You’re marooned on a desert island, and you can only take five Sherlock Holmes stories with you. Regardless of length (novel or short story) and original publication chronology, which five stories would you bring along to be your companions and why?
(Keep in mind that if you meet a friendly native, these five stories will be the only things you have to introduce him or her to the fabulousness that is Sherlock Holmes.)
Here are my five. Leave me yours in the comments.
A Study in Scarlet: In some ways, this might seem like an odd choice. It’s not my favorite Holmes story by any means, and it contains that awkward, un-PC section that leaves most modern readers scratching their heads. However, if there’s no beginning, there’s no Holmes. Like Boswell, Watson grows into the role of biographer, and the reader joins him on the journey as he learns who and what his new flatmate is. The plot may not be the most entertaining of Doyle’s, but the voyage of discovery Watson takes is simply irresistible.
A Scandal in Bohemia: Unlike the more murderous tales, this one is a classic that concerns the intricate intrigues of the heart. It introduces Irene Adler, The Woman herself, and it features the rare event of Sherlock Holmes being beaten. One of the greatest masterpieces of the canon, and one I wouldn’t want to ever be without.
The Adventure of the Speckled Band: This is a personal choice for me, because it’s the story that scared me witless as a child. As an adult, I recognize its sublime blend of the gothic and the melodramatic. Holmes is fully on form, and the world around him is rounded out by terror and thrills aplenty. It’s the kind of story that bears the canonical fingerprint on every page.
The Adventure of the Copper Beeches: When I joined the Baker Street Babes as a full-fledged member, I named this as my favorite story. Delving as deeply into Holmes as I have over the past couple of years, I’ve come to have several stories that are extremely high on my list, but this one remains one of my most preferred. It features an impressive female client, a situation that is delightfully creepy without ever being over the top, and it ultimately serves as an incisive critique of the way Doyle’s society treated women in the family context. It’s multi-layered and absolutely delightful to read over and over.
The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton: This is one of the mature Holmes stories, written in Doyle’s middle age and occurring post-Great-Hiatus. It features a very modern-seeming world where information is currency and secrets are as deadly as weapons. Milverton is one of the most compelling antagonists of the canon, and Holmes’s and even Watson’s ultimate actions in the story take them outside the law and into a place of personal ethics that are independent of the system. It’s a thought-provoking tale for the ages.
I can find something to appreciate in every Sherlock Holmes story, but these are the five I can’t imagine being without. They’re also the five I’d be pleased to put into the hands of an eager newcomer.
How about you? What are your Desert Island Holmes picks?
I am a knitting fiend and book reviewer with a degree in professional communication, as well as the author of two Sherlock Holmes novels in the Detective and The Woman series.