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crime / mystery / detective literature:
a critical list with discussions

Crime/Mystery Series: Sherlock Holmes

"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.


--"Silver Blaze",
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle



Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes

About the Author

There are probably almost as many pages about Doyle as about his immortal detective. Here are just a few of the leading ones:

The following curious note appears on the front page of the Arthur Conan Doyle Society web site: The Arthur Conan Doyle Society is not, in any way, connected with the organisation calling itself The Literary Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, nor does the Society agree with, or endorse, many of the claims made by that organisation on its web site. We have asked that organisation to remove any links to this site from its website. Fascinating. A look at this page shows what Nero Wolfe meant when he described a will contest as "a tug of war with a dead man's guts for rope".


About the Character

There exist, naturally, a plethora of web sites devoted to perhaps the most written-about fictional character ever; a few to be going on with are:

(In case you came to this page you are reading from a search engine instead of through its site, I will here repeat the brief remarks on the main mystery/crime page that points here.)

The defining element of these ever-delightful tales is, as Vincent Starett once put it, a world in which "it is always eighteen ninety-five." We visit and re-visit because the atmosphere is warm and cozy (which is very different from the stark and grim reality of Victorian times). Holmes and Watson are boyish wish fulfillment: no "real" jobs, cozy evenings by the fire, adventure forever beckoning. The tales are a triumph of style over content: despite Holmes' cleverly displayed intellectual powers, the actual crimes detected range from the somewhat unlikely to the utterly preposterous. It is a tribute to Doyle's style that we do not even notice the impracticalities and absurdities: we simply wallow in the atmosphere. And there is always the pleasure of what has come to be known as Sherlockismus--those immortal, almost Chestertonian exchanges of which that at the head of this page is the archetype.


The Books

Needless to say, there is a libraryful of editions of Sherlock Holmes (and of imitations, continuations, pastiches, commentaries, supplements, and whatever else you can think of). Fortunately, it is easy--at least for now--to pick out a "definitive" edition, that being "The Oxford Sherlock Holmes" set from the Oxford University Press. That doesn't mean that no other edition any longer has any merit or purpose, only that the serious reader must have at least that edition. I thus do not attempt the myriad other editions, and list here only the Oxford. The Oxford is "definitive" because it contains not only the original texts perfectly presented, but because it also includes a wealth of annotations and discussions, all representing the latest findings and understandings in Doyle/Holmes scholarship.

What is generally referred to as "the canon" comprises 56 short stories and 4 novels. Closely associated with Doyle's texts are the illustrations published with the original appearances of the texts, illustrations that have "set" our images of Holmes and Watson. Though several hands illustrated the published tales, far and away the two best known and significant were Sidney Paget (curiously, chosen in error--they thought they were engaging his brother) and, later, Frederic Dorr Steele (whom many think the better of the two, though Paget's work is more commonly seen). There is a wonderful on-line resource for the Holmes illustrations, the curiously titled Pinacotheca Holmesiana section of the Camden House Sherlockian web site.

When the character of Sherlock Holmes entered the public domain a few years ago, the floodgates opened and the world was awash in "Sherlock Holmes" stories by every poor soul with access to a word processor, typewriter, pen, pencil, or box of Crayolas. Prior to that time, there was a a book titled The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes listed as co-authored by Adrian Conan Doyle (one of Sir Arthur's sons) and John Dickson Carr; all you need know of it is that it is usually referred to by those acquainted with it as Sherlock Holmes Exploited.

(But for an excellent and loving pastiche--held by many to be the only worthy one--see the page here on Solar Pons.)

In these lists, the links are all to used-book searches for the title (via Abebooks). Some few can still be found in print new, but not many. As usual, the search results are sorted from lowest price up (note that, as always in used-book searches from this site, the price sort is by actual book price, not total shipped price, though each listing also always shows the true total shipped cost; occasionally, a slightly more expensive title will be slightly cheaper shipped--but the differences are never much and you can easily eyeball those cases.)


The Individual Books

The OUP set followed the original issue pattern of the books as to names and content; the dates shown in the list are of the original appearance of the title.


Omnibus Editions

The entire Oxford collection as a set is no longer commonly available, but one can check from time to time.





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it was last modified on Thursday, 1 January 1970, at 00:00 GMT


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(essential one-time reading)
Introductory Material:
    Literate Mystery Series:
 a brief list of the series discussed here


(the heart of the site)
The Series (alphabetical by character last name):
    Roderick Alleyn
 (Ngaio Marsh)
    Father Brown
 (G. K. Chesterton)
    Mr. Campion
 (Margery Allingham)
    Adam Dalgliesh
 (P. D. James)
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 (Conan Doyle)
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 (Georges Simenon)
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 (Raymond Chandler)
    The Continental Op
 (Dashiell Hammett)
    Solar Pons
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    The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (Precious Ramotswe)
 (Alexander McCall Smith)
    The Saint (Simon Templar)
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    Lord Peter Wimsey
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 (William Marshall)



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