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Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' Stories - 1
Anyone who's come across my Hubs before, will know I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes, so it'll come as no surprise to see another article about the infamous detective. This time, I'm looking at the first collection of short stories:
From Novel to Short Story
The short stories collected together as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes were published in The Strand Magazine, beginning with A Scandal in Bohemia. Arthur Conan Doyle's first two novels featuring the consulting detective (A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four) did not grab the attention of the general public, but in the Strand's readership, the individual stories lead to a huge increase in circulation for the magazine and began an unstoppable appetite for Conan Doyle's crime-busting hero.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The stories in the first collection are:
A Scandal in Bohemia 1891
The Red Headed League 1891
A Case of Identity 1891
The Boscombe Valley Mystery 1891
The Five Orange Pips 1891
The Man with the Twisted Lip 1891
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle 1892
The Adventure of the Speckled Band 1892
The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb 1892
The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor 1892
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet 1892
The Adventure of the Copper Beeches 1892
A Scandal in Bohemia
A former crown prince finds himself in a compromising position when a photograph threatens his impending marriage. It's not often a member of the female sex takes the interest of Sherlock Holmes but in this, the first of Conan Doyle's short stories, it is the very beautiful and captivating Irene Adler who challenges Holmes' powers to find the incriminating evidence and save the royal personage from scandal.
"I've heard that voice before," said Holmes, staring down the dimly lit street. "Now, I wonder who the deuce that could have been."
A Case of Identity
Miss Mary Sutherland presents an odd little mystery to the intrepid duo when she recounts the tale of her mysterious beau - Hosamer Angel - a man who will not divulge his home address, wears tinted glasses and will only venture out of doors during the hours of darkness. When the young woman is left standing at the church only minutes before their marriage, and her finance vanishes into thin air, Mary seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes.
"I can never bring you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of thumb nails, or the great issues that may hang from a boot lace."
The Red Headed League
A red-headed pawnbroker takes on an unusual job to supplement the income from his ailing business and soon finds himself with a mystery on his hands. Sherlock Holmes uncovers a hoard of French gold and sets a trap to catch the villain behind a devious plan.
"You could not possibly have come at a better time, my dear Watson," he said, cordially.
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
A telegram summons Dr John Watson to Paddington Station where Sherlock Holmes is waiting to board a train to the West of England. Charles McCarthy has been found murdered near Boscombe Pool and all the evidence points to McCarthy's own son, whose shotgun was found near the body. Holmes of course, is not fooled by circumstantial evidence:
"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."
The Five Orange Pips
A retired colonel receives an envelope containing five dried orange pips and is eerily certain that a premature death awaits him. Though he strives to put his affairs in order before it is too late, he is found lying face down and very dead in a green-scummed pool in the garden. The colonel's estate passes to his brother Joseph, but hardly has Joseph taken charge of his inheritance, than a familiar envelope arrives on his breakfast table...
"Tut! tut!" cried Sherlock Holmes. "You must act, man, or you are lost. Nothing but energy can save you. This is no time for despair."
The Man with the Twisted Lip
When Kate Whitney arrives on the doorstep of Mr and Mrs John Watson late one evening, concerned that her husband has not been home for two days, the Doctor knows exactly where he can be found. Isa Whitney and his opium habits are well known and he sets off to the east of the city to an opium den. However, he finds someone else sitting amid the stench of drugs and alcohol as he searches for his friend...
"He made a slight motion to me to approach him, and instantly, as he turned his face half round to the company once more, subsided into a doddering, loose-lipped senility..."
The Blue Carbuncle
A hat and a fat goose find their way to 221B Baker Street after a street fight is intercepted by a local commissioner. The owner of these two items, having fled the scene of the brawl, would appear to be a simple matter, until something unexpected turns up when the goose is served up for Boxing day lunch...
"He held out his hand and displayed upon the centre of the palm a brilliantly scintillating blue stone..."
The Speckled Band
Dr Watson is awoken early one morning by Sherlock Holmes, when a rather excitable young woman turns up at 221b Baker Street requesting assistance. Helen Stoner tells how she and her sister went to stay with their stepfather, Dr Grimesby Roylett of Stoke Moran - a strange man who keeps wild animals on his country estate. However it is something more sinister that Helen reveals to Holmes and Watson: After her sister complains of a strange whistling noise during the night, she dies in sudden and mysterious circumstances. When Helen is forced to move into the bedroom previously used by her sister, she hears the same whistling sounds during the night, and begins to fear for her own life...
"Very strange", muttered Holmes, pulling on the rope.
The Engineer's Thumb
Having moved out of Baker Street into a home of his own with his new wife, Dr John Watson is visited one morning by engineer Victor Hatherley. The man has a strange story to tell, but it is a horrific wound that requires Watson's assistance first. Hatherley's thumb has been horribly hacked off in what the good doctor assumes was an accident, but Hatherley assures him that he has been the victim of a "murderous" attack. Watson whisks the fellow round to see Sherlock Holmes and the two men listen to the engineer's story, which involves Fuller's Earth, a midnight visit and Colonel Lysander Stark...
Holmes sat in his big armchair with the weary, heavy-lidded expression which veiled his keen and eager nature, while I sat opposite to him, and we listened in silence to the strange story which our visitor detailed to us.
The Noble Bachelor
Lord Robert St Simon seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes when his new bride, Hatty Doran, disappears during the wedding breakfast. The dazed husband fears that a previous lover of his may have led his wife into a trap. When Inspector Lestrade turns up moaning about having to drag the river for the missing woman, Holmes assures him that there is no need...
Lestrade shot an angry glance at my companion. "I suppose you know all about it," he snarled.
The Beryl Coronet
Banker Alexander Holder hurries through the snow one February morning to seek the help of Sherlock Holmes. His story involves a royal person who has entrusted the banker with a priceless coronet. Fearing for the item's safety, Holder keeps it with him at all times and locks it away in his bureau at home. However, during the night, he hears footsteps and leaps out of bed to find his wayward son Arthur in the next room holding the broken coronet. Holmes is sceptical about the tale so he and Watson set off for Streatham to find the real culprit.
His eyes twinkled, and there was even a touch of color upon his sallow cheeks. He hastened upstairs, and a few minutes later I heard the slam of the hall door, which told me that he was off once more upon his congenial hunt.
The Copper Beeches
Governess Violet Hunter sends a note to Sherlock Holmes asking for an appointment the following day. The young woman duly arrives and reveals her dilemma, involving some rather dubious duties within the household of Jephro Rucastle of The Copper Beeches. Miss Hunter also discloses how she initially turned down the post as one of Mr Rucastle's conditions was that she cut her hair very short. Holmes appears happy to send her on her way, with the promise that he will respond quickly if she is in need of his services. In a short time, she does indeed require his help and he and Watson hop on a train to Winchester, where a locked tower and a fierce dog await them...
He looked her over in his searching fashion, and then composed himself, with his lids drooping and his finger-tips together, to listen to her story.
This first collection of stories is by far the best (in my humble opinion), and although some of the later collections features a few gems, overall, the quality of the stories begins to fall off a little. This isn't to say that they aren't worth reading, but as I'm sure most fans of the books will admit, one or two of them are doing little more than filling space.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the first and the best and if you're only going to read one collection of the great detective's tales, this is the one.