This is one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s earlier short story collections, collecting twelve of the stories that he published in the Strand Magazine in a serialised form between July 1891 and June 1892. Earlier doesn’t mean inferior though, and there are plenty of classic adventures for both the new Holmes fan and the seasoned veteran of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fiction.
It’s also home to one of my favourite short stories, The Adventure of the Red-Headed League. In fact, Conan Doyle thought highly of it himself, ranking it second in his list of his twelve favourite Holmes short stories. I mean, come on – who doesn’t love the thought of a sinister army of gingers?
Then you’ve got the sinister trail of murder in The Five Orange Pips, and the peculiar crime involved in The Adventure of the Speckled Band. This is no piece of jewelry – we’re talking about the final words of Julia Stonor: “The band! The speckled band!” Of course, I’m not going to spoil the story by going in to further detail – just trust me when I say that you have to read it.
Interestingly enough, the book was banned for a time in the Soviet Union because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a big advocate of spirituality and occultism towards the end of his life, sparked by the death of his wife, his son, his brother and many other members of his family. It’s peculiar to say the least, because the stories were written before Conan Doyle’s exploration of spirituality and the supernatural.
With Sherlock Holmes, it’s always difficult to tell where to start – every collection, every adventure is wonderful. Whether you start with this or whether you start with The Hound of the Baskervilles, you’ll fall in love.