Sir Arthur Conan Doyle studied medicine at Edinburg University but had far more success as a writer than he did as a physician. Doyle modeled his character Sherlock Holmes after his professor Joseph Bell who emphasized to his students the importance of careful observation, and drawing conclusions based on very little evidence.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a collection of 11 short stories, each about 20 pages in length, which were first published monthly in the Strand magazine from 1891 to 1893. Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick Dr. Watson is his biographer, who captures the detective’s life story through the cases that he has worked on. And the best way Watson does that is by accompanying Holmes while he solves his cases. So the stories are told through the eyes of Watson.
The 11 stories in Doyle’s The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes are:
- Silver Blaze
- The Yellow Face
- The Stockbroker’s Clerk
- The Gloria Scott
- The Musgrave Ritual
- The Reigate Squires
- The Crooked Man
- The Resident Patient
- The Greek Interpreter
- The Naval Treaty
- The Final Problem
I found that I enjoyed the short stories where Sherlock Holmes was assigned a case and worked on it in the here-and-now far more than the cases that Watson reflected on – that’s my bias, because I have never liked flashbacks as a literary device, I prefer when stories are told in chronological order.
I got caught up in a few of the stories and found myself very upset with the characters in the story as it unfolded. For instance, in The Naval Treaty, Percy Phelps’ uncle, Lord Holdhurst asks him to copy and keep secure a confidential naval treaty because it would be problematic if it gets into the wrong hands prematurely. Holdhurst tells him that he should not begin copying the document until everyone has already left for the day. Phelps complies, but the copying of the document is taking a lot longer that he anticipated and he is now feeling very tired and sleepy so he decides to get some tea to stay awake.
Because he is alone in the building, he leaves the documents unattended on the desk to go in search of tea in another part of the building. When he returns, the naval treaty document is missing. I am so much into the story that I was asking, “How stupid could you be? It doesn’t matter if you think you are alone, if you have to leave, secure the document first since it’s so important.” I may have been a bit harsh with the character, but I had little tolerance for his stupidity. But it was quite clever how Holmes solved the mystery to show who stole the naval treaty and why.
In The Final Problem, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle kills off the Sherlock Holmes character, and I thought it was quite odd the way in which he did it. I know that each short story stands alone, but the author introduces the character Professor Moriarty. Moriarty is very evil, a criminal mastermind, and Holmes thinks that if he gathers enough evidence to get him arrested for life he could retire a happy and accomplished man.
The issue is that Moriarty is just as intelligent as Holmes and their deductive reasoning abilities are on par. The question I had is if this character was so evil, and just as smart as Holmes, why wasn’t he in some of the other stories included in the book? I have read many Sherlock Holmes stories but that was years ago and I cannot remember if Professor Moriarty was in any of them. Perhaps I am going too deep into the book, but I think, at the very least, there should have been at least one other story in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes where both characters went head-to-head.
You’ll enjoy this book far more if you read it for entertainment than if you read it to further your knowledge. Here is what I mean by this, murder mysteries and detective stories often provide a way to teach problem solving skills, but this is not really the case with The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In most murder mysteries and detective stories, the authors provide clues in the story and readers discover the evidence the same time the detective discovers them so you have a great chance at foreshadowing, but in this instance, Holmes tells you what he sees as he uncovers the mystery, but Doyle doesn’t necessarily provide clues for you to make your own deductions.
However, even though you will not learn about problem solving from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, you will learn about the art of reasoning. Holmes recognizes, and rightly so, that he will never have all the information he needs to solve a case. There will always be information gaps. The way he gets around that is to think things through carefully, and he often gains clarity about a situation by explaining it to another person. That’s an important way for anyone to learn. And because Holmes is an astute observer, he sees many things that others don’t, and there are many instances in the book where his power of observation makes good teaching points for the reader.
Another good teaching point from the book is that Holmes is an active listener, and he knows the right questions to ask because of that. If something is not clear to him, he asks for clarification. These are good skills for any professional to possess. And one of the things I really liked about the book was that, not all the stories were resolved in a complete manner where all the loose ends were tied up, because in real life, not all cases are solved completely. You have cold cases that are never solved, and you have partially solved cases.
I enjoyed reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and I recommend it because I like any book that teaches worthwhile lessons. The art of reasoning, and the ability to listen and ask the right questions are worthwhile skills for any professional to possess and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will assist them in honing those skills.
How can you use this information? What do you have to add to the conversation? Let’s keep the conversation flowing, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Many readers read this blog from other sites, so why don’t you pop over to The Invisible Mentor and subscribe (top on the right hand side) by email or RSS Feed.
Book links are affiliate links. The picture is of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty fighting to the bitter end.
- The Final Problem: A Review (smlaarg.wordpress.com)
- Scriptwriter begins work on third Sherlock Holmes movie (hollywood.com)