A review by chalkletters
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


Rereading detective short stories when I already know the endings may not be the ideal or intended way to enjoy them, but it’s always interesting. I pick out different details in what’s going on around the mystery than I would if I were trying to work out the solution.

As in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, it’s clear neither Holmes nor Watson care much what happens to their clients once Sherlock has deduced the true course of events. In The Stock-broker’s Clerk, poor Mr Pycroft is left high and dry. Sherlock deduces why he was swindled out of the new job he desperately needed, but not even a line is devoted to redressing the balance and making sure he’s gainfully employed after his run-in with Sherlock and Watson. Characters are given enough personality for a reader to care what happens to them, but are hurried off the page as soon as Sherlock loses interest in them, which makes for a frustrating combination.

On the other hand, the relationship between Holmes and Watson really begins to shine in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Watson’s care for and admiration of his friend is most obvious in The Reigate Puzzle, which lays the groundwork nicely for Watson to be truly shaken by the events of The Final Problem. The glimpse of Sherlock’s humility that Arthur Conan Doyle works into The Yellow Face deepens his character, making his indifference to his clients slightly more forgivable. (The comic touch about Holmes’ housekeeping in The Musgrave Ritual is highly relatable…)

These short stories aren’t flawless, and reading them for a second time highlights some of the highly convenient tricks Arthur Conan Doyle uses to construct his mysteries. (Key witnesses are often too out of their mind to provide explanations, for example, and several people fainting from the sight of a corpse’s expression feels a little unlikely.) Nonetheless, there’s a reason Sherlock and Watson endure as popular characters 90 years after Doyle’s death, and reading about them is always enjoyable.

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