This is first printing of the first Sherlock Holmes story, also the first Sherlock Holmes novel, in Beeton’s literary magazine of London, 1887, with some very nice lettering on the cover. NOT the edition I read recently, that was an eBook of “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” I found available as a free download in iBooks. The original magazine is very rare and quite valuable.
What a joy it is to revisit old friends Holmes and Watson from their first adventure, when the idea was fresh and new in Doyle’s imagination. Watson narrates, of course, beginning with his military service in Afghanistan, short-lived and disastrous for him, then returning wounded and sick to England. In recovery he moves to London, but is unable to work and soon finds his funds running low. Watson begins searching for cheaper lodgings. A chance recommendation from a friend brings him a possible roommate. The friend describes Sherlock Holmes as someone working in a chemical laboratory in a hospital who is “a little queer in his ideas. You mustn’t blame me if you don’t get on with him.” To Watson it sounds promising, and they go to meet him.
The meeting is amusing, with Holmes shouting about a chemical discovery he’s just made, but he also immediately tells Watson, “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive,” which astounds Watson. Thus begins one of the most entertaining friendships and teams in literature.
The case they are faced with is a classic locked room murder with an odd word written in the victim’s blood on the wall, and a few other clues that no one but Holmes notice. Inspector Lestrade makes his first appearance, and a magnifying glass is used for the very first time in a work of detective fiction. As the mysteries mount, the scene suddenly changes to the American west, in a story of a Mormon family under a great deal of pressure. This second narrative is equally fascinating, and it takes a long time, but eventually provides key information about the murder in London, which of course Holmes solves brilliantly, and not without some help in a dangerous moment from Watson.
Great stuff! If you’ve never tried the Sherlock Holmes stories, this is the place to start.