The Best of Sherlock Holmes
How do you choose the best Sherlock Holmes gift? There are hundreds of books, movies, and other Sherlockian items to pick from. Below are recommended presents for new fans, and a separate section for long-time Sherlockians that highlights top items produced in 2013.
|Category||# of Items|
|The Best Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories||1|
|More Stories of Sherlock Holmes||2|
|More by Conan Doyle||1|
|Books About Holmes & Conan Doyle||4|
|Free Bonus Items|
|Category||# of Items|
|New Holmes Fiction||3|
|New Holmes DVDs, Movies, and Related||5|
|New Books About Holmes & Conan Doyle||5|
For someone new to the Sherlock Holmes stories, the best place to start is by reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes followed by The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. These collections include the seven best Holmes short stories.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 60 Holmes tales. These are available in at least 10 different complete collections, plus many other copies of individual books. Because most of the Holmes stories are out of copyright, there are numerous cheap, shoddy, or indifferent versions of the stories. However, there are a number of good-quality editions. Each has strengths and weaknesses. I've listed the ones that are the best for a new Holmes fan.
Best complete collection (all 60 stories)
Best choice under $30 (24 stories, including 7 of the top 10 stories overall)
Best choice under $15 (12 stories, including 4 of the top 10 stories overall)
A classy and classic gift for anyone interested in Sherlock Holmes. The complete set includes all 60 original stories, accompanied by hundreds of illustrations and a wealth of notes by Klinger that explain the Victorian world and delve into the nuances of the tales. It consists of three large (10.4 x 9 inches) and heavy hardcover books.
Slipcased Version of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes Best Complete Collection
The Complete Short Stories (2 Vol. Set) ($95.00 SRP; Amazon US listing $62.90)
The Novels ($59.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $42.48)
The slipcased versions come with a handsome slipcase to display and protect the book when you're not reading it. It's best to start with the Short Story collection. You can also buy each volume separately without slipcases (see below), and these have exactly the same content as the slipcased versions.
If your budget is limited, I suggest getting just Volume 1 of the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (details above). It contains all 24 stories from The Adventures and The Memoirs, including the top seven Holmes tales, and is unquestionably your best introduction to Sherlock Holmes. You can always get the other books later. But if you want a gift under $15 or need a smaller, more convenient book, see the Oxford Sherlock Holmes below.
You can also buy the other two New Annotated volumes separately:
The Short Stories, Volume 2 (non-slipcased edition) ($39.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $29.14)
The Novels, Volume 3 (non-slipcased edition) ($39.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $31.21)
Oxford paperback edition ($12.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $11.04) Best Choice under $15
Some people may prefer a paperback volume that's less expensive and easier to carry and hold. I recommend the Oxford Sherlock Holmes series and, for a new Holmes fan, the first collection (The Adventures) in particular. It provides a high-quality text and scholarly annotations that don't interfere with reading the story. This is the best paperback choice for a new fan, with fine background information by Conan Doyle expert Richard Lancelyn Green. The Amazon listing makes it sound like it includes all 9 volumes in the series, but this is just the first book. It contains 12 stories, including 4 of the top 10 stories overall. Unfortunately there are no illustrations. However, for a single book this is the best Holmes gift bargain for a new fan.
There are more than a thousand Holmes or Holmes-related stories by other authors. Some of these "pastiches" are very good, but unfortunately many of them are marginal. Opinions of them diverge wildly, so I've just listed two (plus a bonus) that have been around for 30+ years and are especially notable.
This book includes twelve short stories based on some of the untold tales in Sir Arthur's originals. The stories are written by his son and noted mystery author John Dickson Carr. The book does not appear to be in print, but you will find some copies listed at Amazon US
The book that sparked the Sherlock Holmes revival of the
1970s. Although set in Victorian times, in many ways it provides a modern
revision to the Holmes mythology. It's a bit more of a thriller than a
detective story, but a Sherlockian milestone nonetheless.
