My aim for 2013 is to read 30 books, and given it's almost the end of April and my tally has just reached 7 it might be time to get my skates on. Still, things have been busy lately and so a book I can dip in and out of has been exactly what was required. Cue the second collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories...
As my second dip into the world of short stories I was a little more aware of what to expect. For one thing, I had far more idea of how long each tale would be. And reading in more of a stop-start nature gave me more appreciation of the individual plotlines. It always helps, of course, to make a strong start, and in this case I did enjoy Silver Blaze. The balance of deductive reasoning and solid clue gathering worked well, and the storyline was enjoyable as well.
Two of the cases featured as stories are from very early in Holmes' career, indeed one is his very first case. As such Watson's words are almost exclusively a relay of Holmes' description of events. This makes for a nice change from the usual style and provides a different frame of reference. While I wouldn't want to read a whole novel in that format it works well as part of a collection with other styles.
All's well that ends well, and unfortunately that is where this collection falls short. I found The Final Problem to be disappointing. Watson's tone throughout is sombre, for obvious reasons, but this made reading a little dry. But that wasn't what disappointed me. Nor was the ending a disappointment, as it could hardly have been a surprise from the build up (and a visit to the Reichenbach Falls several years ago). What disappointed me was the lack of mystery.
The whole story is a chase. There is nothing to solve, not even a mention as to how the gang in London are to be captured. In a way, it just felt like it wasn't a Sherlock Holmes story. Maybe I just didn't connect with it, or was too focused on how it would end. Or maybe it really is disappointing to a mystery fan. Either way, it tarnished the end of what had been a very enjoyable collection.
My next dip into the world of Sherlock Holmes will be the novel that inspired me to start reading about him in the first place, but I think that will have to wait for a while. For now I'll just read whatever takes my fancy on the day. So many books, so little time!