How many Sherlock Holmes books did Arthur Conan Doyle write?
Well, he wrote a total of 9 books about Sherlock Holmes (4 novels and 5 short story collections).
And guess what – each book is almost as good as the other.
I mean, when an author writes many books, you would expect him to mess up some and come up with at least some books that are boring.
But not here.
All freakin' 9 Sherlock Holmes books rock!
So if you've read some and are thinking of reading the others – you'd better get started.
Because - they're all good.
Here's a list of all 9 Sherlock Holmes books – along with the years in which they were first published...
Whoops, that's interesting.
As you can see, the first book Doyle ever wrote was a novel - A Study in Scarlet. The last one was a collection of stories - The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
And in between were seven more bundles of joy and excitement.
Enough said - let's start with the first one...
A Study in Scarlet is a really special Sherlock Holmes book for any Holmes fan.
After all his highness Sherlock Holmes - the guy who would rock the worlds of people like me - first appeared in this book!
The novel was first published as part of a magazine called the Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887.
The story is about the mysterious murder of a man at midnight in a place near Brixton Road in London.
In the beginning it all looks like a pretty commonplace murder but then why was he murdered? There's nothing stolen and there's RACHE written on the wall. What does that mean?
As Sherlock Holmes untangles the knots, the mystery leads him to deeper and darker places...
A cool fact about this book is that it is actually a combination of 2 stories – one called 'The Reminiscences of Watson' and the other called 'The Country of the Saints.' The second part is more like a flashback in a movie.
There are quite some 'wow' factors in the book.
For instance, Sherlock Holmes and Watson meet for the first time ever in A Study in Scarlet.
Then, it has way more cool deductions from Holmes than usual. After all, Holmes is just introduced for the first time – so his power of deducing facts from minute details is explored very well.
It's almost funny, the way Watson first doubts Sherlock Holmes' abilities and then succumbs to his magical reasoning in the book.
Arthur Conan Doyle actually sold all the rights to the book for 25 pounds to Ward Lock and Co. That's it – just 25 pounds!
Of course, 25 pounds of those days are worth much more these days.
But still, isn't it a bit less when you think of just how many copies of the book have been sold till date?
Set in 1888, The Sign of the Four is a fascinating story about Holmes and Watson searching for hidden treasure stolen from its (apparently) rightful owner.
Everyone loves a treasure hunt – and if you sprinkle an amazing flashback story about India, add in a spoonful of Holmes' deductions and a couple of shocking twists – there – you have The Sign of the Four.
The story begins when a young woman named Mary Morstan visits Holmes and asks him to make some sense of a mysterious letter she's received. She wants Sherlock Holmes to accompany her to a special place. This letter is asking her to come to that special place, you see.
What connection does this visit have with a certain treasure, India, a convict, a murder, and Mary's father?
It's a knee deep plot and it is up to Holmes to solve it!
Want another reason to read this Sherlock Holmes book?
Here it is: Watson meets his future wife in the story.
The Sign of the Four wasn't that popular when it was first published. It sold very few copies in 1890 and the magazine in which it first appeared cost just 25 cents in the USA.
Today, it has sold millions of copies and a well kept original version from 1890 costs $25000 on this page!
This is the first Sherlock Holmes book that caught the attention of the world.
In June, 1891, Doyle struck a deal with a certain magazine called the Strand Magazine. He published one short story in the magazine every month for the next one year. And it is these stories that caught - first England's and soon the world's attention.
First came – A Scandal in Bohemia, the story that features the famous Irene Adler.
Then came the Red-Headed League.
Soon, people were lapping up story after story and eagerly awaiting the next one.
They say the number of subscribers of the Strand Magazine increased by quite a number and many people subscribed only to read Sherlock Holmes' adventures.
Finally, in October 1892, the 12 stories published from June, 1891 to 1892 were published in the form of the book – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
What's interesting about the stories? Each one has a cool mix of Holmesian deductions and shocking incidents.
How can a woman die when there's no way anyone could have come into the room?
How can a man's workplace vanish suddenly, in one day – with no one even accepting that his employer exists?
How can a thief who has been seen with the lost item say he is not guilty and refuse to answer how he is not guilty?
All that's in here. And more, of course :-)
Well, I don't know if you've heard this before but I was literally shocked to find this out.
Apparently, after writing just 5 stories out of these 12, Conan Doyle thought he'd had enough! He almost decided to stop writing any more Sherlock Holmes stories...
