What would Arthur Conan Doyle say if he could see all the fans his great “consulting detective” has today? It has been, after all, over one hundred and twenty-five years since the first of his Sherlock Holmes stories were written. And, what’s more, that fandom is continuing to grow day by day, thanks largely to the new, exciting and inventive versions of his stories being produced on film and video.
Many of us here share in the thrill of these visual retellings of the Holmes stories, but still we insist: The very best way to get to know Sherlock Holmes is via Conan Doyle’s books, be they on the printed page or on an e-reader. And what surprises many fans who got to know Holmes “on screen” is how accessible those stories are! Fifty-six of the original stories are quite literally “short stories” — only 12 to 15 pages in length. But within those few pages are captured, not only some of the world’s greatest mystery stories, but something even better: the persona of Sherlock Holmes himself.
Have you actually read the Sherlock Holmes stories? If not we truly encourage you to do so! Indeed we are willing to bet that if you do you will find the pages flying by so quickly that as soon as you finish one you’ll be looking to start the next.
What follows, then, is a list of the top 10 Sherlock Holmes stories. Each one is a winner. And the list goes from very good to even better all the way to what many Holmes fans think may be the very best of them all.
We are also including video snippets from each of these selected stories – some short, others a bit longer. These will give you a delightful taste for what the story contains. But remember… it is only a taste.
10. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”
A befuddled old man, a lost hat and a goose. Such things hardly seem the stuff of a great mystery. But by scrutinizing each of them, and applying pure ‘Holmesian’ logic, Sherlock is able to solve one of the most perplexing crimes of his day – and, at the same time, save the life of an innocent man.
9. “The Adventure of the Priory School”
In this adventure there is a missing school boy and a missing German Master, but oddly only one missing bicycle. And then there are those mysterious cow tracks that seem to wonder off on the moor. What can it all mean?
Holmes’ gifts of observation and perfect logic lead to a single frightening conclusion. But we are left wondering… will he have it figured it out in time?
(A fun fact for the new reader: In some Sherlock Holmes stories he doesn’t!)
8. “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League”
Such a silly, silly man! Why should Holmes even care about his little problem?
But then there is that scar on the man’s shop-helper’s forehead… and the fact that everything took place just before the weekend. Could Holmes be seeing something everyone else is missing? Oh yes! And what an adventure it leads to!
7. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
Two sisters live with their step-father, the plain-out scary Dr. Grimesby Roylott of Stoke Moran.
For several nights before the older of them was to wed she was awakened by a low, eerie, whistle until one night she ran from her bedroom crying out “The band! The speckled band!” and died in her sister’s arms.
Now the younger sister’s wedding day is approaching and she, too, starts hearing strange, low, whistles during the night. Can Holmes solve the mystery of “the speckled band” before it is too late?
6. “Silver Blaze”
There are quotations in most every Holmes story that once read stay with a reader for a lifetime. Here is one from Silver Blaze…
Inspector Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Inspector Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.
Such a simple observation! And yet its inference put Holmes on track to solve the entire, complex, mystery.
5. “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”
An unexpected act of seeming generosity leads to one man’s death and another’s arrest. Scotland Yard insists they have arrested the culprit, and they show Holmes a bloody fingerprint which, they insist, proves it.
To Holmes, though, that fingerprint is proof of just the opposite – of the man’s innocence. He then goes on to prove his point with a bucket of water and a bundle of straw.
4. “The Adventure of the Second Stain”
Europe is on the brink of war and England’s Prime Minister is losing hope that it can be averted. As a last resort he turns to Sherlock Holmes.
The question of war and peace, Holmes discovers, hinges on a mysterious stain found under a Persian rug.
3. “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
Hilton Cubitt and his young American wife enjoy a truly blissful marriage. But then, suddenly, some “dancing men” start making appearances at their Derbyshire estate and days of terror follow.
It makes no sense to anyone – except to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
2. “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”
Small busts of Napoleon are being stolen and broken throughout London. Scotland Yard is perplexed. Dr. Watson, on the other hand, is convinced that a madman is on the loose. But Holmes’ perfect logic leads him to a very different conclusion. A truly unforgettable read!
1. A Scandal in Bohemia
There is no room for a woman in Sherlock Holmes’s life – except perhaps for this one. There is no person who ever gets the better of him – except, again, for this one.
Does his being tricked by her mean complete failure? Or can it instead lead to a rather surprising success?
One of the most beloved of all the Sherlock Holmes adventures, and one you’ll likely want to read over and over again!
Image illustration via shutterstock / ostill