($18.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $17.06)
Bonus: Almost Sherlock Holmes
Short stories written in the style of the Holmes tales and featuring a very similar detective named Solar Pons. Highly recommended more like Holmes stories than most pastiches. The series originally consisted of the following short-story collections:
In Re: Sherlock HolmesThe Adventures of Solar Pons
The Memoirs of Solar Pons
The Return of Solar Pons
The Reminiscences of Solar Pons
The Casebook of Solar Pons
The Chronicles of Solar Pons
These are generally out of print, but you will find some used copies on the Amazon Marketplace, or you can buy the complete set in a large two-volume hardcover as The Original Text Solar Pons Omnibus (ISBN 1-55246-077-0 ) for $200 from the publisher (email him for details). There are also Solar Pons stories by Basil Cooper, but I have not read them.
Conan Doyle's other classic creation took readers to a world of dinosaurs and adventure. It inspired numerous movies and books, including Jurassic Park. You can get various basic paperback editions on Amazon, but I recommend the deluxe illustrated hardcover edition with annotations. ($34.95 SRP; not on Amazon; see Wessex Press)
With his 2009 movie Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey, Jr. joined more than 70 actors who have played the great detective in over 200 films. That makes Holmes "the most portrayed literary human character" on screen according to Guinness World Records. New fans should see at least one of the top Rathbone films and one of the more recent depictions of Holmes noted below.
Rathbone is arguably the best-known Holmes of the movies. In part that's because he made 14 Holmes films, but it's also a reflection of his acting skill, his striking appearance, and the quality of at least some of these movies. All are on DVD, but there are many different versions. For extensive details, see my list of the Ten Best Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes Movies on DVD.
The best value for a new fan is a double-feature
edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes / The Scarlet Claw.
It gives you two of the top three Rathbone films, plus extras including audio
commentary for both movies, a photo gallery, and a trailer for The Scarlet
Claw. Ignore the color cover and Amazon details: these are in the original
atmospheric black & white.
($19.98 SRP; Amazon US listing $12.99)
If you prefer a film based on a Holmes story, Rathbone's Hound of the Baskervilles is his second-best Holmes film and a reasonably faithful adaptation of Sherlock Holmes's most famous case. You can buy it in a special double-feature with the lower-rated Pursuit to Algiers for a few dollars more than the separate DVD version. The double-feature gets you an extra movie while the separate DVD has a nice booklet and might have a little better picture quality.
There is a Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection 5-DVD set for people who want a good deal on all 14 movies, but be aware that Amazon prices for it have ranged from about $70 to $110.
Although not a movie, this new vision of Holmes in present-day London truly captures the sense and spirit of the Conan Doyle stories and characters. Sherlockians will delight in the clever use of elements from the originals, while casual viewers will enjoy the fast-paced modern mysteries and adventures. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman dazzle as Holmes and Watson. The two discs feature all three original uncut UK BBC episodes, which are each 8 minutes longer than the abridged versions shown by PBS in the USA. See my 2010 review of Sherlock: Season One for details on the disc Extras. The Blu-ray has the same content but in 1080i. Like the CSI TV series, some material might be too mature for children. ($34.98 SRP; Amazon US listing $24.46 DVD, $28.78 Blu-ray). After watching Season One, you'll want to see Sherlock: Season Two. And fans should check out this Sherlock series companion book.