That's when his mother stepped in - and told him he'd better not do that. Thankfully, Doyle listened to his mother's advice.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes has 12 stories which were again first published in the Strand Magazine. The British public loved 'em all – just as they had loved The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes...
The Memoirs starts with the famous Silver Blaze – the story of a favorite race horse that has suddenly disappeared!
Of course, it is up to Sherlock Holmes to find out who took the horse - Silver Blaze - and why it absolutely cannot be found despite so many police searches.
In the Adventure of The Yellow Face, there's a mysterious yellow face that is sometimes visible from a first floor window.
In the Adventure of Gloria Scott - a weird note talks about the game prices in London going up – and this note leads to a man's death.
In The Final Problem, Holmes has an encounter with the greatest criminal the world has ever seen: Professor Moriarty...
There are quite some thrills in this book.
Want yet another reason to read this Sherlock Holmes book?
It has the first ever case solved by Sherlock Holmes – when he was still in college. And yes, it is Holmes and not Watson who narrates this case!
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually received 1000 pounds for writing The Memoirs in the Strand Magazine.
How many pounds is that today?
Those 1000 pounds would amount to around 96,000 pounds today! Which means around 150,000 dollars.
Not bad at all.
(I've made this conversion using this credible site.)
The Hound of the Baskervilles is without doubt the best ever Sherlock Holmes book for me.
No guesses about what the book is about. Yes, it is about a hound.
This hound is not just another hound, however. It is a diabolical hound (diabolical means devilish) that makes anyone who sees it shake with fear.
In Dartmoor, England, a famous man named Sir Charles Baskerville has died.
There's a legend about how his ancestors died because of a magical hound. The connection between Sir Charles' death and the ancestor's deaths? Hoof-prints of a hound have been found at the exact spot where Sir Charles died...
The story is about how Sherlock Holmes tries to protect Sir Charles' heir – Sir Henry from the hound and the powers behind it.
Now the obvious question is: why should everyone be so terrified of a simple hound? And how can a hound be after a certain family?
That's because this hound does not definitely look like an ordinary hound. People who have as much as seen it once have been scared like crazy.
Monsieur Holmes is required to clear the air.
He does so in jaw-dropping style in this book.
OK, want another 'wow' factor? The Hound of the Baskervilles is actually based on a real legend (forgive the oxymoron!) that is quite popular in Dartmoor today – a legend about an evil dude called Richard Calbell.
Doyle got the idea of The Hound of the Baskervilles from this legend, apparently.
An advertisement about The Hound of the Baskervilles (Thanks to Toronto Public Library)
Can you guess the price of a good quality version of the original The Hound of the Baskervilles?
For a well kept original edition, the cost is $11000 here. As if that ain't enough, one single page from the original manuscript of The Hound of the Baskervilles was recently auctioned for around $150,000. Wow.
Just like most other Sherlock Holmes books, The Return of Sherlock Holmes was also first published in The Strand Magazine with one story appearing every month.
I think The Return of Sherlock Holmes' 13 stories are a tad less gripping than The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. But they're still very good.
For instance, imagine what would happen if your wife received notes that contained funny pictures of dancing men every week. And what if she refused to tell you about it?
That's what happens in The Adventure of the Dancing Men.
Then there is The Adventure of the Six Napoleons where suddenly, Napoleon statues across London are being shattered! What's the point of shattering statues - and why only Napoleon's statues?
OK, you want yet another reason to read this Sherlock Holmes book?
This collection has The Mystery of the Abbey Grange – my favourite story from the book.
The story is so mind-blowing in its twists and deductions that I suggest that you definitely take a peek.
Burglers have attacked a man and taken some silverware. The police is satisfied. The man's wife and friend are satisfied with this explanation. All's well.
And then Holmes comes in and turns the case on its head.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never wanted to bring Sherlock Holmes back to life in The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Loads of money, pleadings from fans, a personal plea from his mother – that's what finally made Doyle reluctantly bring Holmes back in this series.
Doyle's biography says that he almost wished that Holmes' stories not be that successful – so that he wouldn't have to pay so much attention to them.
The main thing that has stayed with me about The Valley of Fear is its twists.
This book does have a couple and they're twists that will make your head spin.
The book has two parts – one that has Sherlock Holmes and one that doesn't have Holmes (a flashback). And, believe it or not, the second part (without Holmes) is good – so much so – that I found it to be better than the first part.
There's a murder that's taken place. Holmes has to find out who did it. But there's no dearth of perplexing questions that have popped up.
