Sherlock Holmes. Where to start?

Inspired by the movie related discussion I cannot be the only person out there that hasn’t read Sherlock Holmes in a lifetime. ( I was 11 or 12 when I read a few of his books.)

Where in A.C Doyle should I start?

Are there any ‘fillers’ to the Sherlock Holmes, written by other authors, to keep the Holmes-pron going ( should I get hooked like I am hooked on All Things Jane Austen right now.)

Thank you and have a nice day at your own risk.

Start with the many Holmes short stories, to get a feel for Holmes.

They are called “pastiches”, and there are a lot of them!

Check Amazon.

Any one of the Holmes collections or novels are a good place to start. A Study in Scarlet was the first novel, but I think Hound of the Baskervilles was the best. However, the short story collections are probably the best.

I’ve never heard of this word until now. THANKS!


The first Sherlock novel, A Study in Scarlet, spends the first couple chapters introducing Watson to Holmes. You should read that only for those few chapters – the rest of the story isn’t too great, and is largely unnecessary, IMHO.

Well, A Study in Scarlet is where Watson meets Holmes for the first time, and things start rolling, so that’s a point to start. Or you could pick up one of the anthologies - Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the earliest and IMO the best one.

If Wordsworth editions are available in the US, get thee to a bookstore and pick up an ex of the complete illustrated Sherlock Holmes (facsimile of the Strand stories, in chronological order, and with Sidney Paget illustrations). It’s one of those books you’ll have to pry out of my dead, cold hands along with the complete Shakespeare and the complete Oscar Wilde.

Once you’ve made your way through the Holmes canon and need further Holmes fixes, you can pick and choose from the pastiches (Adrian Conan Doyle wrote a couple of anthologies in the fifties, and Nicholas Meyer has written three, starting with The Seven Per-cent Solution, and there are countless others. I’m not usually one to bother with them, though I’ll confess to a deep fascination with Neil Gaiman’s short story A Study in Emerald (it’s available as a free PDF file on his website, but don’t peek until you’ve finished the canon.)

Specifically, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the first and, most would say, best of the short story collections. It would be my recommended starting place.

If you’re the kind of person who has to read everything in chronological order, though (which isn’t really necessary with Holmes), you’d start with the short novel A Study in Scarlet. It shows how Watson first met Holmes and how their partnership started, but be warned: it contains a huge chunk of backstory in the middle that has nothing to do with Holmes, Watson, or England.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is probably the best of the four novels, but yes, I’d start with the short stories.

Yes indeed. One of the earliest is this one, written by Doyle’s son and his biographer; but there are dozens more, both serious and silly.

For more than you may want to know about Sherlock Holmes, see the Staff Report Did Sherlock Holmes really exist?

The problem with those chapters is that Doyle later ignored and contradicted everything that’s said in them. Read them after the first two books of short stories just for curiosity’s sake.

I own over a hundred Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and there are many more out there.

The original AC Doyle writings are now in the public domain, so you can find them posted on the web for free. If you have a Kindle, Amazon has at least one volume posted for $0.00. Before they did that, I bought the two volume set of the complete Sherlock Holmes for $9.99.

My own favorite Sherlock Holmes pastiche - in novel form - is the Irene Adler series, though books 3 and 4 are fairly weak. In Holmes canon, she is the woman, the only woman (of four people total) who ever outsmarted Holmes. The books are by Carole Nelson Douglas. The first novel is Good Night, Mr. Holmes.

My favorite movie pastiche is Without a Clue with Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine. Kingsley plays Watson, and he is the deductive genius. He invented the character of Sherlock Holmes to sell stories and then ended up hiring an actor (Michael Caine) to play him. It’s hysterical.

Holmsians are obsessive, but I have to admit I don’t know of a good, thorough site on pastiches and parodies on the net. has an older page on pastiches that links to many available online if you want to check out their flavor. Some of the links no longer work, though.

The most complete compilation is The Alternative Sherlock Holmes by Peter Ridgway Watt and Joseph Green, itself a rare collectible now. It lists nearly 2000 alternatives, but since it came out in 2003 it must be missing hundreds more.

I agree: read the short stories first. My personal favorites are “The Red-Headed League,” “The Speckled Band,” “The Blue Carbuncle,” “The Greek Interpreter” and “The Norwood Builder.” Then read “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

Hands down, the best SH pastiches I’ve ever read are by June Thomson. If you’d never read any Holmes and were given five of hers without the author credit, and likewise five of Conan Doyle’s, I’d defy you to say who wrote what. She’s just that good - gets Conan Doyle’s narrative just right, and dreams up fun, clever mysteries too. Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven Percent Solution is also good fun, although you may disagree with his theory on The Great Hiatus.

As it happens, I’ve written three Holmesian pastiches myself!

Are your pastiches published? If so, where can I find them?

If you’re interested in television/film dramatisations, then Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes. A magnificent performance.

No. Someday I hope to write another two so that I have five for a book, but that’ll probably be awhile yet. PM me if you’d like more details.

Yeah, but it’s awesome. This one of the things I loved about the Holmes canon – there are all these discusions and sections with other characters. My favorite work of them all is The Valley of Fear, and Holmes and Watson are barely in it. But the way Doyle balances the competing loyalties (I’ll say no more for fear of spoiling) got my blood pumpint the whole thing through.


I have two volume edition entitled, “The Complete Sherlock Holmes.” I’d put that at just about the definitive starting point.

They’re great, fun stories. Enjoy.

I only just read (voraciously) all the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels within the last six months, and I’m 52. I just adore them, and I just adore Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in the British television series. Not only did he get Holmes just right, IMO, he’s hotter than the hinges of hell. I’ve a screen shot of him in his “mouse-colored dressing gown” and tousled hair from The Blue Carbuncle as my computer wallpaper.

If you can, try to find any editions which have the Sydney Paget illustrations. They add a lot of charm and period feel to your reading.

Seconded as to the Paget illustrations.

My wife gave me the Klinger annotated stories a few years ago, and they have a wealth of information about the stories, Victorian England, and some of Conan Doyle’s inspirations (acknowledged, presumed and inferred). Very highly recommended:

I am currently reading the entire collection (Strand with illustrations…nice book, but annoyingly heavy, and by currently, it’s been a story or two a week for a very long time now…) and I have one question that a quick answer would probably suffice, so please forgive me for hijacking this thread.

I’ll put it in spoilers; those of you who have never read any of the stories should probably not bother - it’s a character question, though I don’t think it’s a plot one. Anyways…

Somewhere in the middle of the first collection, Watson gets married, opens his own practise, yadda yadda and sees Holmes occasionally. Then Holmes encounters Moriarty (and boy, was that ever lame!), and then the book has “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and then starts the second collection, with Holmes’ return from Moriarty’s encounter, and next thing you know, Watson and Holmes are shacked up again together, solving crime like Batman and Robin (they refer to each other as “partners” a lot more too, all of a sudden).

so…where is Watson’s wife?

Did she die, and I managed to miss it (a lot of people die in these stories)
Will it come up in a short story that I haven’t read yet?
Did she just disappear into the aether?

It’s bugging me that in 3 years, Watson has seemingly given up his wife, job and pretty much anything else in order to be treated like a workhorse by Holmes (given as Watson really isn’t all that bright, IMHO). I see where the slash fiction originated, anyways…![/spoiler]