Top critical review
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A great read, shame about the missing contents page entries
on 24 January 2012
This eBook really needs to be considered in two ways: first, whether the Holmes stories and novels are a good read, and second, whether this is a good packaging of them.
The stories and novels are, in truth, something of a curate's egg. The characters of Holmes and Watson are brilliantly drawn, while the people they encounter give an insight into the 'types' (retired colonels, distressed gentlewomen etc) who populated England around the turn of the 20th Century. The mysteries are intriguing (how did the murderer get away without leaving any footprints on the other side of the moat?), Conan Doyle's style is surprisingly brisk for the period, and the action surprisingly physical at times, with Watson not shy of packing his revolver on a dangerous mission.
However the stories often seem too short, and to involve little more than Holmes being presented with a mystery which he instantly solves before being quickly proved right (this could be a context problem, as they may have seemed different when read as a quick bite of Holmes from the pages of Strand magazine). That said, they're addictive and each one can be read in a few minutes, so they're ideal for dipping into. The four novels, on the other hand, show that Conan Doyle was perfectly capable of pacing himself for a longer format, and read very well. The best is the Hound of the Baskervilles, which thoroughly deserves its classic status.
As a packaging exercise, this eBook has two flaws. The first is a big one; the lack of individual contents-page entries for the stories in the last two collections ('His Last Bow' and 'The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes'). This makes it very hard to find individual stories (although I suppose you can bookmark them once you have), and is fairly unforgiveable given how little work would have been involved in adding the links while preparing the book for publication.
The other flaw is that in some collections the stories are out of order - in most cases this doesn't matter too much, but in the 'Return of Sherlock Holmes' collection it does, since 'The Adventure of the Empty Room' contains the actual reappearance of Holmes after his supposed death at the hands of Moriarty, and really should be the first in the set (but isn't).
All in all a terrific, enjoyable and surprisingly modern read. At this price you can't complain too much about the presentation, but since there is another collection available for the Kindle at a similar price, minus the Tales of Terror and Mystery but with contents-page links to all the stories, it might be worth looking at that one too.