Thoughts on “The Complete Sherlock Holmes”

So, yesterday, I commented that I had finished reading “The Complete Sherlock Holmes”. I had read that collection at least once and probably twice before, but as part of reading classic works I wanted to read it again. It was also interesting because of a couple of other things that had been going on around that time, including reading a puzzle book themed on Sherlock Holmes.

And the post talking about that raised some interesting points in the comments. First, from natewinchester:

Funny, because I was just reading up on the “clueless mystery” tropes the other day:

And Holmes’ stories apparently fell under that style back in the day. Apparently the “fair play” type of mystery stories didn’t become popular until after his era.

Responded to by malcolmthecynic:

The Holmes stories are less mysteries and more adventure stories, for the most part.

After re-reading them, I have to agree with malcolmthecynic. The stories can be a bit unfair — there are times when Holmes will go off on his own to investigate something and will only tell us the results as he’s revealing the crime — but even then you could figure out what was going on as soon as Holmes reveals the details. Still, sometimes he reveals the villain beforehand. But what really makes them more mystery adventures is the fact that in many of them Holmes only identifies the basic details — who is doing it and what their very basic motivation is — and then much of the story is that person explaining the backstory of how they got there (generally only for sympathetic “villains”, of course). This will take up at least half the story and is generally the most interesting and dramatic part of the story. For the most part, the Holmes stories seem to be aiming at doing two things: showing off the deductions that Holmes is famous for (some of which might be a bit dubious) and building dramatic and adventurous stories around those deductions.

I also commented before that Holmes should deal with his issues of an idling mind by taking up philosophy. It turns out that he actually does that when he retires, combining it with beekeeping. Which is an interesting little note.

Anyway, I still did enjoy reading them, and will probably read them again.


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