I would, however, advise reading The Final Problem last out of all of them - for continuity's sake - as you acknowledged in the question. It is perhaps one of the most important short stories in the initial arc. I also happen to like reading The Adventure of the Naval Treaty directly before this, because I love it, but it's not mandatory. After a while, you may get bored. Each short story will challenge you, but the format can get tiresome after 24 of them. I encourage you to try one of the longer standalone works. I would prefer A Study in Scarlet or The Sign of the Four , which go into Holmes' methodology in more detail and present a story arc - which you don't see as much in any of the short stories.
Both of these books were published before any of the short stories, but they can be challenging to slog through. I'd wait until you're comfortable with the style before going on to these. I suggest mixing them in after reading perhaps ten or twelve short stories - or earlier, if you want. But read them in one sitting. Do not start one and then go back to the short stories. Confusion may follow. I also happen to think that there are many cases where reading a book from start to finish is the best way to appreciate it, and this is one of those times.
Note: Re-read The Final Problem , to refamiliarize yourself with it and see how the arc it begins evolves into the next series. Doyle, feeling extreme pressure by fans, brought Holmes back from the dead after killing him off - in a fashion many may know about, but which I'm not going to reveal. He eventually published The Return of Sherlock Holmes , another series of short stories. In my mind, these are worse than the original two collections after all, there was an year gap between this and the originals!
They feel forced, and the plots get ever more intricate, astonishing, sensational and, quite frankly, hard to believe. I find some unsatisfying; at any rate, I can tell the difference in style. Try to read these 13 together, as a group start with The Adventure of the Empty House , Holmes' return. Don't mix them in with the other two collections; there's just something wrong.
Maybe others disagree. At any rate, quality aside, I do feel like The Return of Sherlock Holmes was written with suspense in mind, not the pure intellectual investigation. However, I don't remember them all as clearly as I remember the first three series. First, read The Valley of Fear. It's likely my least favorite of the four novels - again, I think suspense plays a bigger role than pure mystery - but it's still worth a read.
I'd recommend reading it last, so you keep a rough chronological order for the novels, but I think it lacks a sense of closure. Finish off your Holmesian adventure with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Doyle wrote this to fight off the clamor of fans when Holmes was "dead", and so it was a throwback, in a sense, but it is quite self-contained. Doyle creates a unique cast of characters - none too hard to believe, in fact - and keeps suspense and intellectual mystery in a good balance. It does have a sense of closure, which The Valley of Fear does not, even though it is not part of the larger canon.
It can be read apart from everything else, of course, but you really should know Holmes, in all his full glory, to appreciate his struggles in this book. This is somewhat chronological - which makes some sense; I think Doyle's best work was at the beginning. HDE's great answer is much more detailed than mine and has more reasoning for each of his reading order choices, but with that in mind, I thought I'd chime in. I've read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I'd say to have a full appreciation for the literary masterpiece Doyle created, an absolute beginner to the series should start with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes , in which Doyle is in the prime of his writing ability.
Reading it first will give you a good feel for his writing style as well as what to expect from other Sherlock stories. My favorite story within that collection is The Speckled Band , which I'd consider to be one of the best Sherlock stories Doyle ever wrote. I'd personally follow that with A Study in Scarlet , because it really allows you to appreciate how far Doyle advanced in terms of pure writing ability from his first to his last story. While you're at it, I'd opt for reading both The Valley of Fear and The Sign of Four , as they both contain similar literary technique and the plot isn't half-bad.
That progression, I think, at least, provides a good sense of natural continuity well, as naturally continuous as you can get with Sherlock Holmes. If this is of any significance to you, this Sherlock fan site , has this recommended reading order:. A complete beginner should probably start with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, either the whole book at one whack or a couple of selections, particularly "The Speckled Band" and maybe "The Boscombe Valley Mystery". Those are among the best and at the same time the most characteristic of the stories. After the Adventures, maybe The Hound of the Baskervilles, and after that, whatever.
