I’m not fond of crime thrillers—not unless, they’re about the adventures of the most famous sleuth in all of literature.
One book that I know to improve my evenings considerably is “The Greatest Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” a plump, winsome book that I recently acquired at Barnes & Noble.
It is, to me, the literary equivalent of a mug of hot chocolate, sprinkled with marshmallows, a delight that I entrust to cozy up a lonely, lugubrious night, or lift me out of the funk when nothing else will.
Surely, there’s nothing vaguely “clever” about this title. Or, in keeping with the lexical blight of the day, is “creative” perhaps a better word for it? At any rate, it’s neither. What you see is what you get. How many titles can we say that about, today?
A book with a title as plain as that is likely to be put down on grounds that it’s not sufficiently enigmatic to pique the curiosity of a reader.
Critics may also bash it for being too long. When it comes to Sherlockian mysteries, however, for some reason, the obviousness works beautifully.
The nearly 1,000-page volume, published by Fall River Press, collects four complete novels (“A Study in Scarlet,” “The Sign of Four,” “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” and “The Valley of Fear”) and 44 short stories, all of which are gems. The fat volume, in itself, will adorn a lightweight bookshelf.
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” a casebook, of sorts, has a motley mix of a dozen mysteries, all of which fire up the synapses. Each is not like the next.
The stories, in their compressed versions, are laid out below.
A Scandal In Bohemia. The king fears blackmail from a dazzling diva, who’s not even faintly interested in the emperor. She outwits him, leaving behind a photo of herself and an epistle to him that says: “I love and am loved by a better man than he.”
The Red-Headed League. The Red-Headed League is a red herring. The red-headed copier of the “Encyclopedia Britannica” is a pawn. An underground bank heist is unearthed in the cellar.
A Case Of Identity. A step-father-turned-suitor-turned-betrothed-turned-runaway groom. An absurd case of incest? No. A monetary intrigue.
The Boscombe Valley Mystery. A highway robber loots a gold convoy. Years later, its driver, robs him of his peace. A murder is committed. Their children marry, without the knowledge of their fathers’ dark deeds.
The Five Orange Pips. Five orange pips arrive in an envelope, with the initials K.K.K. on it. A man dies within seven weeks of its arrival. Five orange pips arrive in an envelope. A man dies with four days of its arrival. Five orange pips arrive in an envelope. A man dies within a day of its arrival. Crime, perfected. Mystery, unresolved. Vengeance, divine.
The Blue Carbuncle. A man trooping home, with a Christmas goose, is attacked by a knot of roughs. Frightened, he takes flight. The bird is found by another. A sparkling blue jewel, found in the goose’s crop, leads Holmes on the trail of a hotel robbery.
The Man With The Twisted Lip. A man, with no apparent occupation, lives considerably well, in the country. One day, he disappears and is presumed to have been murdered by a hideous beggar. It turns out he was the beggar.
The Speckled Band. A ventilator that doesn’t ventilate, a bell pull that doesn’t ring a bell, and a bed that doesn’t move, are weapons of murder in a serpentine plot by a step-father to kill his daughters.
The Engineer’s Thumb. A young man starts his own engineering firm. Business is dreary. One day, a mysterious consultation brings hope of a munificent pay, but leaves him without a finger.
The Noble Bachelor. Some brides run away before the exchange of vows. Some leave after the honeymoon. This one leaves, somewhere in between at the wedding breakfast. Her long-lost husband from the first wedding, shows up on the morning of the second, after the ceremony.
The Beryl Coronet. In the course of one night, a reputable banker loses his honor and his priceless jewel. But he gains a correct perspective on the true nature of his only son.
The Copper Beeches. A governess finds a gig that pays her far above the market. The requirements of the position are that she cut her hair, wear an electric-blue dress, and obey. Her real job is to impersonate the family’s daughter.
If any of these mysteries has any flaw, then, it’s that it wasn’t fully solved.