This marvelous book offers the best introduction and general reference to the world of Sherlock Holmes. First get and read the original Conan Doyle stories then get this book for a background to the tales and everything they've spawned. Besides covering all the stories, it discusses the characters, the themes, the movie and television versions, the Victorian era, Conan Doyle, and the entire Holmes phenomenon. It's an essential book if you don't have an annotated edition, and still useful even if you do have one. While there are other similar types of books, this one gets the facts right and is the best-written. Chris Redmond is a noted Sherlockian expert: be sure to get the 2009 second edition by him, not something by other authors with similar titles. ($32.00 SRP; Amazon US listing $24.49)
This up-to-date, comprehensive biography of Conan Doyle is ideal for new fans and even seasoned Sherlockians. Lycett's careful research included access to the Conan Doyle archives, and unlike almost all other Conan Doyle biographies, it provides extensive source notes. ($32.99 SRP; Amazon US listing $27.35; also in hardcover)
The first book of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's private letters provides a first-hand, unvarnished account of his life until 1920. See my detailed review of A Life in Letters. While a biography offers a broader view of his life and work, these letters reveal details of everyday life and give a more personal impression of Doyle the man. ($18.00 SRP; Amazon US listing $16.20; also in hardcover)
Anyone interested in Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle should consider subscribing to at least one of these two leading journals on the subject. The Baker Street Irregulars, an American literary society, has published The Baker Street Journal since 1946. The Sherlock Holmes Society of London publishes The Sherlock Holmes Journal. See the BSJ website and the SHSL website for details.
Peter E. Blau produces Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press, a monthly newsletter that is available in printed form or for free online via his Scuttlebutt web page. Roger Johnson publishes The District Messenger, the newsletter of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, which is available free via email or online at the SHSL District Messenger webpage.
Sebastian McCabe and Jeff Cody meet in present-day England as part of a Sherlockian debate and pastiche contest, but are soon involved in a puzzling disappearance and murder. Filled with Sherlockian references, the book incorporates a short Holmes pastiche (The Adventure of The Magic Umbrella) and a backstory (The Adventure of the Vatican Cameos) that were first published separately. Andriacco has a light and engaging style that makes this a fun read even if the mystery plot is bit thin. It's the fourth and best in the McCabe/Cody series, which starts with No Police Like Holmes. This book can be read alone, though there are numerous references to their earlier tales ($16.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $15.26)
Holmes investigates a series of bombings that could lead to anarchy in England. While starting as a mostly-traditional Holmes mystery, the second half of the book becomes a science-fiction steampunk adventure. Watson narrates this tale in a reasonably authentic style, and though an occasional modernism creeps in, the writing is professional and enjoyable. Lovegrove has a good knowledge of the original tales and even includes a few fun Doylean references. He blends in some nice deductions with plenty of action to make this a real page-turner. His work is strong enough that he doesn't really need so much steampunk fantasy, but it dominates the conclusion and so the book will appeal most of all to fans of that genre. ($14.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $11.59)
Most of the 14 brand-new pastiches in this anthology are narrated by Watson and set in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Some are traditional mysteries, but others have elements of the supernatural, fantasy or science fiction. Just like the original Adventures, which mixed murders with crimeless tales and humorous incidents, the variety of story types in this book increases its appeal. Several of the stories are excellent and the overall quality is pretty high. I particularly enjoyed "The Fallen Financier" by James Lovegrove, "The Adventure of the Locked Carriage" by Stuart Douglas, "The Demon Slasher of Seven Sisters" by Cavan Scott, and "Holmes and the Indelicate Widow" by Mags L Halliday. ($14.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $10.96)
The year's best DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, videos, movie-related and audio items released in
2013. More About the
See also the two best Holmes movies for new fans above. Prices as of November 2013; subject to change.
