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Book Review: The Sherlock Holmes Book

Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes? I sure am. My love of all things Holmes has contributed to my love of all things true crime. I read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories voraciously as a young adult. Now every time I reread them I get something new out of the stories. And let us not even discuss the countless hours I have spent mulling over if Basil Rathbone or Benedict Cumberbatch better captures the essence of Holmes. Which camp do you fall in? 

The Sherlock Holmes Book

Image of the book The Sherlock Holmes Book

I am thrilled to review The Sherlock Holmes Book from the Big Ideas Simply Explained Series.

It is unsurprising that putting together this 352-page mammoth compendium required a lot of talent. David Stuart Davies and Barry Forshaw are the consultant editors. And there are contributions by David Anderson, Joly Braime, John Farndon, Andrew Heritage, Alex Whittleton, and Liz Wyse. If you have a minute, do an internet search of some of these names. You will be suitably impressed by the level of expertise behind this book. 

The Table of Contents

The Sherlock Holmes Book TOC

I was happy to discover The Sherlock Holmes Book covers every story in the Holmes canon – all four novels and 56 short stories. It includes overviews of the narrative structures and characterizations, plus a look at the stories’ historical sources and contexts.

Although the coverage of many of the tales is only two pages or so, the writers still manage to capture a good mix of details and synopses. Serious Holmes fans will find the story coverage like sitting down to tea to reminisce about a good friend, whereas those new to Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson will be introduced to a fascinating world of crime, mystery, and detection. 

The layout of The Sherlock Holmes Book is easy to follow and intuitive. The section breakdown – Introduction, Early Adventures, The Great Detective, A Legend Returns, Holmes Takes a Bow, The Final Deductions, and The World of Sherlock Holmes – takes the reader logically and chronologically through the cases. 

Like all of the other books in DK’s Big Ideas Simply Explained Series, this book offers beautiful infographics that visually explain everything from story timelines to Holmes’ deductions to key plot points. 

Example Timeline

Image of a timeline from The Sherlock Holmes Book

Although I cannot get enough of reading Holmes’ stories, I have to admit one of my favourite parts of The Sherlock Holmes Book is The World of Sherlock Holmes section; it explores the Victorian world surrounding Holmes. Considering my PhD thesis was on Victorian floral symbolism and how authors used it to comment on social issues, I loved learning more about the cultural context of the period and the social issues that impacted Doyle’s storytelling, including colonialism, gender roles, industrialization, and the speed of change. 

The Victorian World

The Victorian World in The Sherlock Holmes Book

Finally, true crime buffs like me (and you) will love the section: There Is Nothing Like First-Hand Evidence: Criminology and Forensic Science. When Doyle positioned Holmes as a pioneer of forensic analysis in the 19th century, he endowed Holmes with the ability to form insights about cases that made him appear to be a mind-reading genius. His use of forensics – from fingerprints to blood typing to the study of tobacco ashes – truly makes Holmes a force to be reckoned with.  

Criminology and Forensic Science

Criminology and Forensic Science in The Sherlock Holmes Book

In The Sherlock Holmes Book, a part of the Big Ideas Simply Explained Series, the big idea of Holmes is simply explained in an “elementary” way that is accessible to all readers, whether a diehard Holmes fan or someone new to his universe. So what are you waiting for? Throw on your Ulster, grab your sidekick, and head out to grab a copy! 

*Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Love book reviews? Check out our review of The Girls Are Gone and Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes.

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