The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1903-1904)

A collection of more Sherlock Holmes stories, although this anthology features the resurrection of Holmes after Doyle had tried to kill him off in his earlier book. Due to such a public outcry from the fans of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle was forced to bring him back to life and the first story handles that, although it’s not graceful in any way. (Kinda fumbles it, if you ask me, but there may have been reasons for that on Doyle’s side of things.)

Doyle had been writing Sherlock Holmes stories for a while, and although that character was amazingly well liked (and almost a celebrity in his own right), Doyle had got fed up with him and wanted to move on to other projects. However, when Holmes was “killed” in an earlier story, there was a huge public outcry and Doyle felt that he had to bring him back from the dead. This was easier to do than would be expected, as the story wherein Holmes dies is a bit wish-washy about the details of his death, and so it wasn’t that hard to provide details that would prove he was alive in other ways.

So Holmes arrives back in London to meet his friend and business partner Dr. Watson, and then the typical high jinks ensure. As always, a fun read with lots of clues and red herrings sprinkled throughout to make the cases each alluring to the reader to work out. I also noticed that Holmes is starting to get bit more openly grumpy in this book: he snaps at Watson, uses sarcasm and is generally a bit snarky. (You know, he reminded me of Doc Martin in the BBC TV series of the same name. And also House, MD, which of course takes us back to Holmes.)

This bad-tempered side of Holmes comes out more clearly and more defined in this anthology, and I am wondering if it’s because Doyle was grumpy about having to resurrect him when he had thought he was done with that character. (Doyle was an interesting person, in and of himself, but I’ll travel down that rabbit hole another day. In the meantime, here is the official website of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Literary Estate… )

An interesting parallel to this is that another book that I am currently reading (“The Devil and Sherlock Holmes” by David Grann) is non-fiction and one of its chapters details the curious tale of how one of the world’s foremost scholars of Sherlock Holmes died a suspicious death after he started to get involved in the large stash of Doyle’s personal papers which was supposed to go to the British Museum, but somehow (through family machinations) ended up on the auction block at Sothebys. (The papers – the important ones, at least – did get to the British Museum in the end, but it was a lengthy journey.) So – even after Doyle is long dead and his characters are historical icons, there is still mystery surrounding the whole topic.

I made a list of all the Sherlock Holmes works that Doyle produced, and thought it might be a fun project to work my way through them in a laid-back non anal-retentive way (if I can). Here is the list so far, working by date of publication. Crossed out titles means that I have already read them.

Sherlock Holmes Novels:

  • A Study in Scarlet (1997)
  • The Sign of Four (1890)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902)
  • The Valley of Fear (1914-1915)

Collections of Sherlock Holmes short stories:

  • Adventures of SH (1981-1892)
  • Memoirs of SH (1892-1893)
  • Return of SH (1903-1904)
  • Reminiscences of SH (including His Last Bow) (1908-1913 and 1917)
  • Case Book of SH (1921-1927)

Am I missing any titles that you may know of? I am going to read them in chronological order of publication to see how the characters develop and if SH gets even more grumpy over time (which will be quite funny if he does)…

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