Reading the stories in order is a very bad idea because the first one in particular, A Study in Scarlet, was written when Doyle was young and still learning, and is not by any means either strong or typical. I just have to say I've only just started reading the books after watching the series.
I absolutely loved Scarlet and really enjoyed the flashback personally, and felt like seeing Watson's very first impression of Sherlock is a good place to begin? I'm surprised that no one here has recommended starting with Scarlet, and you all seem to even discourage it haha. Maybe watching the modern series the Cumberbatch one, and watched the Irons one when I was little has made getting into the books easier for me, I don't know.
She is possibly the only woman who has ever "beaten" Holmes in a mystery; this point is unclear due to a comment with some chronological problems in one of the stories see the Irene Adler or " The Five Orange Pips " articles for details. However, it is important to note that Watson explicitly states, "It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. Whilst it should be noted that Mrs Hudson is never actually described, Watson writes in " The Adventure of the Dying Detective " that Mrs Hudson is fond of Holmes in her own way, despite his bothersome eccentricities as a lodger, owing to his "remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women.
In one story, " The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton ", Holmes is engaged to be married, but only with the motivation of gaining information for his case. He clearly demonstrates particular interest in several of the more charming female clients that come his way such as Violet Hunter of " The Adventure of the Copper Beeches ", whom Watson thought might become more than a client to Holmes. However, the context implies that Holmes found their youth, beauty, and energy and the cases they bring to him invigorating, as opposed to an actual romantic interest, as Holmes inevitably "manifested no further interest in her when once she had ceased to be the center of one of his problems".
If he was able to turn on a certain amount of charm, as indicated by these episodes, there is no indication of a serious or long-term interest apart from the case of Adler. Watson states that Holmes has an "aversion to women" but "a peculiarly ingratiating way with [them]. How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes On the other hand, it may be noted that the landlady, Mrs Hudson, is never actually described. Another point of interest in Holmes' relationships with women, is that the only joy he gets from their company is the problems they bring to him to solve.
Watson writes in " The Adventure of the Dying Detective " that Mrs Hudson is fond of Holmes in her own way, despite his bothersome eccentricities as a lodger, owing to his "remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women. Holmes cannot be said to be misogynistic, given the number of women he helps in his work, but it may be that his own detached and analytical personality is annoyed by their excessively emotional from his perspective natures.
Watson, on the other hand, has a perhaps justifiable reputation as a ladies' man, boasting in The Sign of Four of "an experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents. It is of some interest to logicians and those interested in logic to try to analyze just what Holmes is doing when he performs his deduction.
Holmesian British adjective; Americans may be rarely heard to say "Sherlockian" deduction appears to consist primarily of drawing inferences based on either straightforward practical principles — which are the result of careful inductive study, such as Holmes' study of different kinds of cigar ashes or inference to the best explanation. In many cases, the deduction can be modeled either way.
In , Holmes was inducted as an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry the only fictional character so honored in appreciation of the contributions to forensic investigation. Holmes' straightforward practical principles are generally of the form, "If 'p', then 'q'," where 'p' is observed evidence and 'q' is what the evidence indicates. But there are also, as one may observe in the following example, often some intermediate principles. In " A Scandal in Bohemia " Holmes deduces that Watson had got very wet lately and that he had "a most clumsy and careless servant girl.
My eyes tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavery. By applying such principles in an obvious way using repeated applications of modus ponens , Holmes is able to infer from. But perhaps Holmes is not giving a proper explanation — after all, Holmes may be well aware of Watson's servant girl.
As Watson is a doctor and it has been raining, it is likely he has been out in the rain. In other instances of Holmesian deduction, it is more difficult to model his inference as deduction using general principles, and logicians and scientists will readily recognise the method used, instead, as an "inductive" one — in particular, "argument to the best explanation", or, in Charles S. Peirce's terminology, "abduction". However, that Holmes should have called this "deduction" is entirely plausible.
