Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, and A Case of Identity

What is it that fascinates readers when it comes to Sherlock Holmes? It's been to the point where some don't even realize he was a fictional character. Others have formed groups in his honor--The Baker Street Irregulars, Sherlockians, the list goes on. Why have other authors attempted the character, written biographies, or debated for years whether he attended Cambridge or Oxford? The answers are many, varied and changes from fan to fan. Personally, I harbor an admiration for his quick wit, intelligence, and superb deductive abilities. The character is also a mystery. The author never dwells on Holmes the character, but rather his methods, successes, and more rarely, his failures. The majority of the stories are written behind Watson's eyes which I find welcoming. Watson is as amazed, astonished, disgusted, or mystified as we are by his companion. To tie in with my recent Sherlock Holmes "spree", the following contains short reviews concerning three of the fifty-six short stories penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

"A Scandal in Bohemia"
This is the first of the "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." We are also introduced to whom Holmes will always refer to as "the woman"--Irene Adler. Adler is the only woman Holmes has ever shown interst in. She is one of the few who can match his ingenuity. This remains one of my personal favorites because of the sharp dialogue that it seems only Doyle can provide. Smugness is suddenly an attractive quality in a character to say the least. The plot has a few twists and turns and is overall, an very entertaining read. By the end, I wasn't sure if I was pleased the most with the apparent victor of the match between Holmes and Adler or the opposite--both being intriguing. Another quality of the Holmes collection is that reading them in order is not required. With the exception of a few, they can be read in any order. However, I would recommend the reading of a few of the short stories or at least "A Study in Scarlet" before this as it would familiarize the characters which greatens the impact of this particular one. I award "A Scandal in Bohemia" 4 stars. ****

"The Red-Headed League"
There a quite a variety of short stories concerning Holmes. Many, of course, deal with crime (from murder to thievery), some with misunderstanding, and others are quite comical. The following is a combination. Without spoiling too much, as the title suggests, Holmes client features a fiery red head in quite a confounding position. While I didn't particularly enjoy this entry, it's unique and quite unorthodox. It also helps that it isn't lengthy since the plot isn't complex. The most interesting portion of the story is the explanation of the queer events. I award "The Red-Headed League" 3 stars. ***

"A Case of Identity"
It's always a treat when Doyle allows the reader insight into Holmes' thoughts and beliefs. This is how "A Case of Identity" is introduced, a debate between Watson and Holmes about what is normal, extraordinary, interesting, and its involvement with society. There seems to be a misconception about Watson's intelligence. The general view is that Watson isn't the sharpest man. I disagree. After all, he is a physician and secondly, anyone would pale in comparison to Holmes. But, I suppose that's besides the point. I find this to be a case in which Holmes would refer to as having "features of interest." It's quite short, but the overall plot doesn't suffer from it. Another one of my favorites due to its strange (but almost expected) twist and excellent writing, I award "A Case of Identity" 4 stars. ****

Reviews by Alisa Heskin

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