The Novels and Stories of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

January seems to be mystery month for me. And not only that, Sherlock returns. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one looking forward to third season. So, in honour of the great detective and his return, lets talk about the stories. A few summers ago I read them all.

There are the well known ones: The Hound of the Baskervilles, Scandal in Bohemia, The Final Problem (season two in fact). And while I enjoyed them all, and enjoyed the short story format, one of the novels, The Valley of Fear, sort of blew me away. It was very vivid in my mind as I read. It was intense and suspenseful; there was truly as feeling of evil that must be overcome. And, not being (as) well known, it was a total surprise to me.

Sherlock Holmes is so very well known as a character he has become almost a caricature in some places (not Sherlock, thank goodness). So I think it is very refreshing to get back to the written word, the original stories and discover this eccentric, dogged, relentless, sometimes infuriating, detective. Holmes is the original flawed detective and I think that is what he really has going for him. He has a brilliant mind but he still needs other people, and we enjoy not just his successes but his interactions as follow his development as a human being keenly. The stories are really quite redeeming, for in the end, it really isn’t about proving his abilities, it is about using his abilities for others.

And of course, we can’t forget Watson, because of course, it is through his perspective and his words that we see and learn everything. Without him there is no Sherlock Holmes.

I should note that the collected stories and novels that I have come in two volumes. The Valley of Fear is in the second volume, along with The Hound of the Baskervilles and His Last Bow and Casebook, but it is in rather poor shape. I picked it up second hand and just now has broken into two pieces in my hand (time for some tape!). The first volume, containing A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, among short story Adventures, Memoirs, and Return of Sherlock Holmes, is in much better shape. I owned the first volume for years before I actually read it. I got it as a gift and quite ungratefully didn’t really pay it attention, although I should confess that I tried to read it a little starting with A Study in Scarlet and found it quite tough going at the time (I think I was in high school). I am so glad though that I did get it as a gift and that I gave it a second try or I might never have gotten into them!


Agatha Christie and Co.

I did some reader’s advisory at the library recently for a patron who was looking for something like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries, so I thought I would share it here, especially since I’ve been on an Agatha Christie kick lately. I’ve been trying to figure out what I have read and what I haven’t, which involves reading a lot of Agatha Christies, sometimes unknowingly (at first) for the second time.

The patron was looking for something set in an English village (she really enjoyed books set in England – setting was very important); a cozy mystery, not graphic or racy; something light in tone, humourous. She mentioned the Miss Marple mysteries by Agatha Christie specifically. I did some research and this is what I came up with. They are all set in rural England and English villages. They are such blood-thirsty places! I haven’t read many of these authors, but I think I might give them a try.

  • Ann Granger – Writes several series, two of which are set in rural England, the Mitchell and Markby series (first title: Say It With Poison) and the Campbell and Carter series, set in the Cotswolds (first title: Mud, Muck, and Dead Things).
  • Hazel Holt – Her sleuth is the Mrs. Shelia Malory, a reluctant amateur sleuth. (First title: Mrs. Malory Investigates).
  • Robert Barnard – Series features Detective Charlie Peace in West Yorkshire. (First title: Death and the Chaste Apprentice).
  • Catherine Aird – Writes a series set in rural England featuring C. D. Sloan, who finds himself investigating crimes among interesting groups. (First title: The Religious Body).
  • M. C. Beaton – Writes two series, one set in the Cotswolds featuring Agatha Raisin (first title: The Quiche of Death), and the other set in Scotland, with Hamish MacBeth (first title: Death of a Gossip).
  • Caroline Graham – Her mysteries follow C. I. Barnaby (first title: The Killings at Badger’s Drift).
  • Charles Hampton/Hamilton Crane/Heron Carvic – All three authors contributed to the series about Miss Seeton, a retired art teacher, who is a bit like Miss Marple. (First title: Picture Miss Seeton).
  • G. M. Galliet – Her mysteries feature Max Tudor, who thought he left crime behind in the city but finds that is not the case (first title: Wicked Autumn).
  • John Sherwood – Write the Celia Grant series. Celia is a horticulturalist. (First title: Green Thumb Trigger.)
  • Nancy Atherton – Her Aunt Dimity series is little more on the kooky side. One of the detectives, Aunt Dimity, is a ghost. (First title: Aunt Dimity’s Death).

I haven’t provided a tonne of information but hopefully it’s enough for people to find books and give them a try. You can glean some information from the descriptions though. Is the title humourous? Is it serious? What type of detective is it – amateur or police? Is the detectives name quirky or down-to-earth? All these things give us little clues to the author’s intentions. We could categorize books according to detective:

Police – Campbell and Carter (Granger), Charlie Peace (Barnard), Sloan (Aird), Hamish MacBeth (Beaton) and Barnaby (Graham).

Amateurs – Shelia Malory (Holt), Agatha Raisin (Beaton), Miss Seeton (Carvic, etc.), Celia Grant (Sherwood), and Aunt Dimity (Atherton).

Professional/Amateur mix – Mitchell and Markby (Granger) and Max Tudor (retired MI5).

I have to say, when it comes to names, I like Granger’s use of alliteration but I still think Hamish MacBeth is the best name, followed closely by Aunt DImity.

Anyway, some cozy-ish mysteries to consider!