The instances in which Holmes uses deduction tend to be those where he has amassed a large body of evidence, produced a number of possible explanations of that evidence, and then proceeds to find one explanation that is clearly the best at explaining the evidence. For example, in The Sign of Four , a man is found dead in his room, with a ghastly smile on his face, and with no immediately visible cause of death. From a whole body of background information as well as evidence gathered at and around the scene of the crime, Holmes is able to infer that the murderer is not one of the various people that Scotland Yard has in custody each of them being an alternative explanation , but rather another person entirely.
As Holmes says in the story, "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? It also turned up in the Dirk Gently stories by Douglas Adams where the detective uses the opposite phrase, "because we know very much about what is improbable, but very little about what is possible". In the latter example, in fact, Holmes' solution of the crime depends both on a series of applications of general principles and argument to the best explanation.
Sherlock Holmes: The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Complete Set 9)
Holmes' success at his brand of deduction, therefore, is due to his mastery of both a huge body of particular knowledge of things like footprints, cigar ashes, and poisons, which he uses to make relatively simple deductive inferences, and the fine art of ordering and weighing different competing explanations of a body of evidence. Holmes is also particularly good at gathering evidence by observation, as well locating and tracking the movements of criminals through the streets of London and its environs in order to produce more evidence - skills that have little to do with deduction per se , but everything to do with providing the premises for particular Holmesian deductions.
In the stories by Conan Doyle, Holmes often remarked that his logical conclusions were "elementary", in that he considered them to be simple and obvious. He also, on occasion, referred to his friend as "my dear Watson". However, the complete phrase, "Elementary, my dear Watson", does not appear in any of the sixty Holmes stories written by Conan Doyle. It does appear at the very end of the film, The Return of Sherlock Holmes , the first Sherlock Holmes sound film, and may owe its familiarity to its use in Edith Meiser's scripts for The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio series.
It should be noted too, that our modern stereotype of police procedure — someone who looks for physical clues, rather than someone who examines opportunity and motive — comes from Holmes. Readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories have often been surprised to discover that their author, Conan Doyle, was a fervent believer in paranormal phenomena, and that the logical, skeptical character of Holmes was in opposition to his own in many ways.
The word "Sherlock" has entered the language to mean a detective or used sarcastically if someone states the obvious. It must be noted that, in Holmesian deduction, it is important to attempt to eliminate all other possibilities, or as many as possible. This requires quite a bit of practice to reach. Watson attempts several times to perform Holmesian deductions, and even gives his explanations. However, he fails to recognise other equally probable circumstances, and is wrong on almost every count. Holmes fans refer to the period from to the time between Holmes' disappearance and presumed death in " The Adventure of the Final Problem " and his reappearance in " The Adventure of the Empty House " as "the Great Hiatus".
It is notable, though, that one later story " The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge " is described as taking place in Conan Doyle wrote the stories over the course of a decade. Wanting to devote more time to his historical novels, he killed off Holmes in "The Final Problem", which appeared in print in After resisting public pressure for eight years, the author wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles , which appeared in , implicitly setting it before Holmes' "death" some theorise that it actually took place after "The Return" but with Watson planting clues to an earlier date.
Many have speculated on his motives for bringing Holmes back to life, notably writer-director Nicholas Meyer, who wrote an essay on the subject in the s, but the actual reasons are not known, other than the obvious: publishers offered to pay generously. For whatever reason, Conan Doyle continued to write Holmes stories for a quarter-century longer.
Some writers have come up with alternate explanations for the hiatus. In Meyer's novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution , the hiatus was explained as a secret sabbatical that Holmes indulged in for those years after his drug rehabilitation treatment with Sigmund Freud's help, while he light-heartedly suggested that Watson write a fictitious account claiming he had died: "They'll never believe you in any case.
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The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
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