Sir Arthur Conan Doyle •
The Complete Sherlock Holmes •
My first-ever job was clerking in a bookstore, and I was completely mystified one day when a young man came in wearing two baseball caps, one with the bill pointed forward, the other back. Then he asked to be directed to the Sherlock Holmes books, and I got it.
If you somehow managed to reach adulthood without making the acquaintance of Sherlock Homes, there’s still time to remedy the oversight. The adventures of the world’s foremost consulting detective occupy four novels and 56 short stories, and if you plan to buy any of the Holmes books, you may as well pop for the whole works. Few hard-core mystery fans can resist the allure of these stories, and a partial collection will only leave you hungry for more.
Sidney Paget’s original illustrations lend a wonderful old-timey feel to the text; you can just imagine 1890s Londoners snatching up copies of the Strand magazine each time a new tale appeared. The closest parallel in recent years is the hubbub surrounding Harry Potter releases.
But the Sherlock Holmes stories were conceived and written for grown-ups, not children. It was grown-ups who raised such a hue and cry when the author bumped off his hero in “The Adventure of the Final Problem” that Doyle was grudgingly compelled to restore the detective to life.
Not that Holmes doesn’t appeal to younger readers as well. Just ask the kid in the homemade deerstalker.