Over the past few months, I have been attempting to read the entire Sherlock Holmes series, which was begun in 1880 by Arthur Conan Doyle. I have been using Audible’s definitive collection, a fantastically long audiobook that is narrated by the wonderful Stephen Fry. I have already written reviews for A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the latter of which I broke up into two reviews.
I’m going to do the same thing for my review of this fourth book in the series, simply because I find it much easier to keep these posts a little bit shorter. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the first half of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
Title: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle.
Publication: 1893, George Newnes.
My Edition: 2017, Audible.
Length: 4 hours, 55 minutes (for this half).
Genres: Classic, Mystery, Crime.
My Rating: 4/5 (overall).
Story #1 – “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”
This first story was a fantastic opening to the collection. Holmes and Watson rush to the aid of an agitated colonel whose prized racing horse, Silver Blaze, has disappeared. This case has already received a lot of publicity, especially as the rider of Silver Blaze has been found murdered in a nearby field. Nevertheless, the police detectives must, once again, rely on the help of Sherlock Holmes.
When I was reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I mentioned that I wasn’t too keen on the stories which took us away from Baker Street. I like the regularity of the client-Holmes relationship that takes place in the detective’s front room. “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” is based on the outskirts of Exeter, but I still really enjoyed it. The different setting was actually quite exciting, and I loved picturing Holmes and Watson following various trails of muddy footprints through the fields.
Story #2 – “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”
Here is a story with a lot of history. Interestingly enough, “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” is often omitted from publications, especially in US editions. The reason for this (or so I think) is that it involves adultery, and so, during Conan Doyle’s time, it wasn’t deemed suitable for younger audiences.
In terms of the story, it’s probably my least favourite in this collection. It begins interestingly enough; an ageing widow receives a mysterious package containing two human ears. She calls the police and, before long, Holmes is on the scene. The narrative itself is quite interesting, but I really didn’t like the way that it was told. The main case was told in a rush and very few details were offered. At the end, however, the culprit gave such a lengthy explanation that it may have been longer than the actual case!
Story #3 – “The Adventure of the Yellow Face”
In this story, Holmes and Watson rush to the aid of a worried husband who has begun to suspect his wife of some… misdealings. As the case evolves, however, the case turns out to be much more complicated than it originally seemed.
Personally, I really enjoyed this story. It provides some excellent comments regarding race and racial discrimination, as well as marking one of the very rare occasions where Sherlock Holmes gets it wrong. I also loved the ending of this one – it’s really well done and turned out to be truly heartwarming.
Story #4 – “The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk”
The fourth story in this collection shares a lot of similarities with “The Red-Headed League” from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In both cases, there is a huge focus on identity, as well as on trickery. Holmes and Watson are sought out by a man who was lucky enough to be given a new position with a much higher pay bracket. Yet if there is one thing that I have learnt from these stories, it is that things can be too good to be true.
This isn’t my favourite Sherlock Holmes story, if only because it doesn’t seem quite as original as some of the others. Nevertheless, it was quite enjoyable to read, and I really liked the clever use of doubling in it. In a way, the focus on identity also reminded me a little of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which made it all the more interesting.
Story #5 – “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott“
Here we have a story that is interesting for one simple reason: it is Sherlock Holmes’ first ever case. In his youth, he stayed with a friend and his father, but, quite unwittingly, he begins to uncover a rather dark secret regarding his friend’s father.
It’s not the best story, but it’s certainly interesting, and it really is a delight to think of Holmes when he was a young boy. I particularly liked how Holmes has begun to tell Watson more of his past; through stories such as this, I feel as though the friendship between these two men begins to grow.
Story #6 – “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual”
This story is a real treasure hunt. Having already related his first case to Watson, Holmes decides to tell his friend about the case that gave him fame. Up at a rich manor house, he uncovers a riddle that leads him both to fortune and murder… and, yes, a treasure hunt.
From my description, you may be thinking that this is quite a dark story, but this really isn’t the case. In fact, it’s quite a fun little tale, both in terms of the narrative, and because it allows us to learn still more about Holmes’ past. This is definitely one of my favourite stories; there is a real sense of mystery about it that I really love.
Thank you so much for reading! You can read part two of this review here.
You can click here to check out an A-Z list of all of my reviews (so far)!