my adventures with sherlock holmes

My first encounter with Sherlock Holmes came when I read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four as part of a mystery unit in my seventh grade reading class. Also part of the unit were Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who Saw Read, both of which I enjoyed more.  As best as I can remember, I felt generally ambivalent about the Holmes tales — I have a vague recollection of feeling like there was too much of a disconnect between the mystery part of the book and the backstory.  Most telling, I didn’t start seeking out Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s other works the way I ended up going through title after title of Braun’s.  Though I eventually tired of Braun’s reporter detective and cat sidekick, it never occurred to me to give Sherlock Holmes another chance.

Not until I downloaded a number of Sherlock Holmes audio books from my library’s web site.  Over the past couple of weeks, I made my way through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles, and then decided to give A Study in Scarlet another chance as well.  Listening to all three in such a short span of time made me feel that though my impression of A Study in Scarlet wasn’t far off, my dismissal of all Holmes tales was premature. 

I’ve found I enjoy Conan Doyle’s book most when the focus of the story is on the detecting rather than the backstory.  Though Adventures, which is made of a number of shorter mysteries, and Baskervilles are quite different in their construct, both tend to focus on Sherlock Holmes’ process of discovering the details of the crime — be it through himself or his partner (and narrator) Watson.  In A Study in Scarlet, Holmes’ efforts seem vague and ambiguous, and much of the book is devoted to the history motivating the crime.  This history is an interesting one, but changes the flow and nature of the book so much that it feels like an entirely separate story.  For my tastes, the books are more fun when the focus is on Holmes and Watson, the streets of London or the moors of England, and, of course, the ways and means — not necessarily the whys — of the crime itself.

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~ by Molly on April 14, 2010.

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