Today I’m delighted to share a guest post from Martin Edwards whose debut novel Mortmain Hall was released April 2nd.
My Top 10 Sherlock Holmes Stories – Martin Edwards
Sherlock Holmes is not only the most popular fictional detective, he is the most popular fictional character of all time. From his very first appearance in A Study in Scarlet, he cuts a truly unforgettable figure. His friend Stamford describes him to Dr Watson as ‘a walking calendar of crime’, but he’s much, much more than that.
At the age of ten I wrote my first crime story, very much inspired by Sherlock and Agatha Christie. Thankfully it was never published, but to this day the idea of the Great Detective fascinates me, and I’ve tried to give this classic notion a fresh spin in the shape of Rachel Savernake, the dark star of my latest book, Mortmain Hall.
But Sherlock is always, to paraphrase Arthur Conan Doyle, the detective. Here are ten of my favourites.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
This classic is by far the best of the four novels about Sherlock. The Dartmoor setting is superbly evoked and the legend of an old family curse sets our man on the way to solving a fiendish crime. The dialogue is vintage Doyle: ‘Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!’
‘The Red-Headed League’
The second short story featuring Sherlock is also one of the finest detective short stories ever written. The brilliant deductions at the start introduce a marvellously intriguing scenario and a mystery packed with excitement.
‘The Five Orange Pips’
What frightening secret lies behind a message taking the form of the eponymous orange pips? This story was also one of Doyle’s own favourites because of its dramatic quality.
‘The Speckled Band’
This is a masterpiece, chock-full of vintage ingredients. A hateful villain, a baffling ‘dying message’ clue, and a locked room mystery – what more could a detective story fan wish for?
‘The Copper Beeches’
This is a dark story, which demonstrates the truth of Sherlock’s famous observation that ‘the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.’
The tale of dirty dealing in the world of horse racing would merit classic status if only for the legendary passage in which Sherlock draws Inspector Gregory’s attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time…
‘The Priory School’
There’s a clue in this story about bicycle tracks which is far from credible, but it’s a tribute to Doyle’s storytelling gifts that the verve and power of the narrative make us willing to suspend disbelief.
‘The Dancing Men’
As with ‘The Five Orange Pips’, the starting point for the mystery is a puzzling message. Stories about codes and ciphers can be fascinating, and this tale of revenge is perhaps the most successful example of all.
‘The Musgrave Ritual’
T.S. Eliot paid homage to this story in Murder in the Cathedral. It’s a highly evocative tale, a memory of Sherlock’s early life, and again one of Doyle’s own favourites.
‘The Final Problem’
Sherlock engages in a life-or-death struggle with Professor Moriarty, ‘the Napoleon of Crime’, at a vividly described Reichenbach Falls. Doyle intended this story was intended to mark the end of the maestro. But Sherlock was too strong for him as well as for Moriarty. He has proved immortal.
Mortmain Hall is published by Head of Zeus on 2 April, £18.99 hardback
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Martin Edwards is the latest recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing, given for the sustained excellence of an author’s contribution to the genre. His most recent novels, set in 1930, are Mortmain Hall and Gallows Court, which was nominated for two awards including the CWA Historical Dagger. British librarians awarded him the CWA Dagger in the Library in 2018 in recognition of his body of work. His seventh and most recent Lake District Mystery is The Dungeon House. Earlier books in the series are The Coffin Trail (short-listed for the Theakston’s prize for best British crime novel of 2006), The Cipher Garden, The Arsenic Labyrinth (short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 2008), The Serpent Pool, and The Hanging Wood.
Martin is a well-known crime fiction critic, and series consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics. His ground-breaking study of the genre between the wars, The Golden Age of Murder, was warmly reviewed around the world, and won the Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating and Macavity awards. His The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books won the Macavity and was nominated for four other awards.
Martin has written eight novels about lawyer Harry Devlin, the first of which, All the Lonely People, was short-listed for the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger for the best first crime novel of the year, The early Devlin books are now enjoying a fresh life as ebooks, with new introductions by leading authors such as Val McDermid and Frances Fyfield, as well as other new material.
In addition Martin has written a stand-alone novel of psychological suspense, Take My Breath Away, and a much acclaimed novel featuring Dr Crippen, Dancing for the Hangman. The latest Devlin novel, Waterloo Sunset, appeared in 2008. He completed Bill Knox’s last book, The Lazarus Widow. He has published many short stories, including the ebooks The New Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and Acknowledgments and other stories. ‘Test Drive’ was short-listed for the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2006, while ‘The Bookbinder’s Apprentice’ won the same Dagger in 2008.
A well-known commentator on crime fiction, he has edited 40 anthologies and published diverse non-fiction books, including a study of homicide investigation, Urge to Kill.An expert on crime fiction history, he is archivist of both the Crime Writers’ Association and the Detection Club. He was elected eighth President of the Detection Club in 2015, spent two years as Chair of the CWA, and posts regularly to his blog, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’