Saturday, 17 September 2011


I love the Holmes stories. As I read through this first set again I was tempted to think that they were the finest of all.
There is The Speckled Band with the classic line “The lady could not move her bed. It must always be in the same relative position to the ventilator and to the rope – or so we may call it, since it was clearly never meant for a bell-pull.”
The Blue Carbuncle is one of the greatest Christmas stories ever.
The Red-Headed League, The Copper Beeches and The Man with the Twisted Lip are classics in detection and in short story writing.

But what then of The Resident Patient and The Crooked Man (both in The Memoirs)? What of The Dancing Men and The Solitary Cyclist (from The Return)? Or The Bruce-Partington Plans and The Devil’s Foot (His Last Bow)? Clearly, there is no way I can choose a favourite. And after all, I suppose, they are only somewhat arbitrary groupings, having been published individually in The Strand magazine. Doyle’s success lay in the fact that he kept coming up with novel and interesting problems over such a lengthy period.

And then there is The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, currently unfinished. The final story is The Retired Colourman and I have not read it. I have never read it. I do not want to be in the situation where there are no more Holmes stories for me to read. (I do not include those stories written since by other authors, some of them surprisingly good; some, like The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin, exceptionally good.) If I am ever on Death Row I will request The Retired Colourman instead of food for my last meal, however much I will want a pizza.

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