The first season of Elementary turned out to be a wonderful surprise. Viewers will find it to be a first-rate police procedural akin to The Mentalist with a bit of House M.D. mixed in. Sherlockians will recognize frequent allusions to characters and quotes from the Canon, and enjoy some startling twists to the original material. Where the BBC Sherlock updated the Holmes tales, Elementary took the characters as inspiration for an entirely different approach to Holmes and Watson that still honors the originals. The cast is excellent, and while the 24 episodes varied, they seemed to get even better through the year. The 6-DVD set has subtitles and includes more than an hour of extras, with about half the extras being quite interesting. ($55.98 SRP; Amazon US listing $37.96 DVD)
Before Anthony Horowitz wrote his fine Sherlock Holmes novel The House of Silk, he created and wrote the excellent BBC series Foyle's War. Opening in 1940 England and featuring mysteries and murders set on the homefront during wartime, it frequently incorporated many true but little-known aspects of that era. Michael Kitchen is wonderful as Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle. Series 7 picks up after WWII at the beginning of the Cold War, and focuses more on espionage than on traditional murders. It offers another strong set of three 90-minute episodes and can be enjoyed on its own, but I suggest you start with Season One and watch them in sequence. PBS cut about 8 minutes from the twisty plots and clever writing of each episode, so the full-length versions on disc for all seasons are much preferred. ($49.99 SRP; Amazon US listing $33.93 DVD, $38.52 Blu-ray)
Holmes and Star Trek have a long and intertwined history. Mr. Spock owes much of his character to Holmes. Commander Data actually portrays Holmes and faces Moriarty in two Trek TV episodes. Nicholas Meyer (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) wrote the best of the original Trek movies. Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC Sherlock) stars in this latest Trek film and does a fine job in a surprising role that also has deep ties to Meyer's work. It's better than the 2009 Trek movie, with the same great cast and special effects but a tighter and stronger plot. Picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray is excellent. It also has 42 minutes of featurettes, including some nice segments on Cumberbatch. ($29.99 SRP; Amazon US listing $14.99 DVD, $19.99 Blu-ray)
Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud join forces in a strong adaptation by Meyer of his own bestselling pastiche. The all-star cast is excellent with the exception of Robert Duvall as Watson, and even his performance is fine except for an unsuccessful British accent. A quirky film with moments of excellence, it doesn't quite live up to its potential but is certainly worth watching. This new Blu-ray is far better than the 2011 DVD, with a richer and sharper picture in 1080p and slightly better (though still mono) sound. Unlike that old DVD, this Blu-ray has English subtitles, a chapter index, and an excellent 19-minute interview with Nicholas Meyer about his book and this movie. The original 114 minutes and 1.85:1 widescreen. ($26.99 SRP; Amazon US listing $26.68 Blu-ray Combo)
This book, subtitled "The Official Companion to the Hit Television Series," provides a fun and informative look at the BBC Sherlock Season One and Season Two that's ideal for fans of the show. Each episode is reviewed through John Watson's scrapbook collection, where his notes on the case are accompanied by numerous color photos and sticky-notes of funny dialogue between John and Sherlock. Essays on making the series include brief interviews with the creators and cast members. Perhaps the best parts are "By the Book" essays that highlight points and props in an episode that relate back to the original tales. Absolutely filled with color photos, you'll enjoy both skimming through it and reading all the details. ($19.99 SRP; Amazon US listing $11.37)
The year's best books about Holmes or Conan Doyle published in 2013. Listed in order by author; more About the Choices and E-books.
See also the best books about Holmes & Conan Doyle for new fans above. Prices as of November 2013; subject to change.
