Ally’s #2: The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Twenty years ago, a tape deck was all we had to entertain us in my mom’s ’76 VW Beetle. During long rides in the car, we would listen to Sherlock Holmes mysteries on tape. Seeing Sherlock in the movie theater has rekindled my affection for the writing of Sir Arthur, and it’s my hope to get through the complete series over the course of this year. Not realizing how many books were in the series, I selected one at random and managed to pick up where the second Sherlock film left off–with the death of the diabolical Dr. Moriarty and the apparent sacrificial suicide of Sherlock Holmes.

It was interesting to see that the book offered a less fantastic resolution to Holmes appearing alive after being presumed dead for three years. Even still, the book was off to a great start as Holmes killed two birds with one stone–solving a most perplexing murder and capturing the man who had been hunting Holmes ever since the death of Dr. Moriarty.

Of the thirteen stories collected in this book, the most captivating was The Adventure of the Dancing Men. Unfortunately, the characters in this tale were victim to Sherlock’s tendency to sit and stew until there is enough evidence to compel him to action. To the reader, it seems rather haphazard which elements of cases that come to his attention effect him deeply enough to suddenly become worth his while.

What struck me as I neared the end of the book is that Sherlock would also accept or reject cases on principle. Though a committed protector of the law, he was willing at one point to break it himself because he felt morally bound to protect a client (and numerous future victims) from an infamous blackmailer. If I learned anything about Holmes from this series, it’s that he is a law unto himself in some regards. On two separate occasions that I recall, he even went so far as to aid the protection of one premeditated murderer and one who killed in defense of his lover.

The only disappointment I found is that some of the mysteries seem so promising at the beginning, but end with a lackluster solution. However, the better mysteries redeem the not-so-great ones, and they certainly won’t deter me from getting through the rest of this series.

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