To those who follow days of literary importance, you’ll already know today is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday. Writing him off as simply an author would be a great understatement. Conan Doyle was a man of many faces, which makes him memorable enough for me to be talking about him almost 83 years after his death.
I could go on an on about his exploits, but I’m here to talk about his lasting contribution: Sherlock Holmes. The original Holmes collection is made up of four novels and 56 short stories, but it has since become so much more than words on paper. These tales of mystery and deduction are regarded as some of the best works of crime fiction of all time.
I’m not much of a crime reader myself, but I do watch my fair share of detective and mystery shows. So, inadvertently I get doses of Sherlock Holmes (Holmes being the most adapted fictional character of all time, with more than 200 portrayals on film, according to Guinness Book of World Records). “House,” for example, was one of those mystery medical shows that drew connections between Sherlock’s and Dr. Gregory House’s deduction skills.
I have seen all three of the modern adaptations, two television shows and one movie franchise. Both the movies and BBC’s “Sherlock” have come to the point where Holmes has faked his death. Conan Doyle had taken a break in his Holmes writings, had meant to kill the detective off for good but ended up returning to the storyline. I decided to break into the crime fiction scene and read the short story “The Adventure of the Empty House,” when Sherlock returns, is reunited with his beloved friend Dr. John Watson and solves a murder all in one go.
I could tell almost immediately why these stories get such high praise. There is an extraordinary amount of descriptive detail. Some stories are easily weighed down by all of the unnecessary fluff, but “The Empty House” strikes a perfect balance. While the explanation as to how Sherlock faked his death was weak compared to my expectations, the relationship between he and Dr. John Watson was every bit as lovely as “Sherlock” depicts it as.
I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed it enough to read more had I not been familiar with the material beforehand, but as it stands, I will definitely be keeping these stories on my metaphorical shelf.