The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

This collection of stories features the grand return of Sherlock Holmes after his seeming death in The Final Problem. I think he comes back strong, and the stories in this collection are very much on the level of his earlier outings. Here are my thoughts on the stories:

The Adventure of the Empty House
This is the story in which Holmes and Watson are finally reunited – with Sebastian Moran attempting to track him down and assassinate him. Although I feel bad for Watson and wish there was a deeper look at the emotional impact of Holmes’ faked death, I really like the tension in this story and think of it as one of my favourites.

The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
Holmes and Watson are visited by a man who claims to have been set up for a murder that he did not commit. It’s difficult to say anything about this one without spoiling it, but the ultimate twist in this story was very satisfying – it goes in a very different direction than you might expect.

The Adventure of the Dancing Men
This is probably one of the most iconic Sherlock Holmes stories, with Holmes’s client showing him a strange language made up of tiny dancing stick figures. Ultimately, it’s also one of the bleakest Holmes story, and much less whimsical than others, and much less than you’d expect this one to be, given the central theme and the title.

The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
A woman seeks Holmes’s advice after finding herself being followed by a strange man on a bike as she rides to work. The character has a rather interesting backstory, and I liked the nuanced twists and turns – and to see Holmes stepping up against the mistreatment of women in his time.

The Adventure of the Priory School
In this story, Holmes and Watson investigate the disappearance of a student and his German master. This is another story where the characters have quite an intriguing backstory and there are twists that I never saw coming. One of my favourites in the collection.

The Adventure of Black Peter
Holmes is called in to investigate the murder of a horrible and violent man – his method of finding the killer is characteristically quirky, and the actual circumstances of the death are quite different to what may have been expected.

The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
Holmes and Watson come up against an awful professional blackmailer. He’s one of the most unpleasant people in all the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the adventure that surrounds him is quite an atypical one. Holmes and Watson aren’t actually so important to the story this time, but I absolutely love what happens.

The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
In this one, Holmes is investigating the destruction of miniature busts of Napoleon. In this story in particular, I enjoyed reading about Holmes’s methods of investigating a problem that seems so illogical and incomprehensible, and then ultimately getting to the bottom of quite an interesting story.

The Adventure of the Three Students
During a visit to a university town, Holmes gets caught up in a scandal involving the potential leak of an upcoming exam. Together with Watson, they work to prevent a huge problem for the university – I liked this for being a smaller scale, slightly lower stakes story.

The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
In some respects, this story reminded me of the Norwood Builder – at least in terms of its revelation. However, while there are some superficial similarities, it still stands alone as a unique narrative, and one that has a character with a really interesting backstory.

The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter
Holmes and Watson get caught up in the world of university sports. After a key Cambridge rugby player disappears, Holmes is brought in to investigate. I always enjoy Holmes in a university setting, for some reason, and in the end, this turns out to be another very bleak story.

The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
Following on from the last story, this was another one which is actually pretty sad. I quite like it though, as it has Holmes standing up for a woman who has been abused by a horrible partner. In some respects, I found it similar to The Solitary Cyclist in that it has Holmes opposing the misogyny of his time, and I always like to see that.

The Adventure of the Second Stain
A fantastic story that sees Holmes having to investigate the disappearance of some government documents which, if released to the general public, could have disastrous consequences for the country. The situation turns out to be very different from what it appeared and this is actually a very sweet story. I love seeing Holmes involved in political adventures, and the ultimate twist in this story was delightful.

The collection really ends on a high note and I think, all things considered, I probably like this just a little bit more than The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but maybe a smidgen less than The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. There are some fantastic stories here.

Rating: 9.3/10

Buy it here.

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