My top 5 Sherlock Holmes stories
The first of the Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries was meant to be a follow up to my earlier novels featuring the young Leonardo da Vinci and William Shakespeare. This one would also create an imaginary adventure for our hero, set against an authentic historical background. When Floris Books suggested that this could be a whole series in its own right, I was delighted, and I have – naturally – been avidly rereading my Sherlock Holmes collection while writing my own contribution to the legend.
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote fifty-six short stories and four novels about Sherlock Holmes and it is no easy matter to pick out just five for special mention! I have, however, managed to find a good reason for each choice, and I hope that others will be prompted to explore the world of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle further.
'The Red Headed League'
This was the first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read. To my teenage mind, the title suggested an organisation of evil redheaded people bent on world domination. It's nothing like that, of course. Pawnbroker Jabez Wilson has been hired by the mysterious League to spend each afternoon copying out pages from the Encyclopedia Britannica, and he enlists Holmes to find out what lies behind this bizarre employment. One of the cleverest mysteries!
'The Speckled Band'
This was Conan Doyle's own favourite, so much so that he even adapted it into a successful play. What is the speckled band, which has caused the mysterious deaths in an old country house? The investigation leads to a creepy and suspenseful climax.
'The Blue Carbuncle'
A Sherlock Holmes story set at Christmastime is just the perfect thing, and this tale of a stolen jewel and a discarded goose shows off Holmes's unique deductive powers in a delightful way. It also demonstrates that Holmes is more interested in what is right than in the letter of the law, especially at Christmastime.
The Sign of Four
This is the second Holmes novel and my favourite of the four, mainly because in all the others Holmes is absent from the action for several chapters. Here Holmes is front and centre; we meet his youthful auxiliaries, The Baker Street Irregulars, and the case leads to an exciting and perilous pursuit on the River Thames. Conan Doyle enjoyed having the roots of a mystery lie in a long-ago incident in a far-off, exotic land. That works wonderfully well here.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The most famous Holmes story of all and one which has been filmed many times. Who can resist the intriguing mix of detection and the supernatural as Holmes pursues a phantom hound across a fog-shrouded Dartmoor? It is a delicious combination of elements that has since been imitated in hundreds of stories and films.