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The Mysterious World of Sherlock Holmes

Despite the fictional detective’s well-known catch phrase, the trajectory of this world famous character was anything but elementary. The first two Sherlock Holmes stories, the novels A Study in Scarlet (1887) and The Sign of the Four (1890), were moderately well received, but Holmes first became widely popular early in 1891, when the first six short stories featuring the character were published in The Strand Magazine. Holmes became very popular in Britain and America.[1] The character was so popular that in 1893, when Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Holmes in the short story "The Final Problem", the strongly negative response from readers was unlike any previous public reaction to a fictional event. The Strand reportedly lost more than 20,000 subscribers as a result of Holmes's death. Public pressure eventually contributed to Conan Doyle writing another Holmes story in 1901 and resurrecting the character in a story published in 1903.[2]


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would go on to write four novels and 56 short stories featuring the detective. Most are narrated by the character of Holmes's friend and biographer Dr. John H. Watson, who usually accompanies Holmes during his investigations and often shares quarters with him at the address of 221B Baker Street, London, where many of the stories begin.


Though not the first fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes is arguably the best known.[1] According the Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe's character C. Auguste Dupin and the real life surgeon Joseph Bell are the primary influences for Sherlock. By the 1990s there were already over 25,000 stage adaptations, films, television productions and publications featuring the detective,[3] and Guinness World Records lists him as the most portrayed literary human character in film and television history.[3] Holmes's popularity and fame are such that many have believed him to be not a fictional character but a real individual;[5][6] numerous literary and fan societies have been founded on this pretense. Avid readers of the Holmes stories helped create the modern practice of fandom.[7]

  1. Sutherland, John. "Sherlock Holmes, the world's most famous literary detective". British Library.

  2. Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin (6 January 2016). "How Sherlock Holmes changed the world". BBC.

  3. Haigh, Brian (20 May 2008). "A star comes to Huddersfield!". BBC.

  4. "Sherlock Holmes awarded title for most portrayed literary human character in film & TV". Guinness World Records. 14 May 2012.

  5. Rule, Sheila (5 November 1989). "Sherlock Holmes's Mail: Not Too Mysterious". The New York Times.

  6. Simpson, Aislinn (4 February 2008). "Winston Churchill didn't really exist, say teens". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235

The Original Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


A Study in Scarlet


The Sign of Four


The Hound of the Baskervilles


The Valley of Fear


The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories

Sherlock Holmes in Film and Television

Starting in 1921, Eille Norword played Sherlock in forty-seven silent films. Since then there have been dozens of actors who have portrayed the iconic detective. In 2009, Robert Downey Jr. earned a Golden Globe for his portrayal and in 2009, Jonny Lee Miller became the actor who portrayed Sherlock the most in television and/or film history with his role on CBS's Elementary. Click here a look at some of the best portrayals, as chosen by Westword.


The Expanded World of Sherlock Holmes

Conan Doyle’s character has inspired numerous authors to create their own adventures starring the character. Some notable authors include Anthony Burgess, Mitch Cullin, Neil Gaiman, Anthony Horrowitz, Phillip Pullman, and many more. For a curated list of Non-Doyle books from Tor, look here.

The House of Silk

by Anthony Horowitz


London, 1890. 221B Baker St. A fine art dealer named Edmund Carstairs visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson to beg for their help. He is being menaced by a strange man in a flat cap - a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America. In the days that follow, his home is robbed, his family is threatened. And then the first murder takes place.

Sanctioned by The Arthur Conan Doyle Estate.

The Final Solutions

by Michael Chabon


In deep retirement in the English countryside, an 89-year old man, vaguely recollected by the locals as a once-famous detective, is more concerned with his bookkeeping than his fellow man. Into his life wanders Linus Steinman, nine years old and mute, who has escaped from Nazi Germany with his sole companion: an African grey parrot. What is the meaning of the mysterious strings of German numbers the bird spews out--a top-secret SS code? The keys to a series of Swiss bank accounts? Or do they hold a significance at once more prosaic and far more sinister?


Ten Years Beyond Baker Street

by Cay Van Ash

Narrated by Sax Rohmer's Dr. Petrie, not Conan Doyle's Dr. Watson: a fanciful 1914 adventure for Sherlock Holmes--trailing Fu Manchu's dirty work through the charmingly unlikely landscape of. . . Wales. The spirited nonsense begins when Dr. P., sidekick to Rohmer's hero Nayland Smith, discovers that Smith has disappeared from his Devonshire home. Who's behind this skulduggery? Fu Manchu, of course. Who alone can save the day? A very reluctant Holmes--who is dragged away from his beekeeping retirement.

A Study in Scarlet Women

by Sherry Thomas


With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London. When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She'll have help from friends new and old--a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society's expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

A Slight Trick of the Mind

by Mitch Cullin


It is 1947, and the long-retired Holmes, now 93, lives in a remote Sussex farmhouse, where his memories and intellect begin to go adrift. He lives with a housekeeper and her young son, Roger, whose patient, respectful demeanor stirs paternal affection in Holmes. Holmes has settled into the routine of tending his apiary, writing in journals, and grappling with the diminishing powers of his razor-sharp mind, when Roger comes upon a case hitherto unknown. It is that of a Mrs. Keller, the long-ago object of Holmes's deep--and never acknowledged--infatuation. As Mitch Cullin weaves together Holmes's hidden past, his poignant struggle to retain mental acuity, and his unlikely relationship with Roger, Holmes is transformed from the machine-like, mythic figure into an ordinary man, confronting and acquiescing to emotions he has resisted his entire life.

A Study in Charlotte

by Brittany Cavallaro


Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She's inherited Sherlock's volatility and some of his vices--and when Jamie and Charlotte end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she's not looking for friends. But when a student they both have a history with dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Danger is mounting and nowhere is safe--and the only people they can trust are each other.

Great Mouse Detective

by Eve Titus


Basil--the famous sleuth of mousedom--lives in the cellar of Sherlock Holmes's house. A devoted admirer of the great detective, he has learned his craft by listening at the feet of Holmes himself. But will it be enough to help Basil solve his most baffling mystery yet? The Mystery of the Missing Twins is one of the strangest cases in Basil's career. With only a few crumbs of clues with which to find answers, how is he ever going to figure out where Angela and Agatha are being kept--and, of course, who mouse-napped them! Will Basil's mouse sleuthing skills be up to the task of finding the twins before it's too late?


The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery

by Nancy Springer

When Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared--on her 14th birthday nonetheless--she knows she alone can find her. Disguising herself as a grieving widow, Enola sets out to the heart of London to uncover her mother's whereabouts--but not even the last name Holmes can prepare her for what awaits. Suddenly involved in the kidnapping of the young Marquess of Basilwether, Enola must escape murderous villains, free the spoiled Marquess, and perhaps hardest of all, elude her shrewd older brother--all while collecting clues to her mother's disappearance! A remarkable debut of a new mystery series by two-time Edgar Award winning author Nancy Springer.

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