Weekly Book Column: ‘Sherlock Holmes’

Picture shows a stack of several different books
(File photo/Lindsay Baffo/The Sundial)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the books featuring the famous “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes and his loyal partner Dr. John Watson from the late 1800s to early 1900s, and somehow, they have proven to stay relevant to this day.

The BBC’s most recent interpretation of Doyle’s works, “Sherlock,” created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, released its three-episode fourth series throughout the month of January, concluding on Jan. 15.

In the process of writing the first episode of the fourth series of “Sherlock,” Gatiss decided to include elements from two of Doyle’s short stories: “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” and “The Adventure of the Yellow Face.”

While the BBC series may have concluded for the foreseeable future, Doyle’s four full-length novels and 56 short stories starring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson are still read and sold all over the world.

Whether people love the BBC series, or are simply interested in detective fiction short stories, “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” and “The Adventure of the Yellow Face” are both excellently written and highly recommended.

“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” was one of a 12-part short story series Doyle wrote entitled “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, first published in Strand Magazine in March 1892. This short story is set apart from the rest of Doyle’s works since it features a case that Dr. Watson brings directly to Holmes. While Dr. Watson treats Mr. Victor Hatherley’s amputated thumb, Hatherley tells him about the odd occurrences leading up to his wound.

Hatherley decided to take a job, his employer a man named Colonel Lysander Stark, inspecting a hydraulic press despite being warned against it. When he inspected the press, he saw some discharge from the machine which did not coincide with it being used to make bricks (as it was meant to be used for). Hatherley confronted Stark about it, resulting in Stark attempting to kill him and amputating Hatherley’s thumb.

Back in the present, Holmes deduces that Stark was in the business of creating counterfeit money. Holmes, Watson, and the police go off to catch Stark and his associates.

“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is on Amazon for Kindle for $0.99 or in paperback for $7.99. It includes eleven other short stories by Doyle in addition to “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb.”

“The Adventure of the Yellow Face” was also one of a 12-part short-story series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote entitled “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”. First published in Strand Magazine in 1893, it also featured illustrations by Sidney Paget. It opens to Holmes and Dr. Watson returning from a walk to find that a client came and went while they were away.

After Holmes makes some deductions using the pipe the man left behind, the client comes back and introduces himself as Mr. Grant Munro. Munro tells the detective about his wife, Effie, whose original husband and daughter died of yellow fever in America before she moved to England and married Munro. They were happy until a couple months ago when she asked him for money and refused to tell him why.

After this, she was caught meeting with a person in a yellow mask. Munro searched the cottage where this meeting took place to find it empty, save some furniture and a portrait of his wife. Holmes sends Munro away with instructions to contact him if the person in the yellow mask comes back. Later, Munro contacts Holmes to tell him that the masked person has returned, and Holmes and Dr. Watson rush to the cottage.

“The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is on Amazon for Kindle for $0.99 or in paperback for $3.50. It includes eleven short stories by Doyle in addition to “The Adventure of the Yellow Face.”