I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. Here then, for no particular reason at all, are my ten favourites from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary stories.
I am deliberately omitting The Hound of the Baskervilles from this list, brilliant though it undeniably is. The main reason is that it reads far more like a gothic horror novel, and feels almost like a spin-off set apart from the other crime fiction classics in the Conan Doyle back catalogue. It is also interesting that of all the Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles is one that really doesn’t work when updated (see the recent misjudged Steven Moffat take on the BBC), whereas the rest can be.
Anyway, without further ado, and in descending order, here is the list (spoiler free):
10. The Naval Treaty – A top secret document of huge strategic importance is inexplicably lost by the Foreign Office, in spite of the fact there appears to be no way for the thief to have gained access to it.
9. The Devil’s Foot – A sinister and chilling installment set in rural Cornwall concerning a particularly terrifying series of murders. Holmes is supposed to be recovering from illness at the time, but gets drawn into the investigation.
8. The Problem of Thor Bridge – A woman insists she is innocent of murder, in spite of a Mount Everest of evidence to the contrary. The solution of this episode is particularly ingenious.
7. The Bruce Partington Plans – Holmes is engaged by the British government to recover stolen top secret submarine plans. Again, the solution is fiendishly cunning.
6. The Red Headed League – A masterpiece of misdirection and red herrings, as a man is offered a hugely lucrative job by a truly bizarre society under extremely mysterious terms.
5. The Musgrave Ritual – A good old-fashioned treasure hunt with a fascinating historical background.
4. Silver Blaze – A prized racehorse vanishes in a mystery that contains my favourite exchange in any Sherlock Holmes story:
“‘Is there any point to which you would draw my attention?’
‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’
‘The dog did nothing in the night time.’
‘That was the curious incident,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes.”
3. A Scandal in Bohemia – Yes, it’s that Holmes story. The one with Irene Adler. I will say no more for fear of spoiling it for the uninitiated.
2. The Final Problem – Obviously any list of the greatest Holmes stories has to include this hugely memorable installment, wherein the great detective confronts his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.
1. The Speckled Band – My absolute favourite; a truly baffling and inexplicable murder mystery where there appears to be no possible way for the perpetrator to have gained access to the victim. The solution is absolutely superb, and it has a great final line that cannot be revealed as it would spoil the surprise.