Post by Salzmank on Mar 19, 2018 21:11:21 GMT
Not just Holmes, I hasten to add, but everything the great man wrote—I happen to think that Doyle was one of our great all-time storytellers (to be distinguished, as Eliot pointed out in “Wilkie Collins and Dickens,” from novelists). The Sherlock Holmes canon makes for excellent adventure tales (and it’s far more that than the later Golden Age mystery of Christie, Carr, Queen, et al.), but I’d also like to highlight some lesser-known Doylean masterpieces. Any other fans? Carr’s biography of the man, written like a novel, is highly recommended.
“The Captain of the Pole-Star”—good early horror tale, halfway between Poe (sea-adventure, death of a beautiful woman/lost love) and Mary Shelley (specter in frozen wasteland of the North Pole, epistolary format).
“Uncle Jeremy’s Household”—excellent foreshadower [is that a word?] of Holmes, complete with a villain with a mysterious secret and Doyle’s favorite plot set-up, a household besieged by unknown forces (a concept also well-liked and well-used by Ellery Queen).
The Sign of the Four—not a mystery, but a superb adventure story with some good characters and an excellent villain. Improves on A Study in Scarlet in writing but even more so in characterization.
The White Company—Doyle’s best historical novel, showing his chivalry and traditionalism. Great fun, even if very much in the shadow of Dumas.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (particularly “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “The Red-Headed League,” “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” “The Speckled Band,” and “The Copper Beeches”)—fast-paced, exciting, very well-written.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (particularly “Silver Blaze,” “The Musgrave Ritual,” “The Greek Interpreter,” and “The Final Problem”)—some of Doyle’s best melodramas; “Silver Blaze” also one of the few fair-play whodunits in the Canon.
“The Case of Lady Sannox”—Doyle’s masterpiece of horror, utterly gruesome—yet gripping. Little known nowadays but superb.
The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard (particularly “How the Brigadier Played for a Kingdom”)—very funny tales of a pompous Grande Armée officer who gets involved in wild adventures; a huge influence on Fraser’s Flashman.
“The Croxley Master”—unlike Doyle, I have no real interest in pugilism, but this is very well-told and fun to read, more a Dumasian romance masquerading as a sports story.
Round the Fire Stories (particularly “The Leather Funnel,” “The Beetle Hunter,” “The Man with Watches,” “The Jew’s Breastplate,” “The Brazilian Cat,” and “The Fiend of the Cooperage”)—one of Doyle’s best collections, excellent mixture of horror and deduction, with many call-backs to Holmes. “The Man with Watches” and “The Lost Special” are both Doyle spoofing his own most famous creation (an unnamed but instantly-identifiable Holmes comes up with wildly incorrect solutions to both), but the former is the better story. “The Leather Funnel,” the story in which I first heard of the Affair of the Poisons, masterly builds tension.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (particularly “The Norwood Builder,” “The Dancing Men,” “The Priory School,” “Charles Augustus Milverton,” “The Six Napoleons,” and “The Abbey Grange”)—no real need for comment, as these stories are so good by this point, but “Charles Augustus Milverton” is particularly noteworthy.
“The Terror of Blue John Gap”—curious but very good Doylean horror, seemingly inspired by Machen (The Three Imposters) and prefiguring Lovecraft.
“The Devil’s Foot”—excellent blend of Holmes and horror. A superb scene with Holmes and Watson in room with deadly poison (later borrowed for The Spider Woman [’43]) and an ingenious plot make for the best story of the otherwise disappointing His Last Bow collection.
The Lost World—still one of the finest adventure novels of them all, on par with Haggard and inspiring authors all the way to Crichton’s Jurassic Park.
“The Horror of the Heights”—more horror, also proto-Lovecraft (At the Mountains of Madness). As usual with ACD, good use of tension.
The Valley of Fear—the one fair-play whodunit of the Holmes novels and one of the few in the Canon in general. Holmes is super-brilliant; the clues are excellent; and the solution, while a variation on “The Norwood Builder,” is one of those that make you want to kick yourself for failing to see the obvious—commensal inspiration between Mason (At the Villa Rose) and Doyle? The second part, a flashback which explains the killer’s motives (à la A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four), would make for a roaring, almost Hammett-esque novella on its own.
“The Sussex Vampire”—Doyle has been reading Dracula. Utterly brilliant and horrifying use of vampirism, which Holmes sees as a clue; the solution, which makes sense of seemingly inexplicable actions, is ingenious.
“The Illustrious Client”—one of the best Holmes stories, on par with the Adventures. No mystery, but an nail-biting melodrama about Holmes’s attempts to stop one of the nastiest villains in the Canon, the wife-murdering Baron Adelbert Grüner.
“When the World Screamed”—the best of the Professor Challenger short-stories, thankfully sans spiritualism. The Professor himself has gone off his rocker, it seems, but this is still great fun.