The twelve short stories collected together as ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ were first published in The Strand Magazine, beginning with ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’. Arthur Conan Doyle’s first two novels featuring the consulting detective (‘A Study in Scarlet’ and ‘The Sign of Four’) hadn’t made much of an impression on the general public, but in The Strand’s readership, the individual stories prompted a huge increase in circulation for the magazine and began an unstoppable appetite for Conan Doyle’s analytical detective.
One of my favourites is ‘The Speckled Band’ which introduces us to Helen Stoner, whose sister has died in mysterious circumstances. Her guardian, the marvellously-named Dr Grimesby Roylett, appears to have ulterior motives when he persuades Miss Stoner to move into the bedroom previously occupied by her sister. Naturally, she soon begins to fear for her own life…
Together with such classics as ‘The Red Headed League’ and ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’, Doyle’s first collection is by far the best and while some of the later books include a few gems, the quality of the stories begins to fall off a little. This isn’t to say they aren’t worth reading, but as I’m sure most fans of the books will admit, one or two of them are doing little more than filling space.
‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ is the first and the best and if you’re only going to read one collection of the great detective’s tales, this is the one.