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The Best of Sherlock Holmes
By Randall Stock, December 5, 2009
Sherlock Holmes is more popular than ever, which means there are lots of new books, movies, and Sherlockiana. The reviews and recommendations below can help you focus on the best ones from 2009. If you're just getting started with Holmes, see the Top 10 Choices for New Fans. This site also reviews newer Sherlockian items to consider.
|Category||# of Items|
|2009 Holmes Fiction||4|
|2009 Holmes DVDs, Movies, and Related||9|
|2009 Books About Holmes & Conan Doyle||7|
Sherlock Holmes investigates Jack the Ripper. While the
Ripper murders make this a somewhat grim story, it's one of the very best books
to capture the style and characters of the original Holmes tales.
($25.00 SRP; Amazon US listing $16.50; also in pb)
A collection of 14 new short stories that are all set in the
U.S. The stories are generally very good with a number by well-known
($24.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $16.47; also in pb.)
Cowboys in the 1890s become detectives by reading the
Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes does not appear, but there are references to
him and his methods. It's a witty, fun read that mixes Westerns and detective
genres in a very appealing way. Fourth in a series starting with
Holmes on the Range,
but it can also be read alone.
($24.99 SRP; Amazon US listing $16.49)
In a spinoff series taking place after the original Holmes
tales, the detective marries an intellectual younger woman named Mary Russell
and they investigate mysteries around the world. The entire series is beautifully
written and often compelling, but does have a somewhat feminist perspective not found in the
Conan Doyle stories. This volume includes Mycroft Holmes and Sherlock's
estranged son. Ninth in a series beginning with
The Beekeeper's Apprentice
– I recommend starting with the first book.
($25.00 SRP; Amazon US listing $16.50)
The year's best DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, videos, movie-related and audio items released in 2009. See also About the Choices.
Prices as of November 2009; subject to change.
Three excellent Holmes movies and a low price make this a great value. All the films are re-releases with no new material, but if you don't have them already this is the package to get. It includes the 1959 color version of The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing, Billy Wilder's 1970 The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Stephen, and the 1988 comedy Without a Clue starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. Both the Hound and Private Life are presented in their original wide-screen format and come with very nice DVD extras. While Without a Clue is shown in full-screen it's still quite enjoyable. ($19.98 SRP; Amazon US listing $12.99)
This wonderful animated film from Pixar draws heavily from
Conan Doyle's book The Lost World both in parts of the plot (an adventure
trip to South America and a "lost world" of exotic characters) and in
some of the visuals. In particular, the film shows a plateau with a separate
pinnacle that comes directly from an illustration in The Strand Magazine.
No Sherlock Holmes content but interesting Conan Doyle associations and a fun
($29.99 SRP; Amazon US listing $14.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray)
Black & white silent film, full-screen, recently
restored by George Eastman House. While the not the most compelling Holmes film,
it has long been unavailable or only in very poor condition. John Barrymore
was one of the leading stars of his time. For the completist or the intense
($24.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $22.49)
Sherlock Holmes investigates Jack the Ripper in an intense,
high-quality Holmes film. Emmy-winner Christopher Plummer does a fine job as
a traditional Victorian Holmes, and three-time Academy Award nominee James Mason is a superb Watson.
This 2009 Lionsgate DVD release includes audio commentary with director Bob
Clark, a theatrical trailer, and poster and stills galleries.
($14.98 SRP; Amazon US listing $8.99)
Basil Rathbone offered a (perhaps the) classic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. There are new and excellent DVD choices in 2009, see my Rathbone as Holmes summary for recommendations, or check out my longer list of the Ten Best Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes Movies on DVD. See the next entry below for an excellent book about the Rathbone films.
This book provides an in-depth study of the 14 Holmes movies
starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. It includes "insider
details" from the studio archives on the making of the films.
($20.00 SRP; Amazon US listing $18.00)
This three-DVD set offers 12 previously hard-to-find or unreleased movies, TV shows, and short subjects. Key attractions include Sherlock Holmes' Fatal Hour (aka The Sleeping Cardinal), the first Arthur Wontner Holmes movie, and The Sting of Death, starring Boris Karloff as Mr. Mycroft. Picture and sound quality are acceptable given the age and rarity of the source material. While all B-movie productions, the set provides a nice sample of Holmes on film from 1912 to 1955 and should appeal to Holmes movie enthusiasts.
($24.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $22.49)
This 64-page booklet discusses the many different movie and
television versions of The Sign of the Four.
($11.00 SRP; BSJ website)
A reissue of three rare phonograph records, now on audio CD, for those interested in the history of Sherlockian societies. It contains sound excerpts of society proceedings from 1952 to 1982, with many famous Sherlockians. Includes new introductions and explanations.
($18.95 SRP; not on Amazon; see Wessex Press)
This includes some of the best articles from Australia written between 1959 and 2007 about Holmes and Conan Doyle. It's part of the BSI
($39.95 SRP; BSJ website )
For those who cannot afford a $250,000+ original Holmes
manuscript, this is the next best thing. It includes a facsimile of the
handwritten manuscript for the Sherlock Holmes story "The Three
Students" along with essays about the manuscript's history and about the
story itself. See my brief review.
($35.00 SRP; BSJ website )
This is the tenth and final volume of The Sherlock Holmes
Reference Library. It contains eight stories and plays by Conan Doyle that
were not considered "official" Holmes stories or collected with those
tales. These (and some other similar material) have appeared in other
collections by Jack Tracy, Peter Haining, and Richard Lanceyln Green as well as
in the BSI manuscript series. However, Klinger has added some useful
annotations and this completes the set of the Reference Library.
($19.95 SRP; not on Amazon; see Wessex Press)
This booklet is the most recent addition to the BSI History
series, which covers the history of the Baker Street Irregulars literary
society. Lellenberg discusses some previously unknown origins of the BSI and
the men who created its rites and customs. It focuses on the BSI organization,
not Sherlock Holmes.
($13.00 SRP; BSI Archival History website)
This is a CD-ROM archive of the entire run of 76 issues of
BSM, and includes a wealth of excellent articles.
See my detailed BSM Review. ($40)
Based on more than 200 sources, this is a detailed listing of events in Sir Arthur's life. Each entry is referenced to a numbered source
and thus provides a kind of index to all these sources. This is a reference tool, not something for casual reading. I've found it to be highly useful. ($22.95 SRP;
Amazon US listing)
Updated 11/1/14: see the Conan Doyle Chronology revised edition for a newer and better edition of this book.
The best introduction and general reference to the world of Sherlock Holmes that you can find.
See my Holmes Handbook summary for details.
A Kindle version of most of these books is available, but I don't list the e-book or its price unless it's hard to find on Amazon. Typically the Kindle Edition will be listed in the Formats box to the right of a book's cover photo.
When a book is available in both print and e-text, I review the print edition.
My choices are based on 30+ years of reading and collecting Sherlockiana. I'm a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, have written numerous Sherlockian articles, and have spoken about Conan Doyle rarities for conferences at Harvard and the University of Minnesota.
I limited the number of items in order to make this list easier and faster for people to use. Items released near the end of 2009 may not be on this list, so be sure to check my 2010 recommendations as well. And see these details on my selection process and criteria.
In most cases I've given both the U.S. suggested retail price (SRP) and the price at Amazon as of November 2009; those prices are of course subject to change.
Best Sherlock Holmes books and DVDs / Blu-ray from prior years