For instance – nothing has been stolen. Why?
Only one ring has been removed from the murdered man's finger. Why?
Another very interesting thing is that the house in which the man was murdered is surrounded by a moat (a ditch filled with water). Then, how did the murderer escape if the people of the house reached the scene of murder less than a minute after they heard the gun shot?
These are deep waters.
But then, good old Holmes is no less than an Olympic swimming champion when it comes to clearing deep waters. (to put it that way) ;-)
Want one more reason to read it? The twists, again. I bet that the twist in each part of the story will make you gasp. It's that unexpected. I know I am repeating myself – but – the twists here deserve repetition.
The real place (Groombridge Place) similar to the house in The Valley of Fear (Thanks Eleanor E)
The Valley of Fear is one of the few Sherlock Holmes books which is based on real life events.
There's a lot of fiction sprinkled in – but the house where the murder takes place matches the perfect description of a real house.
Also, the second part of the novel is a dramatized version of almost identical events that took place in the 1870s in north-east USA. This makes the twists even more thrilling because these events really happened.
Here's how I will describe this Sherlock Holmes book in one link:
'Yet another product of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's superb detective story producing factory that you can lap up in a few hours.'
The stories are lesser in number compared to the other story collections though – there are just eight.
'His Last Bow' itself is the last story of the collection. It's a different Sherlock Holmes story because there's no real mystery that Holmes solves in this story. Let me be honest with you – this is one Sherlock Holmes story that I found to be a bit boring because there wasn't much of a plot.
But maybe Doyle meant it that way – like a closure story that says 'bye' to Holmes...
The other stories however are as good as any other Holmes story out there.
My favourite story from this collection is The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans.
This picture of Sherlock Holmes examining railway tracks was first drawn by Arthur Twidle.
What happens in The Bruce-Partington Plans?
Well, some important documents related to the British Government have been stolen. A man has been found dead next to a railway track with some, but not all of the documents in his pocket.
Where are the other documents? Why are these documents in his pocket? Why is there no sign of violence anywhere in any train if this man fell from a train? And why in the name of God did this man plan to go out for a play with his girlfriend on that very evening?
This story is why I think you should read the book. It is 'gasp-inducing' - a phrase every Sherlock Holmes fan can understand.
In the story His Last Bow - the last story of this collection - Sherlock Holmes is a spy with the code name 'Altamont.'
This name wasn't randomly chosen. It was Arthur Conan Doyle's father's middle name!
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is the only Sherlock Holmes book that is under copyright in the USA. From which we can clearly deduce that this is the last Sherlock Holmes book that Doyle ever wrote ;-)
The Three Garridebs is a story in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes with pretty intense scenes.
Let's take a sneak peek at two of the cases.
A professor in England has a horrifying problem – he's been crawling through his house's corridors at night. That's what the professor's son-in-law tells Holmes in The Adventure of the Creeping Man!
Here's another one – in fact this is my favourite story from this 12 story collection – The Problem of Thor Bridge.
A woman has been found dead with a bullet in her head. There's a note clutched in her hand that implicates the governess of this woman's children. Wherever you look – there's loads of evidence to prove that the governess murdered her.
The problem? There's a bit too much evidence. So much evidence ain't natural and Holmes can smell that.
Another unique point about this book which is a deal clincher is this:
The Casebook is one of the rare Sherlock Holmes books in which Sherlock Holmes actually recreates the scene of murder – and all the events that lead to murder – using a practical, real life experiment.
Worth a read.
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is the book that most shows the deep and caring bond that Sherlock Holmes also shares with Watson.
I mean, in every other book, we get to know that Watson really appreciates Sherlock Holmes – but you never really get to see what Holmes thinks (or whether he even thinks about) Watson.
But this line from Holmes in The Casebook depicts something not shown to this extent in any other Sherlock Holmes book...
There's so much good work here, but on second or rather third thoughts, The Hound of the Baskervilles beats the others to it. That's my choice for the best Sherlock Holmes book.
If you have to read just one Sherlock Holmes book, let it be this.
If you want to read a story collection, I'd say 'go with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.'
So well, that was a loo...ong post. Finally, I can take a breath and say - enough said :-)
(By the way, here's the complete list of Sherlock Holmes stories and some more fun facts, if you want to know still more!)
Want to read all the Sherlock Holmes books for free? Here you go...
Note: If you live in the USA, you shouldn't download the Sherlock Holmes books above because The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is copyright protected in the USA.