Monday, May 28, 2018

For the First Time Our Eyes Rested Upon This Presentment

Book Riot recently celebrated celebrated Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday by dedicating the whole day's coverage to article relating to Holmes and his creator.  It's serendipious that they highlighted our interests this week, because one of their podcasts, All The Books, recently posed the question, If you could go back and reread one book for the first time, what would it be?

I've been wrestling with that question all week, because if I chose a Sherlock Holmes story, I don't know which one I'd pick.

I immediately thought of my favorite story, The Sign of Four.  I love this story!

Mary Morstan!

A locked room mystery!

The Baker Street Irregulars!


The great boat chase!


...Oh, and then a long backstory.  I remember how uninterested I was (and still am) in Jonathan Small's backstory.  Although SIGN is my favorite, I don't think it's the one to go back and reread for the first time.

Of course, some of the more popular stories jump out: Speckled Band, Scandal in Bohemia, and The Red Headed League.  But, I'm lucky enough to teach these stories to my fifth graders each year, so I get to see the revelations in these stories on their faces over and over.  I can always count on hearing things like, "What?  It's a snake!" or "Irene Adler is awesome!" every November.  (Plus watching how creeped out they are by Jephro Rucastle in Copper Beeches is always a delight.)  Seeing kids come upon great turns in these stories is its own kind of special delight, so I think the big three get a pass on this one, as well.

What about the introduction of Holmes' arch rival in The Final Problem?  

No.  Moriarty is overrated.

So, I think that leaves us with the other big name in the Canon, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  My very first Sherlock Holmes book was "Revenge of the Hound" by Michael Hardwick when I was in sixth grade.  I'd never read a Sherlock Holmes story before, but this had a cool cover and was in a Scholastic book order.  Twenty some odd years later, I found the same book in my mom's basement after I'd become a Sherlockian, so it already has the nostalgia factor working for it.

But when I finally read The Hound of the Baskervilles years and years after Hardwick's book, I was caught completely off guard.  What a fantastic novel!  I don't think I have to sell anyone that reads this blog on the merits of HOUN, but I will make a claim that I think it should be part of a high school literary curriculum.  Doyle is a master at setting the scene in his stories, and HOUN shows him at the top of his game.

So, my choice for the one book I could go back and read again for the first time would be Hound of the Baskervilles.  I would probably go into it just like I had before, thinking it was going to be Sherlock Holmes investigating a murderous ghost dog.  I would expect to all over again appreciate Watson's leading man role, be intrigued at the escaped convict subplot, be skeeved out by Stapleton and his odd behavior, and be on the edge of my seat for the climactic end.

Yes, Hound of the Baskervilles it is!  I may even go back and reread it again just for the hell of it.

So, what about you?  If you could go back and reread one Holmes story again for the very first time, what would it be?


  1. For me, it might be The Speckled Band. I can't remember what it is like to read that story and NOT know the ending.