The Magic of Sherlock Holmes

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Spring break is nearly upon us so forgive my rather brief blog post (we are preparing to take my 9 year old twin up for a spot of skiing in the beautiful mountains near us – so things are a little crazy).  Luckily, both my boys are great readers (so we get to take lots of books with us!) and I love how we can now discuss books we’ve all read and how I can give them recommendations now that don’t (usually) provoke a whole lot of eye-rolling.  I also still read to them every night and have recently started introducing them to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. 

A few pages into the Hound of the Baskervilles, however, and my boys were already terrified (not a good idea just before bed!) so we started instead with A Study in Scarlet and have just recently moved on to The Sign of Four. What is amazing to me is how, despite the old-fashioned language and pace, both my boys are already totally hooked – and I think it’s not really the mystery that draws them in but the character of Holmes himself. It really is amazing to think that a character which in many ways is such a product of his times can be still so intriguing over a hundred years later. As a mum of course, I do have to explain his drug use and the smoking…but, hey, I think of these as…er…’teachable’ moments!

I came to Sherlock Holmes quite late  (I was well into my twenties before I read my first Holmes’ story) – compared to my husband who devoured all the stories when he was in the 5th and 6th grade at school in Australia. Though I enjoyed the stories, I don’t think I appreciated the mesmerising qualities of Sherlock Holmes as a character until I started reading the stories aloud to my boys. I’ve been interrogated by them on every aspect of his character – from whether he was based on a real person, to why he knows so much, to how, on earth, he can make such amazing deductions…He’s like a super-hero in many ways but also an enigmatic and  flawed hero – which is what, I suspect, makes him so intriguing. 

I’m looking forward to continuing to read these stories to my boys and then, I hope, handing the books over to them to read for themselves. To me, one of the great pleasures of being a parent, is passing on a love of reading. I already see each of my twins developing their own reading preferences and am glad that, at least in so far as Sherlock Holmes is concerned, they are gaining an appreciation for mysteries:)

So – tell me, are you are Sherlock Holmes fan? Do you have a particular favourite story? What do you think makes both him (as a character) and Conan Doyle’s stories endure? 

15 thoughts on “The Magic of Sherlock Holmes

  1. So many to choose from but “The Norwood Builder” is up near the top of the list. It was written after Doyle’s ten year hiatus from Holmes (after he supposedly killed Holmes off), and I think Doyle’s writing after that break is fresh and a bit more humourous.

    Of course now I have to spend the whole day re-reading as many as I can get away with before my own characters start complaining of neglect. Oh well —

    • Amanda – you know I don’t think I read the later stories so I need to dig them out now and take a look:)

  2. Always loved Holmes. Was introduced to him via the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies, then read the stories.

    Jeremy Brett was the best, truest Holmes, IMO.

    But I also dig the newer riffs, Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch.

    What makes him so enduring? Maybe we feel smarter after reading…Holmes sees what we should have seen, and now that we’ve seen it, we think, hey, maybe next time I can figure out who is walking up to my door just by the sound of his cane tapping.

    • One of my sons is dying to be able to ‘deduce’ what Holmes can deduce – if I see him borrowing books on identifying tattoos I’ll know to start worrying.

  3. Clare, major kudos to you for READING to your boys. I am positive my own love of reading came from hearing my parents and one great teacher in 3rd grade read to me. (Childcraft fairy tales and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books come to mind!) There is something magical about reading to someone you love. My husband and I do this on car trips. Much better than audio books…plus you can stop and talk about a book.

    • I absolutely love reading aloud to my boys – it’s my favourite part of the evening and it’s amazing how much more I appreciate the cadence and rhythm of great writing when I ‘hear’ it rather than ‘see’ it as I read. I’m hoping I have a few more good years of reading aloud to them:)

  4. There is something magical about Holmes and Watson. I came to Holmes through the old Basal Rathbone movies. Then I read the books. So the movies and television versions are intertwined with the books for me. I even like the newer series “Sherlock”, although “Elementary” doesn’t have that same appeal.
    But for me, the late Jeremy Brett will always be Holmes in my mind. He was perfect.

  5. Brian – Jeremy Brett in my mind is the quintessential
    Holmes. I’m trying to convince my boys to watch the series with me – but so far it’s all about the books! I haven’t gotten into either of the ‘new’ Sherlocks yet…

  6. I grew up watching Russian Sherlock Holmes films. The scratchy voice of Holmes, the scenes of horror always hidden from the viewer and left for the wildest imagination, adorable Watson and music that rings in the ears many days after watching.
    Here is a link to a trailer.

    But I haven’t read any of the stories yet.
    Clare, you made me very curious. Thank you! And who knows, maybe I will read them some day to my son, who is three now and likes reading, among other, a book about police officers and their jobs. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I was around 9 or so when my grandfather got me started on Sherlock Holmes with a Dell paperback edition of HOUND. I slept with the lights on for days after reading that one!

    A few months later, a TV station in Chicago showed the Hammer 1959 version of the movie on Friday night. I negotiatiated parental permission to stay up that late and watch it….. and slept with the lights on and a toy gun under my pillow for *months* after that!

    Decades ago – when VHS dominated – I found a copy of that movie at the video store and, according the legend, left a vapor trail snatching it off the rack. Watching it then as an adult, I felt sorry for the poor Great Dane they strapped a paper mache mask on…..

  8. Thank you for this post. The Sherlock Holmes stories are amazing. I didn’t come to them until college, when a friend introduced me. I agree JSB about Jeremy Brett, and also about Downey Jr. The one story I read before college was the Red Headed League, which was in our reader. Not the one I would have picked out for the introduction to Doyle. The Empty House and The Musgrave Ritual are favorites. The Hound ranks up there, too.

  9. I was in high school — a junior, I think, and The Adventure of the Speckled Band was in our English anthology. Loved it. Totally hooked. But not enough to like the new “modern” Holmes tv series with the female Watson.Totally didn’t work for me.

  10. I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. It was because of those stories that I wanted to write mysteries and became a better observer of my surroundings. It helps me solve some personal mysteries like, where’s my hat?

    I am such a big fan that when I went to England in 2002 and my cousin took me to London the first place I wanted to go was 221B Baker St. It is a museum to the great detective. Over on my blog I even posted a photo I took of Holmes’ drawing room. Later there seemed to be a strange face within the flame of the fireplace. I don’t know if I can post a link to my blog here, so I appoligise if I’m not supposed to.

  11. My favourite Holmes story atmo is ….ahem. But I have all the Rathbone films, the RDJnr ones and, of course the Jeremy Brett box-set (A Christmas gift from my Darling Wife) and cinematicalally speaking; it’s Brett every time. The man was iconic. Oddly, we shared the same tobacconist for some years and I have been to Crowborough more than once. I love the stories – I have the complete Strand and I can never pull a favourite-however I try-from the hat. Perhaps we love the books because WE are all Watsons, our friends are rarely as companionable or prone to adventure as Holmes and it stirs desires of action and intrigue within us. Perhaps. I feel the formula for a Holmes story, laid out, is disappointing on inspection – but the magic is reading these treasures, in the wonderful Paget illustrations and in the mist just beyond where dwell all such delights.

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