The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

"You're not hurt, Watson? For God's sake, say that you are not hurt!"

It was worth a wound--it was worth many wounds--to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.

"It's nothing, Holmes. It's a mere scratch."


Oh, fanfiction. The bane of every author's existence. Masses of misguided fans who take the characters so carefully created and make them do things so contrary to their natures. In this example, for instan... Wait. What's that?... Oh, this is canon? Written by Arthur Conan Doyle himself?... never mind.

So here's the deal. I just finished reading The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. Now I have only to read The Valley of Fear, and I will have completely read every Sherlock Holmes story written by Arthur Conan Doyle. This book, the last compiled by Doyle, was very different from the others. The crimes seemed more gruesome and sensationalistic, Holmes seemed much more emotional, and even the standard format of the stories was changed up a bit; rather than all the stories being told by Watson, one was in the third person, and two were narrated by Holmes himself. In essence Doyle was providing pure fanservice with this collection, having long before lost his interest in Sherlock Holmes. However, despite this fact, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes contains some of my favorite stories. It is also clear that, out of all the stories, these are the ones that most influenced the Guy Ritchie interpretation of Holmes in the new movies. I'll run through this book the same way I've run through other Sherlock Holmes books, simply pointing out things in each story that struck my fancy.

The Adventure of the Illustrious Client

Ah what a mystery. A brilliant, evil, and devious bad guy worthy of Holmes's attention. Holmes stick fighting with a group of street thugs. A horribly violent ending. This story has it all. It also has a line used directly by the BBC series, Sherlock. When the man consulting Holmes says that his client prefers to remain anonymous, Holmes replies, "I am sorry. I am accustomed to have mystery at one end of my cases, but to have it at both ends is too confusing."


The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier

This is one of the stories narrated by Holmes himself. The mystery in this one is not so great. However, I chuckled at Holmes's bitter line near the beginning, "The good Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall in our association. I was alone." Of course what is merely a single line in the stories (Watson isn't going to talk about this in the stories he writes after all) becomes a large part of the Holmes/Watson relationship in the RDJ/Jude Law movies.

The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone

Once again, we're treated to Holmes, the man of action and master of disguise. And it is awesome!

The Adventure of the Three Gables

Holmes vs. a very devious and powerful woman. This was a good mystery, but only a *meh* story overall.

The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire

"This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply."

Along the lines of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes takes on the supernatural and finds a logical explanation.

The Adventure of the Three Garridebs

This one was a quirky mystery. I'm happy to say that I actually solved the mystery before the end, which could mean that I'm getting more in tune with Doyle's writing style, but it probably means that Doyle is getting sloppy. This story is the source of the quote at the beginning of my post. In the aftermath of a shootout, Watson realizes for the first time how much Holmes values his friendship. Awwww. :)

The Problem of Thor Bridge

"Some of you rich men have to be taught that all the world cannot be bribed into condoning your offences."

A corrupt businessman, a jealous wife, and a pretty young governess accused of murder make up the background of one of Holmes's more creative cases.

The Adventure of the Creeping Man

This story had a couple of genuinely creepy moments. This also seems like Sherlock Holmes's foray into science fiction. When a serum is created to restore youth and vitality to the aged, the results are...not entirely desirable. Holmes has a great speech in this one.

"When one tries to rise above Nature one is liable to fall below it. The highest type of man may revert to the animal if he leaves the straight road of destiny." He sat musing for a little with the phial in his hand, looking at the clear liquid within. "When I have written to this man and told him that I hold him criminally responsible for the poisons which he circulates, we will have no more trouble. But it may recur. Others may find a better way. There is danger there--a very real danger to humanity. Consider, Watson, that the material, the sensual, the worldly would all prolong their worthless lives. The spiritual would not avoid the call to something higher. It would be the survival of the least fit. What sort of cesspool may not our poor world become?"

The Adventure of the Lion's Mane

Another of the stories told from Holmes's perspective. This one was a bit lackluster, although it offers a nice view of Holmes in retirement.

The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger

Funny scene at the beginning of Holmes messing with Watson. When Watson comes in to discover Holmes consulting with a client: "This is Mrs. Merrilow, of South Brixton," said my friend with a wave of the hand. "Mrs. Merrilow does not object to tobacco, Watson, if you wish to indulge your filthy habits."

Aside from that, this is one of the stories in which Holmes doesn't really detect anything.

The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place

This was an awesome story. The mystery was top notch, the pacing was perfect, and Holmes was brilliant. Also, this story makes explicit the little gambling problem which Watson has that makes it necessary for Holmes to lock up his checkbook as we see in "The Dancing Men".

"By the way, Watson, you know something of racing?"

"I ought to. I pay for it with about half my wound pension."


The Adventure of the Retired Colourman

A good story to finish off. Watson gets his chance to do a bit of detecting and report back to Holmes. Although, Holmes is a bit snarky about Watson's attempt to describe the scene:

"I think it would interest you, Holmes. It is like some penurious patrician who has sunk into the company of his inferiors. You know that particular quarter, the monotonous brick streets, the weary suburban highways. Right in the middle of them, a little island of ancient culture and comfort, lies this old home, surrounded by a high sun-baked wall mottled with lichens and topped with moss, the sort of wall--"

"Cut out the poetry, Watson," said Holmes severely. "I note that it was a high brick wall."


Also we get an explicit description of Watson as a ladies man, something we only really see in Jude Law's portrayal of the character (certainly not with *shudder* Nigel Bruce).

With your natural advantages, Watson, every lady is your helper and accomplice. What about the girl at the post-office, or the wife of the greengrocer? I can picture you whispering soft nothings with the young lady at the Blue Anchor, and receiving hard somethings in exchange.


Overall this was a really fun book and an essential part of your Sherlock Holmes reading list.

4/5 stars

Comments

Andrea C. said…
The Sussex Vampire, Lion's Mane, and the Illustrious Client were my favorites. =P Good luck with Valley of Fear--that's an awesome one too.
PS, if you haven't seen the modern-day bbc british tv series 'Sherlock', it's highly recommended. They're great.
Rick said…
Andrea,

I've seen a few episodes of the BBC series. It's really fun, but also really intense. Can't watch them before bed if I want to get to sleep any time soon.
Wayne Brown said…
Yes, Valley of Fear is one of his best, but I always thought it was a liiitle on the "Americans are total savages" side of the spectrum. Still, it's a good, long read. And you still feel like it was too short after you've finished.
buddy2blogger said…
The Valley of Fear is my favorite novel and Silver Blaze is my favorite short story in the canon :)