Given the free-wheeling approach the television series Sherlock takes to the Sacred Writings, you’d expect a selection of the Holmes stories chosen and introduced by producers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to be equally offbeat. But you’d be wrong.
The selection itself is unexceptionable: three of the four Holmes novels—A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, and The Hound of the Baskervilles—and 16 short stories—six from The Adventures, five from the Memoirs, two from The Return, and three from His Last Bow. With a few exceptions like “The Yellow Face” and “The Dying Detective,” the stories are exactly the ones most readers would have chosen themselves, from classics (“The Red-Headed League,” “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” “Silver Blaze”) to overanthologized lesser cases (“The Musgrave Ritual,” “Charles Augustus Milverton,” “The Dying Detective”). Holmes dies in “The Final Problem” and duly returns to life in “The Empty House.” And surely no one would cavil at the inclusion, presumably for very different reasons, of “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “A Case of Identity,” “The Blue Carbuncle,” “The Speckled Band,” “The Greek Interpreter,” and “The Bruce-Partington Plans.” What sets this collection apart from the authoritative complete Holmes published by Oxford and Norton is the unfulfilled promise of an introduction that will link the stories to a TV series so inventive that it amounts to a Holmes remix. In lieu of such an introduction, however, the editors offer only tantalizingly brief snippets commenting on each story. (The complete introduction to “The Devil’s Foot” reads: “One of Doyle’s dips into gothic horror. Cornwall, madness, Darkest Africa, love, revenge. Lovely.”)
Yes, it’s lovely, but since it’s neither complete nor very interestingly edited, there’s no reason to prefer this volume to any of the Holmes collections out there already. Even the print is tiny.