The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Book Review


In my introduction post for the Sherlock Holmes Reading Challenge, I declared this The Year of Sherlock Holmes for me because all year I have enjoyed reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and watching some of the latest TV and movie adaptations. The fun continues with The Return of Sherlock Holmes and the timing couldn’t have better been since I recently watched the sinister Professor Moriarty and Holmes fall to their death in both Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. The book picks up after this event when Holmes surfaces after long thought dead and much to the shock of his loyal companion, Dr. John Watson.

I was a little surprised to discover there were Sherlock Holmes stories that I hadn’t read or heard of, but the more I read The Return of Sherlock Holmes it became clear why. The stories in the book are probably not Doyle at his finest, most likely because he was under a lot of pressure to bring Holmes back from the dead and publish another set of stories. As a result, I found some of the plots weak and the resolution of the crimes unsatisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I often couldn’t put the book down. But I just as often felt underwhelmed by the big reveal of whoever was behind the crime.

If anything, what I enjoyed the most about this book was hearing Holmes explain how he survived the fall with Moriarty and why he stayed in hiding for so many years, learning about Holmes’ drug addiction as Watson refers to it in a couple of stories, and the squabbles about Watson’s publication of their adventures. In The Adventure of the Abbey Grange, Holmes says to Watson:

“I fancy that every one of his cases has found its way into your collection, and I must admit, Watson, that you have some power of selection, which atones for much which I deplore in your narratives. Your fatal habit of looking at everything from the point of view of a story instead of as a scientific exercise has ruined what might have been an instructive and even classical series of demonstrations. You slur over work of the utmost finesse and delicacy, in order to dwell upon sensational details which may excite, but cannot possibly instruct, the reader.”

“Why do you not write them yourself?” I said, with some bitterness.

Despite my criticism above, The Return of Sherlock Holmes is still an entertaining collection of stories to read. Holmes is still brilliant, funny and obnoxious. Watson is still loyal, observant and slightly clueless. As a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you can’t go wrong!

Best Story: The Adventure of the Second Stain because I really wanted to find out what happened to the darn letter.

Worst Story: The Adventure of the Abbey Grange because Holmes and Watson agree to stay quiet about the crime just because Holmes thinks the murderer and his love interest should be together! Um, what?

Join the Sherlock Holmes Reading Challenge hosted by Mari Reads.


8 comments on “The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Book Review

  1. heavenali
    September 26, 2013

    I love Holmes, but I agree about The adventure of the Abbey Grange – I’m not sure Holmes would really do that.


  2. DoingDewey
    September 28, 2013

    I agree with you and heavenali about Abbey Grange! It just doesn’t sound like Holmes to me.


  3. Megan Congdon (@Mythosidhe)
    September 28, 2013

    I’m going to have to beg to differ with all of you as to Holmes’s motivations in Abbey Grange. He has a history of A) trying to help women who have come under harsh or abusive treatment from the men in their lives (The Solitary Cyclist and The Copper Beeches are just two examples of this); and B) not feeling obligated to follow the strict letter of the law if other moral considerations come into account. He is similarly sympathetic towards men who commit ‘crimes of passion’ in ‘The Devil’s Foot’ and ‘The Cardboard Box’; and in ‘The Blue Carbuncle’ he let’s the thief off the hook because he believes the man has a better chance at reform if he doesn’t spend time in jail. Not to mention all the times he and Watson almost gleefully break the law in pursuit of evidence for a case (they burgle people houses on multiple occasions).

    .Whether or not Abbey Grange stands up as a story is another question entirely. Personally I find it slow and rather predictable. But Holmes letting the killer go at the end? Doesn’t seem at all out of the ordinary to me, given the circumstances.


    • ebookclassics
      September 30, 2013

      Thanks for your comments. I agree that Abbey Grange was slow and not very engaging. You have made some valid points and given me some things to think about especially regarding Holmes and Watson’s methods.


  4. jessicabookworm
    October 3, 2013

    I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy these Sherlock stories as much as the ones you read previous. I also read this collection this year and really enjoyed it.


    • ebookclassics
      October 3, 2013

      I enjoyed the stories, but I don’t think they were as clever or thought out as the stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. But I think Doyle was rushed to publish something during this time and may not have had the same opportunity to fine-tune the stories.


  5. mari
    October 9, 2013

    I still have to get through Adventures. Have had to stop to get some review books read. Thanks for linking your review. I am very interested to read about how Doyle brings Holmes back to life. Similar to how they did it on Sherlock?


    • ebookclassics
      October 10, 2013

      It does seem similar to what happened in Sherlock. Hope you enjoy Adventures when you get the chance to start it. I’m hoping to read the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes next and then maybe the Sign of Four.


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