The reading life: The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories and The Novels
Everything you wanted to know about Holmes and his world, and more.
As the Washington Post reviewer explains, here is
a beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable edition that somehow manages to synthesize all that has come before, and will appeal to both first-time readers and seasoned veterans. The lavish boxed set presents all the original short stories in the order of their publication (setting aside the eccentric chronology of the earlier annotated edition) and will be followed next year by a third volume devoted to the four longer stories — including, of course, The Hound of the Baskervilles. An evocative preface by John le Carré is followed by an informative essay from Klinger, offering useful background on Holmes and his world. More than 800 illustrations are scattered throughout the text, many of them culled from the magazines in which the stories first appeared. Periodic sidebars guide the reader through potentially rocky terrain such as the Boer War; the rules of rugby; and baritsu, the obscure Japanese system of self-defense that proved so helpful to Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls.
One word for the novice Holmes reader: Read the story first, and skip the introductions — more than a few of the intros give away, or at least strongly hint at, the stories’ endings. After you’ve read the story, then read its intro. Leslie Klinger tries a little hard at times to make it sound as if Sherlock was really alive, but one can go along with that. Klinger also presents a number of theories, such as Holmes shooting Moriarty dead and fabricating The Final Problem fight at the Reichenbach Fall as a cover-up, among others.
These are reference book-sized tomes, and as such deserve careful handling, but they are a rewarding read.
Many of the illustrations (mostly from magazines where the stories were originally published) reminded me strongly of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes. Brett, who died ten years ago, is (I say is in the present tense, as his work endures) the definitive Holmes, and as an actor had the rare opportunity to develop the character over time as the stories were dramatized for TV in the order they were originally published. Brett’s interpretation also showed Dr. Watson as a respected and supportive friend, not as the Watson of the Basil Rathbone films where Watson was repeatedly put down, with their exchanges going like this:
Watson: “Of course, Holmes! Any child could have guessed it.”
Holmes: “Not your child, Watson.”
Reading the annotated volumes will confirm Watson’s role as amanuensis, friend, and fellow detective.
In all, the The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes Stories and Novels are to be savored and enjoyed.