My Favourite Holmes’ Short Stories

41LO0VIDDCL._SY346_Although I’ve have read about 38 out of the 58 short stories in the Sherlock Holmes Canon, I advance here the list of my ten favourites, so far:

  1. ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ (1892) A young lady by the name of Helen Stoner wished to see Holmes to ask him for his advice. She’s living with her stepfather,  the last survivor of one of the oldest Saxon families in England, the Roylotts of Stoke Moran, in the western border of Surrey. Two years ago, Julia died shortly before she was about to get married, and it was about her death that she wished to speak to Holmes. On that same day, Julia told her that during the last few nights, at about three in the morning, she had heard a low clear whistle. She couldn’t tell her where it come from but she would like to ask Helen whether she had heard it.  She had not hear it, but the question left her in a state of certain concern and when she heard a scream in the middle of the night, she feared that something wrong had happened to her sister. In fact, she found her shortly before dying and her last words were: ‘Oh, my God! Helen! It was the band! The speckled band!  Now Helen is preparing her wedding and has started to hear the same whistling her sister had heard shortly before her death, when she was also about to get married.
  2. ‘The Red-Headed League’ (1891) Mr Jabez Wilson, a red-haired pawnbroker, learns by his employee, Vincent Spaulding that The Red-Headed League is offering a well-paid half-day job, only to red-haired people. He applies for the job and gets it, but he is asked to copy the Encyclopaedia Britannica in a small office during his working hours. After two months, he arrives at the office and finds it closed with a signboard announcing  that The Red-Headed League has been dissolved. With no further news from his employers, he has been left without a job and decides to contact Sherlock Holmes thereon.
  3. ‘The Adventure of the Dancing Men’ (1903) Hilton Cubitt of Ridling Thorpe Manor in Norfolk visits Sherlock Holmes handing him a piece of paper with a mysterious sequence of stick figures. He explains Holmes and Watson that about a year ago he met and married a nice American girl with a mysterious past named Elsie Patrick. Elsie asked him never to ask about her past, and Hilton agreed. Everything was going fine until they begun to receive these strange encrypted messages. Hilton thought first it was a prank, but Elsie became increasingly worried and she now lives in terror, though she refuses to tell her husband anything. Therefore Cubitt wants Sherlock Holmes to find out what it is going on. Holmes agrees to take over the case and tries to translate the code but finds himself in need of more information to be able to decode the message. Hilton keeps sending Holmes new messages as they arrive, until one day Holmes cracks the code through frequency analysis. But the last message tells Holmes that the live of the Cubbits is in serious danger.
  4. ‘The Final Problem’ (1893) When the story begins Holmes tells Watson that Moriarty is the genius behind a highly organised and extremely secret criminal force and if he could beat that man, if he could free society of him, he would feel that his own career had reach its summit.
  5. ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’ (1903) On 30 March 1894, the Honourable Ronald Adair, son of Australia’s colonial governor, Earl of Maynooth, is found murdered in London in what appears to be a locked-room mystery. He was sitting in his room working on his accounts as indicated by the money and papers found by the police. Adair was a regular whist player at various clubs, but never for great sums of money. Even though he recently won quite a large amount in partnership with Colonel Sebastian Moran. There is no clear motive, nothing has been stolen and he did not seem to have a single enemy in the world. Besides his door was locked from the inside and the only window is about twenty feet above a flowerbed that shows no signs of being trampled on. Although he was killed with a revolver bullet to his head, no one in the area heard a gunshot and the weapon has not been found. It sounds like a case for Sherlock Holmes, except that he was given up for dead at Reichenbach Falls, three years ago.
  6. ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ (1891) The King of Bohemia asks Sherlock Holmes to retrieve an incriminating photo where he appears with his former mistress, Irene Adler. The release of the photo could irreparably ruin the King’s marriage.
  7. ‘The Adventure of the Second Stain’ (1904) Lord Bellinger, the Prime Minister, and the Right Honourable Trelawney Hope, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, come to Holmes in the matter of a document stolen from Hope’s dispatch box, which he kept at home in Whitehall Terrace when not at work. If divulged,it could bring about very dire consequences for all of Europe, even war. They are loath to tell Holmes at first the exact nature of the document’s contents, but when Holmes declines to take on their case, they tell him it was a rather injudicious letter from a foreign potentate. It disappeared from the dispatch box one evening when Hope’s wife was out at the theatre for four hours. No one in the house knew about the document, not even the Secretary’s wife. None of the servants could have guessed what was in the box.
  8. ‘The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual’ (1893) Holmes tells Watson one of his first investigations. A school friend, Reginald Musgrave, told him about his problems with his butler, Brunton. Reginald surprised him rummaging through his family’s private papers and with the ancestral ritual of the Musgraves in his hands, a relic considered worthless by the Musgraves. A few days after this incident, Brunton disappeared, as well as a maid named Rachel Howells.
  9. ‘The Adventure of the Crooked Man’ (1893) Holmes calls Watson to tell him about a case he’s been working on to witness the final stage of the investigation. The case is about the murder of Colonel Barclay, commander of the Royal Mallows Regiment in Aldershot. Two days before, Mrs. Barclay came home and had a raw with her husband. The servants heard the fight through the small living room door, then a scream and afterwards silence. The coachman tried to get in, but the door was locked from the inside, so he went around the garden entering the room through a French window. He found the colonel’s body lying on the floor, stiff and dead. Mrs. Barclay was unconscious on the sofa. His first intention was to open the door to the rest of the service, but the key was not in the door and he could not find it. He also found a peculiar club-like weapon near the body. The police immediately suspected that Ms. Barclay had murdered her husband.
  10. ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’ (1891) Upon Mrs Whitney request, Watson went to find her husband in an opium den. There, he stumbled upon Holmes who was looking for a man called Neville Saint-Clair, missing for a few days now. After sending Mr. Whitney back home, Holmes and Watson went to the Saint-Clairs’ house to question his wife. She claims the last time she saw her husband he was at the upper window of the opium den. She rushed upstairs, but in the room she only found a beggar who denied any knowledge of St. Clair, whose clothes were later found in the room and his coat, laden with coins, in the River Thames outside the window.

I wonder to what extent I have not been influenced by my knowledge that Arthur Conan Doyle himself ranked his favourite Holmes’ short stories as follows:

  1. ‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’
  2. ‘The Redheaded League’
  3. ‘The Adventure of the Dancing Men’
  4. ‘The Final Problem’
  5. ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’
  6. ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’
  7. ‘The Five Orange Pips’
  8. ‘The Adventure of the Second Stain’
  9. ‘The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot’
  10. ‘The Adventure of the Priory School’
  11. ‘The Musgrave Ritual’
  12. ‘The Reigate Squires’
  13. ‘Silver Blaze’
  14. ‘The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans’
  15. ‘The Crooked Man’
  16. ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’
  17. ‘The Greek Interpreter’
  18. ‘The Resident Patient’
  19. ‘The Naval Treaty’

(Source: Open Culture)