The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

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By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

First published: UK, George Newnes, 1905

The Empty House

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The return of Sherlock Holmes from the dead and Reichenbach is a memorable event, and a fine sequel to the powerful “Final Problem”.  Holmes does not detect in this story, but sets an effective man-trap for that tiger-hunting villain Colonel Sebastian Moran, using the murder of the Hon. Ronald Adair to solve his problem.


The Norwood Builder

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An undoubted classic, in which Holmes at his most logical reasons from physical clues (including a red thumbmark, which, like Dr. Thorndyke, he knows to be false), in order to unmask a most surprising villain.  The idea is so good Doyle repeated it in The Valley of Fear, and has been attempted by nearly every writer (hopefully with variations).


The Dancing Men

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The famous case in which Holmes – who has, of course, written a monograph on secret writings – deciphers a particularly ingenious code of dancing men, and, when the case turns tragic, uses the good clue of the smell of smoke to prove the presence of a third party: a gangster from America.


The Solitary Cyclist

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An entertaining melodrama, marred by the fact that Holmes does nothing to discover the identity of the man following Violet Smith on her bicycle in Surrey except send Watson to the locale, achieving no result, and punch up the villain, while failing to spot the very obvious significance of the necktie; rather, he allows the girl to be kidnapped and married.


The Priory School

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One of the few Holmes cases to take place in the twentieth century, this classic tells of the kidnapping of the son of the Duke of Holdernesse, and of Holmes’ superb following of bicycle tracks in order to reconstruct the crime.  The solution involves pathological sibling rivalry à la “Sussex Vampire“.


Black Peter

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A good tale, in which Holmes reasons from plentiful physical clues to find the type of man who stuck a harpoon through the villainous Captain Peter Carey of Woodman’s Lee, the motive for which crime lies under the Norwegian Sea.


Charles Augustus Milverton

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Although without any benefit of detection, this classic shows Holmes to be as much of a chivalrous knight errant as Sir Nigel as he defends the honour of fair ladies (not necessarily maidens!) from the fiendish C.A.M., who is murdered before Holmes and Watson’s very eyes.  The pair are moonlighting as burglars, and think the crime is justified, so say nothing.


The Six Napoleons

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The problem here is to discover why a maniac should commit burglary and murder to steal and then smash busts of Napoleon.  The villain’s identity is known quite early on, but there is still plenty of detective interest in a tense and sinister tale, which also features the Mafiosi and the Black Pearl of the Borgias.


The Three Students

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A very minor tale—Holmes’ task is to discover which of three students is a cheat, a problem hardly worthy of his powers.  Some interesting clues, however.


The Golden Pince-nez

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The “golden pince-nez” is the clue which leads Holmes to the killer of a professor’s secretary.


The Missing Three-quarter

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Like Holmes, “football does not come within my horizon”, so I found this one boring.  The end, even for such a dull tale, is disappointing.  One of the weakest Holmes tales.


The Abbey Grange

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A tale that shows Holmes’ powers of observation at their keenest.  Although Sir Eustace Brackenstall’s wife and maid claim that he was murdered by burglars, a bell-rope and three glasses of wine give the lie to their story.  Holmes is brilliant, and justice, unusually, is poetic rather than legal.


The Second Stain

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“The most important international case which [Holmes] has ever been called upon to handle”: a missing letter from a foreign potentate that could start WWI.  A classic, demonstrating both Holmes’ brilliance and chivalry.