of the Sherlock Holmes canon in less than 12 months! :) I'd already read most of the various Sherlock Holmes stories before but never in their published order. I'm quite proud of myself for finishing all of the stories especially since the canon was on both my bucket list and my Classics Club list.

Sadly though, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes just isn't a very good book. It's probably the weakest in the entire canon. Most of its stories are extremely far-fetched and uninspiring with the absolute nadir for me being The Creeping Man. This story starts off promisingly enough but then has a shockingly terrible ending that's like something out of a crappy sci-fi movie! There are also a couple of stories where Holmes and Watson's dialogue felt very off :S With this book I could just feel Arthur Conan Doyle's boredom and lack of interest in what he was writing and I had a hard time concentrating on the stories, which is something that I've never experienced with the earlier short stories.

The only things that partly redeemed The Casebook for me were some of the exchanges between Holmes and Watson and the few good stories that were in it. I enjoyed The Problem of Thor Bridge and, unlike some readers out there, I actually quite liked the two stories in this book that were narrated by Holmes himself because I found them refreshing. In The Lion's Mane we get to learn more about the place where Holmes has moved to on the Sussex Downs and The Blanched Soldier has a lovely, happy ending. I also love Holmes' complaint about Watson's selfishness in choosing to marry Mary Morstan in that story :D

Despite my disappointment with this last book, it was a delightful experience to revisit the Sherlock Holmes canon again. If anyone reading this post hasn't already read Arthur Conan Doyle's stories then I would strongly recommend that you do. The vast majority of the stories feature brilliant mysteries, are highly atmospheric, and have wonderfully memorable characters. They're also full of suspense and adventure and are often very funny. I know that there are some fantastic adaptations out there but Arthur Conan Doyle's stories have so much to offer! If I had to pick a favourite Sherlock Holmes story then I think it would be The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was the first Sherlock Holmes story that I read and is still by far my favourite out of the novels. It has a fantastic gothic atmosphere and, unlike the other Sherlock Holmes novels, doesn't feature any lengthy, tedious flashbacks. My favourite of the short stories - and this is harder because there are more of them and overall I like them better than the novels - would probably be The Copper Beeches. It has a fantastic gothic atmosphere as well and features the wonderful character Violet Hunter. I long for the day when the BBC's Sherlock finally adapts this story! Other short stories that I especially loved were The Red-Headed League, The Musgrave Ritual, The Reigate Squire, Charles Augustus Milverton, The Bruce Partington Plans and The Devil's Foot.

Even though I've finally finished reading Arthur Conan Doyle's stories I wouldn't exactly say that my time with Sherlock Holmes is over. I'll always have the option of re-reading the stories some day, I'm hoping to finally start watching the ITV Granada adaptation later in the year, there's an upcoming Christmas special of the BBC's Sherlock, and there are a few pastiche stories that I want to look into: The House of Silk and Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman, and The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. In fact I've already reserved copies of The House of Silk and The Beekeeper's Apprentice from the library. And I also want to start reading more stories about other famous literary detectives now too: Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, Father Brown and C. Auguste Dupin.

Rating: 2.5/5 for this book, 5/5 for the whole canon. 


Hayden said...

Woohoo! Congrats on finishing the Canon! :D

I don't remember this particular book very well, but I don't think I was much impressed with it. (Although I do remember's Holmes's jab at Watson's "one selfish" action, haha. I didn't mind Holmes's narration, either)

I need to try Anthony Horowitz's pastiches, since I recently started watching Foyle's War and like it a lot. I've also been meaning to try reading some Neil Gaiman, so A Study in Emerald might be a good place to start.

Personally, I really love The Beekeeper's Apprentice, but I know a lot of Sherlock Holmes fans don't, and I admit I sort of have a love/hate relationship with the rest of the Mary Russell series.

I'm most excited for this year's Sherlock Christmas special, though. I'm sitting on pins and needles waiting for it! :D

Hannah said...

Aw, thank you! :D

I've only just finished this book and I'm struggling to remember most of its stories! It's definitely the weakest of the Sherlock Holmes books which is a huge shame since it's the final one.

I'm still waiting for 'The Beekeeper's Apprentice' to arrive but 'The House of Silk' has come and I've already started it. I'm only about 150 pages into it but I've been really enjoying it so far. I expect I'll be finished with it by the end of the week and then I'll put up a review.

I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman :) So far I've read about 7 of his books. I haven't liked all of his books I must admit but the ones that I have enjoyed I've loved. I got to meet him in person once as well at a book signing and he was incredibly nice and funny.

And of course I share your excitement about the Sherlock Christmas special! :D

Hamlette said...

You did it! You did it! Woooo!

And yeah, this is not the best in the canon. I really dislike The Creeping Man because that image of the guy creeping down the hallway freaks me way the heck out.

But Holmes and Watson are always worth spending time with, and now you've read all of them, so you don't have to read the ones you didn't like again!

Can't wait to hear what you think of The Beekeeper's Apprentice!

Hannah said...

Hamlette - Thank you! :)

Yeah... I think it will probably be quite a few years before I'll fancy going through the canon again and even when I do I think I might give this book and some of the novels a skip.

I'm actually reading 'The Beekeeper's Apprentice' right now! Well, not *now* now but I'm sure you know what I mean! To be honest there are a few aspects of the book that I'm finding frustrating but the writing is quite lovely and I did really enjoy the Wales section.

Hamlette said...

I get a little frustrated over some things in LRK's Russell/Holmes books too, especially her ardent feminism, but for the most part, I find them very fun :-) The Wales section is my favorite!