Monday, 25 July 2016

Book review: The Complete Sherlock Holmes vol.3

As I like to do every year or two, I've gone back to Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories in my collection of the complete works; Volume 3 includes one collection of short stories and the final full-length novel: The Return of Sherlock Holmes starts with "The Adventure of the Empty House," which as the title of the collection suggests sees Holmes return from the "dead" in a typically low-key way, and explain how he faked his own death so he could get rid of Moriarty's crime ring while they thought he was safely out of the way. I do generally enjoy the short stories more than the novels, and this is quite a good little collection of them, with a couple of grisly cases and one or two I'm not sure I've actually read before. I did like moments in these like a client asking Holmes and Watson if he can have a glass of milk and a biscuit to calm his nerves, or the couple of times where Holmes to all intents and purposes tells Watson not to be so racist.

Holmes' supposed death must have got Conan Doyle's audience really interested in the shady Professor Moriarty as well, because he crops up a lot more after his own death than he ever did before it, so despite having revived Holmes a lot of stories go back to before the Reichenbach Falls: The final novel The Valley of Fear feels like an instance of Moriarty being crowbarred into an unrelated story, which is enjoyable enough but does go back to the clunky storytelling device of A Study in Scarlet - Holmes solving the mystery in the first half of the novel with information the reader doesn't have, then a second half flashing back to events in America that led up to the crime. It's pulled off better here than in the debut novel - the flashback itself is more cleverly constructed - but it still feels like a bit of a cheat of a narrative device.