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

4.6 out of 5 stars 1,021 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: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,021 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
In Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the world's best known and (arguably) most fully realized literary characters. Since Doyle's death, there have been plenty of people writing knockoffs of his stories. But with rare exceptions (Nicholas Meyer comes to mind), most have not lived up to the high standards Doyle set in at least the best of his Holmes tales.

This volume includes the complete canon of Doyle's original stories -- four novels and fifty-six short stories, from "A Study in Scarlet" to "His Last Bow." While there are a handful of cases that bore significantly on international affairs (e.g. "The Bruce-Partington Plans"), most of them are of interest simply because of that touch of the _outre_ that Holmes loved so much and that provided such stimulating material to the ideal reasoner.

There are some clunkers in the canon, of course, but the vast majority of these stories -- especially the earliest ones -- are just brilliant. If you are reading them for the first time, I envy you; the sturdy Dr. John Watson is about to introduce you to a new world, a world of Victorian gaslight and Stradivarius violins, of hansom cabs and cries of "The game's afoot!"

For in reading this volume you will find such classic tales as "The Red-Headed League" and "The Man With The Twisted Lip"; you will encounter the famous dog that did nothing in the night-time ("Silver Blaze") and several versions of Holmes's favorite maxim ("When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth"); and you will meet one of the most fascinating and memorable characters ever to spring from the printed page: Holmes himself.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Every Holmes fan has more than one version of the Canon, and this should be among the collection as your standard 'reading copy.' Until I discovered this edition, my favorite reading version was the 1970s Ballantine editions (with great introductions ranging from Joe Gores to Ellery Queen to P.G. Wodehouse)--but sadly, that edition is out of print, and never contained the final two Conan Doyle books anyway. This oversized paperback aptly fills the modern role of a definitive edition.
As for the stories themselves, you simply can't go wrong in rediscovering or reading Holmes for the first time. Sure, Conan Doyle's stories sometimes lacked an internal logic (my favorite tale, 'The Adventure of the Red-Headed League," is riddled with plot holes). But there's a reason these have remained as classics that have never gone out of popular fashion, over a hundred years since publication: they're entertaining, cleverly written, wonderfully detailed, and often edge-of-your-seat thrilling. Included are all 57 short stories (ideal for a quite hour in your armchair, or for a commute during which you can escape to Victorian London) and the four longer novels (the most popular of which is "The Hound of the Baskervilles," but don't pass up the sublime and underrated "The Valley of Fear"). This is the ideal book for a long vacation (especially to London!), and, if I were stranded on a desert island, this is the book I'd want most with me (well, after that 'How to Build an Island-Escaping Raft from Coconuts' book).
If you haven't discovered Sherlock Holmes, this is the edition of his adventures to buy. If you read Conan Doyle long ago but haven't picked him up since, this is the edition to buy. If you've got several other Sherlock Holmes books on your shelf but want a single-volume complete edition, this is the edition to buy. As it's been said, 'There's no police like Holmes.'
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Back in the 1990s, I discovered the excellent Jeremy Brett filmed episodes of Sherlock Holmes...and that experience led me to the stories themselves. I then ended up reading all 56 short stories and 4 novels in short order.

There's a reason the character of Sherlock Holmes is remembered, some 125 years after his debut!!!

As one preface mentioned, Conan Doyle did not know how to write a dull sentence. Which is a very true statement. Virtually all of these stories are gripping ones, but even the lesser ones -- mainly the ones Conan Doyle wrote toward the end -- are so atmospheric, that your enjoyment is scarcely lessened.

Read these tales!! You won't be disappointed!!!
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By Chris on October 22, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The picture does no justice. I really like this product and have uploaded 2 pictures to show what it really looks like. It has that new book smell, thin pages, and it feels nice.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and have enjoyed many a bedtime story with the great sleuth, so it was with great anticipation that I purchased the Kindle version of this volume of short stories. I was sadly disappointed, though, to find that apparently the publishers did not understand the audience that buys short story collections; they did not bother to include something most basic and needful in an anthology - a table of contents. Without a table of contents the reader has no choice but to start at page one and hit "Next Page" hundreds of times to access stories further into the volume. This is a ridiculous oversight that completely ruins the experience of picking up a good collection of short stories and choosing a story to read at a whim based on the title. If one cannot see all of the titles in an included table of contents, then one is forced to start at the beginning and read them all chronologically. This may work in a novel, but it decidely does not work as a format for a collection of short stories. Please actually keep the reader in mind the next time that you publish a Kindle version of short stories. Include a table of contents.
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