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The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vol. 1 (Barnes & Noble Classics) Hardcover – September 20, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Kyle Freeman’s Introduction to The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I


Arthur Conan Doyle began writing A Study in Scarlet in 1886 while waiting for patients in his newly furnished doctor’s office in Southsea, Portsmouth. He sent it to what seemed like every publisher in England before it was finally accepted by a small firm called Ward, Lock & Co. He was paid a one-time sum of £25, relinquishing all other rights to the publisher. The company thought it would be most effective in one of its big holiday issues, Beeton’s Christmas Annual, so Conan Doyle had to wait nearly a year before seeing it in print in December 1887. Thus after this long and uncertain gestation the world finally saw the birth of the resplendent career of the character who would become the greatest literary detective, Sherlock Holmes.


Conan Doyle got the idea for a detective story from the acknowledged creators of the genre. Edgar Allan Poe had written three short stories featuring Parisian sleuth C. Auguste Dupin: “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt,” and “The Purloined Letter.” Conan Doyle lifted so much detail from Poe that he seemed a plagiarist to some. He took several key components from Dupin. Holmes, like Dupin, is a prodigious pipe smoker. He also places ads in the newspaper to lure the perpetrator of the crime to his apartment. He goes to the scene of the crime to find clues the police had overlooked. Yet another component borrowed from Dupin was his trick of breaking in on his companion’s thought process by guessing the links in his train of thought. Ironically, Holmes complains in this first story that this habit of Dupin annoys him, but apparently not as much as he claims, as he adopts it himself in two later stories. Most important, like Poe, Conan Doyle decided to give his detective a companion to narrate the case.


Such a narrator provides several advantages. He can frame the story more dramatically than the detective could because the companion is in the dark about the outcome. He therefore can sustain suspense and share his surprise with us when the mystery is solved. The narrator also has the freedom to glorify his friend, something the detective as narrator couldn’t do for himself without suffering the inevitable backlash from readers who don’t usually take kindly to braggarts.


Conan Doyle also borrowed from the work of Émile Gaboriau, a Frenchman who wrote the first police novels. His Inspector Lecoq uses scientific methods to build a solid case against the criminal piece by piece. Holmes’s scientific method owes the most to this source. Gaboriau also divides his novels into two equal parts, with flashbacks to prior action, a device Conan Doyle copied in the first two Holmes novels. Conan Doyle based Holmes’s deductive process—lightning quick and seemingly intuitive, though informed by careful observation of detail and mountains of precise knowledge—on Conan Doyle’s teacher at the medical school at Edinburgh, Dr. Joseph Bell.


Once embarked on the process of stirring all these ingredients together, Conan Doyle had to choose a name for his detective. The first he chose was J. Sherrinford Holmes, then Sherrington Hope, and finally the one we know today. We don’t know where he got the name Sherlock, but we can be sure that the last name was a tribute to Oliver Wendell Holmes, the American physician and author, father of the great U.S. Supreme Court justice of the same name. Conan Doyle had read and greatly admired his work, saying of him, “Never have I so known and loved a man whom I had never seen.” On his first trip to America Conan Doyle made a reverential visit to the author’s grave.


A Study in Scarlet introduces the formula that almost all the other Holmes stories will follow. Someone seeks out the detective at his Baker Street rooms to solve an unusual mystery. Holmes and Watson then set out to explore the scene of the mystery. The police are often involved, but of course they never have a clue. After an adventure or two that builds suspense, Holmes solves the case in the most dramatic way. The two investigators end up back at Baker Street, where Holmes explains any point in his chain of reasoning that might have escaped Watson’s understanding, and all’s once again right with the world. Doyle varies this formula in minor ways in a few of the stories in this first volume, but not often. (He will cleverly foil our expectations of this pattern in later stories.) This plot repetition, which might seem a weakness, turns out to be a strength. It contributes to that sense of solidness we get from this world in which logic triumphs over superstition, and where justice in one form or another is meted out to violators of the social order. The sense of order that runs through this world is one of the great satisfactions of these stories. No matter how bizarre the circumstances, Holmes will tender a rational explanation for everything. Criminals are caught not because they make a fatal error, but because all human actions, good and bad, leave traces behind. If you pay close enough attention to the causative chain of events in everyday life, and you’ve trained yourself to think logically, you’ll be able to follow that chain when someone has committed a crime.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics (September 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593082037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593082031
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 2.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For collectors: Barnes & Noble put out three series of hardcover "Barnes & Noble Classics" in the last decade. The first has yellow dust jackets (1992), the second has all black matte dust jackets with gold type and a diamond-design (1997), and the third in 2003 has black-spines with a literary picture on the top of the spine. This edition is the third kind (2003). It has a black silhouette of a detective on a blue background. The book is a regular trade-sized hardback book. It is held together with glue that makes crispy crackling noises when you open it. Normally, I'd love that, but with a book that is well over 700 pages, I worry about the quality and hope that the pages manage to stay in the spine. The edges of the pages are the "rough cut" kind, which is quite charming, even when you're picking the machine-leavings off the side of the book. The text size is readable, which is to say, it's not 8-point font. I'd say more 10 to 11 point.

