Everybody knows him -- the pipe-smoking detective on Baker Street (with or without the movie-added deerstalker), who is able to deduce all sorts of things just by glancing at a person. "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" shows off Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first collection of short stories involving Holmes, mingling human psychology with sometimes bizarre mysteries.
Holmes is visited by the masked King of Bohemia, who has a slight problem: he's engaged to a princess, but his former lover Irene Adler has a compromising letter that could jeopardize his future marriage. But Adler has a formidable brain of her own. Then Holmes is hired by a man who was hired by the mysterious Red-Headed League, and given a strange job... which is somehow connected to a criminal undertaking.
Among the other strange cases that Holmes and Watson undertake -- a missing fiance, a strange murder in Boscombe Valley, a dead man who was sent five orange seeds, a woman whose husband has utterly vanished, a blue jewel hidden in a Christmas turkey, a dead woman whose last words were "it was the band, the speckled band!", a young engineer given a dream job, an American heiress who vanishes directly after her wedding, a broken beryl coronet, and a young woman given a surreally weird job.
Sherlock Holmes mysteries come in two types:
1. The case is completely baffling, and Holmes is needed to unravel the knot of obscure clues.
2. The case seems straightforward, but Holmes is needed to connect seemingly unrelated clues to the crime in order to find the REAL perpetrator.
There are plenty of both kinds in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," with a dozen cases that require Holmes' unique detecting skills -- it can be something as simple as locating a letter, or something as complex as foiling a robbery or counterfeiting ring. Doyle's stately, dignified prose is heightened by moments of excitement or horror (" It swelled up louder and louder, a hoarse yell of pain and fear and anger all mingled in the one dreadful shriek"), and he wove in a lot of human psychology into Holmes' cases.
Holmes himself... is Holmes. Doyle didn't like his detective much, but Sherlock's knife-edged intellect and fascination with puzzles are strangely hypnotic -- even if you wouldn't like to be roomies with the guy, it would be amazing just to sit and watch him work. Watson is the perfect counterpoint for Holmes: he's not a genius but is definitely intelligent, warm-hearted and capable.
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" is a magnificent collection of Holmes' first twelve short cases, filled with murder, intrigue and all sorts of weird crimes. An absolute must-read.