I’m rereading all the Holmes stories on my phone when I have the odd moment, and have completed the four novels and now this first short story collection. Having read them more than 25 years ago, there are many stories that I remember only parts of and some I don’t recall at all, which makes for fun reading.
The collection begins with “A Scandal in Bohemia,” where Holmes’ opponent is Irene Adler, the one woman who seems as clever as the master detective himself. Holmes expresses much admiration for Adler, but there is no romantic interest suggested at all, despite that being an often-used plot idea for Holmes on the screen. We do see Holmes being a good sport about being bested, which tells us of his character.
“The Adventure of the Red-headed League” is a story of an elaborate swindle that is well told. One I remembered pretty well.
“A Case of Identity” uses an idea often used since, and the mystery is not hard to guess.
“The Boscombe Valley Mystery” shares some elements with two of the Holmes novels, and is notable for allowing the criminal to go unreported by Holmes and Watson, for reasons the story explains.
“The Five Orange Pips” uses as a source of villainy an organization that must have been strange and exotic, and mostly unknown at the time in England: the Ku Klux Klan. Today they are widely known, so some of the mystery is removed, but it’s still a good story.
“The Man with the Twisted Lip” is the kind of turnabout that Doyle did so well. Clearly he saw role-playing as a useful story device. Can’t say much more without spoiling it, but it’s clever indeed.
“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” is entertaining but full of odd coincidences without which the plot would not work. Far fetched ones.
“The Adventure of the Speckled Band” is one I remembered pretty well, though the build-up to the near-fatal encounter with the murderous device is very well done.
“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” is another far-fetched criminal scheme with an innocent drawn into it. I didn’t remember it at all, so enjoyed reading this one a lot.
“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” is, like “A Case of Identity” a social mystery that seems very Victorian and old-fashioned today, and is not too hard to guess.
“The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” is a complex mystery that I enjoyed reading. Holmes is really on his game. One of several stories in this collection where the criminal is not caught.
“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” has been well filmed, but I still found lots in the story I didn’t remember. This one is full of action, suspense and mystery, almost a mini-novel.
Of course this and all the Holmes stories are highly recommended.