I love reading crime novels. I love watching Sherlock Holmes movies and TV series. But I had never read even one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.
After one year of studying 19th Century literature I was really put off by the style of the time. Great stories wrapped up in long detailed descriptions that made beautiful prose but lost the plot. Or obscure works that hinted at things because the social code of the time frowned on certain subjects. That is not to say that some of the books I read were not good books, or great stories, but they do not really make for light, enjoyable reading for most people – me included.
In the recent school holidays I took reviewer Sam to the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney (an activity I really recommend if you get the chance!). At the end of the exhibition Sam chose a Young Sherlock book as a remembrance, and I decided to ‘risk’ at look at a real Sherlock Holmes written by the original author.
Ok, so it was really baby steps. I did not think I could read a full novel so I bought a book of short stories. Before you call me coward, it is good to remember that Conan Doyle (for he was not Sir until later) actually came to widespread attention because of his short stories in publications of the time, as did many authors of his era, so I discovered him in the same way many of his contemporary readers did.
And discover him I did! This book was bought for me and was not really meant for review, but I enjoyed these stories so much I decided to share them. Sir Arthur writes with a lightness of touch more in the vein of Charles Dickens than Thomas Hardy, and his stories move quickly while painting a detailed scene and creating interesting characters. Rather than the forensic heavy crime novels of today, Holmes relies on observation and extrapolation to solve his mysteries, while also demonstrating some of the early techniques of forensic science. These things all make the Sherlock Holmes stories great reading for children of today, for good reading Tweens but definitely for teens. The books may also start some interesting discussions on things like what is a telegram? And why didn’t they use the phone?
I enjoyed my day out at Sherlock Holmes Exhibition, but I will remember it more for introducing me to the writings of his imaginative inventor.