The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
From his rooms in Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes's brooding figure emerges into the foggy streets of Victorian London to grapple with the forces of treachery, intrigue, and evil.
This is an excellent work of twelve short stories exploring some of Holmes' smaller cases. Despite their length, they are each of them wonderfully layered, and provide a deeper insight into both Holmes' skill, and his almost sociopathic persona. I imagine there's no psychologist, dead or alive, who wouldn't have loved an attempt at fully exploring his mind. Having only ever read full novels on Holmes' cases, I wondered whether shortening his adventures would remove some of the magic. Doyle simply compresses his genius into fewer words - that's it. The enchantment is still there.
Each of the clients bring something aloof and mysterious to Sherlock's room. Doyle's imagination is unrivalled as we see the cases resolved, some in ways that could be easily predicted, but most not. Guessing the outcome can create a feeling of your own superior intellect, however the prize is being treated to how Holmes worked it all out. The pace is perfect, the characters intriguing, and most beautifully of all, we're given our first glimpse of Irene Adler.
There's just something about the idea of foggy Victorian London, awash with mysteries and secrets, darkness and deceit, that gets me every time. Add in a man of astounding intellect and a general impatience for the dull, and you've got yourself a beautiful detective novel. I love crime mysteries, but police cars, roaring sirens, and the aid of technology completely pale in comparison to the pipe smoking, newspaper reading, telegram sending detective of Baker Street.
My only critique of these stories would be that they all followed exactly the same structure. Holmes and Watson lounge in Baker Street one morning until a client appears. The client unravels the situation they've found themselves in. The duo find a way of visiting the scene of the incident (note: not scene of the crime, as not all of these stories had a criminal aspect to them - wonderfully). Sherlock then solves the matter, and describes at length how he managed to do so. The structure worked, and I'm sure I couldn't live without the finality of the explanation, however I would have loved a little bit of variety here.
Holmes and Watson are both literary legends, and deservedly so. Doyle's storytelling skill is an absolute treasure; it takes a true master to make mysteries like these, and the way they are solved, believable, not to mention making a reader love a quite irrefutable and exasperating man.