The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Reviewed by Marrit Ingman, Fri., Jan. 21, 2005
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmesby Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, edited by Leslie S. Klinger
Norton, 2,654 pp., $75
For the serious Sherlockian, there is Leslie S. Klinger's Sherlock Holmes Reference Library, an exhaustive nine-volume survey of scholarship from Gasogene Press (so named, of course, for the famous seltzer machine at the detective's Baker Street digs). For the rest of us serious Sherlockians in the making there is this mammoth two-volume set, which presents in chronological order the 56 short stories published in The Strand Magazine by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, beginning with "A Scandal in Bohemia" from 1891. Contemporary illustrations accompany the text most notably Sidney Paget's delightful drawings for Strand, but also artwork from the various newspapers that syndicated the tales in the United States and supplemental graphics (what exactly is a "stormy petrel"?) but you'll need a pushcart to haul this edition around, because it's bursting with Klinger's notations, which provide historical context and hint (but barely) at the heated tenor of hardcore Sherlockiana. Scholars trade blows over the identity of the murderous snake of "The Speckled Band," over the trajectory of the bullet fired into the wax effigy of the great detective in "The Adventure of the Empty House," and, of course, into the outcome of "The Final Problem," in which Holmes ostensibly topples over the Reichenbach Falls while grappling with archnemesis Professor Moriarty, only to reappear, seemingly alive, 10 years later. (And did Moriarty actually survive the fall and take on a new identity that of J. Edgar Hoover? Or was Moriarty really Count Dracula in disguise?) Needless to say, every whim is treated quite seriously, and neophytes may tire of these speculations (the horse-racing yarn "Silver Blaze" is particularly wearisome). The strength of this edition, however, is that its format encourages selective and repeat reading; It promises to convert casual readers into committed ones. Its most obvious omission is that of the four novellas (including "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "A Study in Scarlet," which depicts the meeting of Holmes and Dr. Watson); these will be published in an annotated third volume, but it seems more logical to have introduced them to the market before the lesser-known short stories. And given that the aim of this edition is to open the world of Sherlockiana to the general public, it's not unreasonable to ask for an index.