However, if you're looking at this edition, you're looking at it because it's cheap, not because it's superb quality. And boy, at $9.95 list price for a 709-page book, you are getting a deal.

It looks quite nice on a bookshelf and the extraneous notes within are as listed: a short (short) timeline of Conan Doyle's life, a rather brief introduction to Sherlock Holmes, a page on "Conveyances (Modes of Transportation)," and a few notations in the back. But if you're like me, you're going to initially skip all of that babble for the substance. In this book, you will get: "A Study in Scarlet," "The Sign of Four," "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," and "The Memoir of Sherlock Holmes." If you purchase this volume, it would be wise to buy the matching volume of "The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume II." Worth it and recommendable? Yes, absolutely.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great value edition. I did not find the print to be as legible as I might have wanted it to be for this oversized paperback. I am starting out with volume one first to see how I do; have had some problems with my eyes so some of these jam packed paperbacks which have been scaled down to size are sometimes difficult to read; they pare down everything including the font size. So far so good; but I have put on some reading glasses so as to not tire my eyes out. The print is definately not large enough; and that is the one drawback. I am sure for some this would be a non issue; but not for this reader.

In terms of value you cannot go wrong except with the font size; the paperback is not one of those books which will take a beating either. But the selection of stories is phenomenal.

Now to the volume itself: the price point is good ($7.95); the font size small from my perspective; the stock used thin. But the anthology selection is glorious. There are an introduction and notes by Kyle Freeman who has been a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast for many years; there is a timeline of Doyle's life and outstanding events related to the character Holmes. There is even a note on the conveyances used during that time period. Holmes makes his first appearance in A Study in Scarlet and we are off. The volume has a set of end notes, some questions and answers from some well known authors; there are 23 wonderful classic Holmes tales as well as the The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlet (already mentioned) and The Sign of Four.

It was wonderful to learn more about Arthur Conan Doyle's own life as a young ship's surgeon and how he sailed the Arctic in a whaling ship and all of his very unique adventures.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Get this two-volume Barnes & Noble hardback edition. The paperback version is hard to see in the skimpy center margins. The hardbacks are small enough to be held comfortably, and the print large enough to read easily for most people. All the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories, plus the four short Sherlock Holmes novels. Helpful introductions and brief notes. A complete collection at a bargain price.
Unless you want to wait indefinitely, you may have to look elsewhere [[...], etc.] for the Volume 2 hardback, which originally was cheaper than the paperback.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I leave it to others to comment on the literary content of Arthur Conan Doyle's work. My review is for the Kindle edition. This two-volume collection of all the Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels is a good buy. Each volume has an extensive literary/historical introduction--the parts that I skimmed were very interesting. There are ample and easily accessible footnotes that explain the meanings of various English and foreign words and provide information about the real persons mentioned in the stories. My only complaint (the reason for only 4 stars) is the lack of page numbers. However, navigating from story to story, or chapter to chapter in the novels, is relatively easy once you adjust to the fact that only one line in the table of contents is given for each one, which is often too short to be sure of its full title.
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Format: Hardcover
These stories have been reviewed enough elsewhere, so I will confine myself to speaking about what differentiates this edition from others. First, I would caution buyers looking for a "complete Sherlock Holmes" -- often a book brags to have the complete stories and novels, then you discover the text is very tiny and the columns are wide enough to accommodate 1-2 sentences each. (Same issue with complete sets of Poe.) This makes for difficult reading, not just on the eyes, but the brain has better retention when the eye doesn't have to follow long rows of text that are easy to get lost in -- and you get those breaks between lines to think about what was read. Enough on that soap box.

This two volume set is comfortable to read, coming in around 1,500~ pages with rough-cut edges that give it an individual feel. It's fairly cheap too, especially buying it used. I've just finished "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and I'd suggest people new to these stories start there also.
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