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Everybody knows him -- the pipe-smoking detective on Baker Street (with or without the movie-added deerstalker), who is able to deduce all sorts of things just by glancing at a person.

And if you want to get to know him, a good place to start is "The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes & the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes." These two collections of short stories mingle human psychology with sometimes-bizarre mysteries -- and although the annotation is pretty dense, it is helpful.

The title character is a famous English detective who undertakes bizarre cases that the police cannot handle -- missing fiances, missing heiresses, Christmas turkeys with jewels, incriminating letters, speckled bands, missing racehorses, a Greek translator, sudden suicides, missing spouses, "dream jobs" with strange requirements, and a clash with the diabolical Professor Moriarty.

Sherlock Holmes mysteries come in two types:
1. The case is completely baffling, and Holmes is needed to unravel the knot of obscure clues.
2. The case seems straightforward, but Holmes is needed to connect seemingly unrelated clues to the crime in order to find the REAL perpetrator.

There are plenty of both kinds in this book, with a couple dozen cases that require Holmes' unique detecting skills -- it can be something as simple as locating a letter, or something as complex as foiling a robbery or criminal ring. Doyle's stately, dignified prose is heightened by moments of excitement or horror (" It swelled up louder and louder, a hoarse yell of pain and fear and anger all mingled in the one dreadful shriek"), and he wove in a lot of human psychology into Holmes' cases.

Holmes himself... is Holmes. Doyle didn't like his detective much, but Sherlock's knife-edged intellect and fascination with puzzles are strangely hypnotic -- even if you wouldn't like to be roomies with the guy, it would be amazing just to sit and watch him work. Watson is the perfect counterpoint for Holmes: he's not a genius but is definitely intelligent, warm-hearted and capable.

And how good is the annotation for this book? Well, the annotations are well-researched, detailed and full of fascinating historical/social/literary insights into Doyle and how he crafted these stories. In fact, they're too dense at times, leaving you wishing for a little more brevity in the annotation.

Even if you already have these short stories, "The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes & the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" is a must-have for fans of the Great Detective, because of all the extras packed into its pages.
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on 11 February 2012
Caveat emptor (buyer beware). The date of Novemeber 2007 is only when the non-slipcased edition was introduced. The book itself is still the October 2005 publication. This applies to all three volumes. See amazon.com or publisher's website for more guidance.
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