If you want to write a Sherlockian paper, or just enjoy reading some of the best Sherlockian commentary and scholarship ever published, you need the e-Baker Street Journal archive. The eBSJ version 2 contains all 276 issues published from inception in 1946 through 2011, including all the BSJ Christmas Annuals. Produced in PDF on a single DVD, this version improves on the BSJ CD (2000) by adding 11 years of material, improving the text searchability and usability of older issues, and reducing file sizes for faster and easier use on PCs and tablets. At under a penny a page, the eBSJ is an incredible value. See my detailed review of the eBSJ v2 for more information, including tips for using the eBSJ. ($149.95 SRP; not on Amazon; see BSJ website)
This book uses the Holmes stories to illustrate how the mind can and does work. Part popular psychology and part self-help manual, Mastermind suggests how you can think more clearly, deeply, and rationally. It has many examples from the Holmes tales and Conan Doyle's real life. The strongest sections include the last half of Chapter 7 and the Postlude. Peculiarly, for a book that asks you to think critically, it has no significant source notes and a very limited bibliography, so you must take the author's assertions and case studies on faith. I would have liked more details on many of those studies, but overall it provides an interesting twist on Sherlock Holmes and some good suggestions for readers. ($26.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $19.76)
This chronology is an essential reference tool for anyone writing about Sir Arthur, his family, or his works including the Holmes stories. It includes a detailed chronological listing of events along with the sources for dating each event. This provides a master index to more than 330 books, pamphlets, articles, and primary sources about Conan Doyle. Among the 118 new sources added to this revised edition are several biographical books by Alistair Duncan, Conan Doyle's arctic diary and his accounts of his later American travels, and many newspaper articles. When you need to fact-check something about Sir Arthur, this is the place to start. Note: a third edition of Pugh's chronology is planned for May 2014. ($22.95 SRP; Amazon US listing $20.66)
This is the fifth Holmes short-story manuscript to be reproduced by the Baker Street Irregulars. You can read Conan Doyle's original draft in his remarkably clear handwriting or from the line-by-line transcription facing each manuscript page. Phillip Bergem provides his usual fine annotations and there are 10 essays about the story and the manuscript's history, including one by me. It's a nicely produced hardcover, though the black cloth can show finger marks and it lacks an index. The Manuscript Series books make great gifts for a Holmes fan who has never seen an original manuscript, and for people who really want to understand the background and nuances of the story. ($35.00 SRP; not on Amazon; see BSJ website)
While much has been written about The Strand Magazine, it's spread throughout numerous books and biographies. Many of those, including The Uncollected Sherlock Holmes by Richard Lancelyn Green, are out of print. Veld does a fine job of pulling information together to provide the best single source on the history of Sherlock Holmes in the Strand. Particularly notable are Veld's extended quotations from Conan Doyle letters, details about the magazine after 1930, and eight pages of excellent photos (most in color). This 100-page paperback has a clever cover design but lacks an index. ($24.95 SRP; not on Amazon; see Wessex Press)
Cumberbatch fans should check out this BBC Sherlock series companion book. And while this section of my list focuses on items for long-term Sherlockians, people looking for a compact and affordable gift for new Sherlockians should consider Nicholas Utechin's well-written Amazing & Extraordinary Facts - Sherlock Holmes.
This site first published its "Best of Year" reviews and recommendations in 2009. See all the previous best Holmes books and DVDs / Blu-ray selections. People just getting started with Holmes should see the best choices for new Sherlockians at the top of the current page.
This page's 2013 list was first posted on November 1, 2013.
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.
The good news for people interested in Sherlock Holmes is that there are so many books and related items beyond the original 60 tales. The bad news is there are so many items how do you choose what to get? I've tried to simplify things by highlighting the best material for a new Sherlockian, and the best new items for long-time Sherlockians.
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.
Selection criteria include my personal evaluation, other reviews, and price/value considerations. I read numerous Sherlockian publications for recommended new material and try to examine their top choices. For very new or unpublished items, I try to get advance copies or enough information to render a judgment. However, in order to publish this review before the holidays, items released after October 15 are usually evaluated for next year's list.
I've found all the items on this page to be enjoyable and/or useful, and place them among the best in their category. They've also received strong positive reviews from Sherlockian and/or general publications. Finally, in selecting items I consider both quality and price/value.
I limit the number of items in order to make this list easier and faster for people to use. However, that does mean there are some very good items that didn't quite make my list. And it's possible that I simply didn't get a chance to evaluate some 2013 items feel free to send me email if you think there is something that should be on the list.
In most cases I've given both the U.S. suggested retail price (SRP) and the price at Amazon as of November 2013; those prices are of course subject to change.
Vers. 1.80hx-N Original work