Arthur Conan Doyle did not invent the detective novel but it is safe to say that he is responsible for popularizing the form with his Sherlock Holmes stories.
Surely the most iconic detective of all time, Sherlock Holmes wasn’t the first fictional detective but his popularity and fame far exceeded any of his contemporaries. He remains one of the most popular detectives in fiction as evidenced by the large number of television, film and theatrical adaptations as well as the healthy industry in continuation novels and pastiches published each year.
Some will argue that not all of the Holmes stories are truly detective stories – a view I have expressed some sympathy with. Certainly the stories often favor adventure and while Holmes’ reasoning can seem impressive, it is rare to find a story where the reader has any hope of beating the detective. Still, the method of analytical reasoning is impressive and the audacity of some of the problems he solves can be quite breathtaking.
Holmes made his debut in the novel A Study in Scarlet but I think most would argue that the character’s appeal lies in his short stories which are tighter and more imaginatively plotted. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes contains some of Doyle’s most exciting and entertaining stories and, if you are new to the character, I would suggest that as your first port of call.
A Study in Scarlet
The Sign of Four
The Adventures of Sherlock
The Memoirs of Sherlock
The Hound of the
The Return of Sherlock
The Valley of Fear
His Last Bow
The Case-Book of Sherlock
Mysteries and Adventures (1890)
The Gully of Bluemansdyke (1893)
Author portrait in header image by Walter Stoneman, for James Russell & Sons. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Used under Creative Commons 3.0 licence. This photograph has been slightly cropped.