For those of us used to the major Holmes novellas like 'The Hound of the Baskervilles', it's easy to neglect the real treasure trove of Holmes mysteries made up of the fifty-six short stories published in the Strand Magazine. Leslie Klinger reproduces them here, faithfully printed in facsimile form, complete with the original illustrations ... and much, much more.
Klinger includes a host of annotations - articles and enigmatic theories contributed by Holmes' scholars over the last century in which they attempt to explain what the great detective was really doing. Holmes has a dedicated band of followers who believe him real, believe him still alive, believe he was actually a woman. There are probably fans who think he is an alien.
If the stories weren't fascinating enough in their own right, Klinger's exploration of the world of Holmes makes entertaining reading ... and provides an ironic commentary on the human condition and the preparedness of people to live life through their heroes ... even fictional heroes.
I can, of course, reveal the obvious - although in all the film versions Holmes and Watson speak with impeccable English accents, it has to be recognised that they were both, in fact, Scotsmen. The assumption of Englishness is merely a finely wrought symphony in irony, courtesy of the author ... a Scot, of course!
Conan Doyle was an artist, a man who helped shape the short story and the cliff-hanger into an art form. He combined a genius for narrative story-telling with the ability to weave characters, characters so convincing they have become real and the subject of speculation in a way few other fictional creatures ever have.
A startling publication - the two volumes run to nearly 2000 pages and come in at slightly below bantamweight. Heavy reading, but a delight all the same.