Tuesday ‘Tec! The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Holmes is alive!

😀 😀 😀 😀

The Return of Sherlock HolmesThis is the third volume of Holmes short stories, and in my opinion the weakest overall, although it still has several good stories in it. Forced by popular sentiment and commercial realities to resuscitate Holmes after the unfortunate drowning incident at the Reichenbach Falls, I always have the feeling that Conan Doyle’s heart wasn’t really in it at this stage – some of these are a bit bland in terms of plot. In the later volumes I feel he got back into his stride and came up with more imaginative and dramatic scenarios – some so imaginative, admittedly, that they test credibility to the breaking point, but more exciting on the whole.

That rather negative introduction shouldn’t put new readers off though – even the weaker Holmes stories are always well worth reading, simply for ACD’s easy, flowing writing style which makes anything he writes a pleasure to read. And the relationship between Holmes and his admiring friend Watson is always a joy.

Tuesday Tec2

The first story, and the worst of all the Holmes stories for me, is The Adventure of The Empty House in which Holmes returns from the grave, startling Watson into a fainting fit. It’s full of plot holes and the explanation for why Holmes has left his old friend grieving for him for several years makes Holmes seem even colder and more heartless than usual. During this period Watson lost his beloved wife, Mary, and Holmes, having sent no word of comfort at the time, barely bothers to condole with him even now. But the real weakness is that the reason for Holmes’ long absence makes no sense. Supposedly staying presumed dead so that he can work quietly to destroy the remnants of Moriarty’s organisation, we quickly discover that Moriarty’s number two, Colonel Moran, saw Holmes escape from the Reichenbach incident. So everyone – Moriarty’s people and the police – all knew Holmes was alive, but he still didn’t tell dear old Watson. If I’d been Watson, I’d have punched him! Watson, being much sweeter than I, instead welcomes him back with open arms and an open heart. I love Watson…

dr watsonThe Dr Watson

Anyway, after that frankly disappointing start, the collection reverts to the usual format of individual cases often brought to Holmes by the baffled police. Lestrade (my favourite bumbling policeman) appears in several, as does Stanley Hopkins, of whom for some reason Holmes thinks highly, although he always seems just as befuddled as poor Lestrade to me! There are missing rugby players, mysterious ciphers, blackmailers, abusive husbands, imperilled women, Russian nihilists, stolen government plans, etc., etc., and we also have Holmes saving the world from war (as he does a few times over his career) in the final story, The Adventure of the Second Stain.


Here’s a flavour of a few of my favourites:

The Adventure of the Dancing Men – Hilton Cubitt approaches Holmes because he is finding little drawings of dancing men around his property and they seem to be terrifying his wife. Actually this is one of Holmes’ major failures in that he fails to solve the dancing men cipher in time to prevent the tragedy that the messages foretell, but I love those dancing men! Sadly I’ve read it so often now I know what the messages mean, but the first time(s) I read it I had great fun trying and failing to crack the code.

Elementary, my dear Watson!

(bonus points if you crack the code – clue: the first letter is E)

The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist – A woman in peril story, as Miss Violet Smith becomes the target of evil men for nefarious reasons that only become clear at the end. I enjoy Miss Smith’s feisty independence and courage, even if she does have a (justifiable) fit of the vapours at the climax of the story. And there’s something very creepy about the way ACD describes her being followed as she cycles along deserted country roads. This is another it’s important not to analyse too deeply because frankly the climax ignores minor details like how the law works in the England of the time, but it’s fun anyway.

The Solitary Cyclist

The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton – Milverton is a notorious blackmailer who preys on society ladies who have been indiscreet. Holmes is asked for help by one such lady, and both he and Watson are at their chivalrous best, even going so far as to break the law in an attempt to get back the lady’s letters. This one tootles along at a steady pace and then suddenly blows up into a spectacular climax! A real “I did not see that coming!” moment, and brilliantly done!

Charles Augustus Milverton (2)

The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez – Inspector Stanley Hopkins asks for Holmes’ help in a puzzling case involving the murder of the secretary of Professor Coram at Yoxley Old Place. I love this for three major reasons: I love the name Yoxley Old Place – it sounds so deliciously Gothic; this is where I first heard of pince-nez and the idea of them tickled young FF’s fancy; and mostly, I love the brilliant way Holmes uses cigarettes to solve the case, much to Watson’s baffled disgust!

Golden Pince Nez

The second-best Holmes

So, much to enjoy even in this relatively weaker collection. I listened to Derek Jacobi narrating them, and he really is the perfect Watson, as well as creating a full range of voices and personalities for all the other many characters who cross the pages.

Audible UK Link
Audible US Link

35 thoughts on “Tuesday ‘Tec! The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  1. You know, FictionFan, I’ve often wondered myself why no-one lets Watson know that Holmes is alive. It just doesn’t seem possible. So perhaps that story isn’t ACD’s best. Still, as you say, ACD at his weakest is still worth the read. And there are some gems in this collection. I’ve always liked The Adventure of the Dancing Men very much. And The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist is really suspenseful. I remember being on pins and needles when I first read that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I always wish he’d made the reason better, or had Watson know along but be under orders not to reveal it to his readers or something. It makes Holmes very unlikeable. I love the Dancing Men because of the code, but I think The Solitary Cyclist is a better story – real suspense and creepiness, and a refreshingly non-swooning female role for Violet Smith! Mind you, he had a few good women characters – the girl in The Copper Beeches is pretty feisty too, and of course Watson’s dear Mary had her share of courage.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this when I was a teen and eager to get a new volume of Sherlock Holmes stories. But I see what you mean about plotholes and an author’s heart no longer invested in something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I noticed the plot holes when I first read them as a kid, but I do remember that some of the stories in the other volumes just seemed more exciting – snakes, and ears in boxes, and people being found grinning insanely over the dinner table!


  3. Yes, we can never really go too far wrong with Acd, even on one of his off days, I do seem to remember this particular collection having a degree of Middle Book Syndrom. I might still listen again though, as your mention of Jacobi the other day made me consider trying some of his Holmes recordings. I wonder how Doyle’s long lost relation, Arthur Donan Coyle is doing these days, we’re possibly due for another outing from him sometime soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the Jacobi recordings – his Hound of the Baskervilles is wonderful! I also have the Stephen Fry recordings and they’re good, but for me they’re not in the same league as Jacobi. Haha, Donan Coyle nearly wrote a story based at Wimbledon, but unfortunately he couldn’t think of a plot! But he’ll probably find inspiration again some time. 😉


    • Yes, somehow these ones don’t have the same level of excitement – no snakes, or hidden coils of hair, or potions that drive people insane! Ha, sadly I couldn’t find an image of Basil wearing pince-nez so Jeremy had to stand in… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. No way I’m going to crack that code either. Are you going to reveal the answer, after more comments have come in?? I can see where this one might have its faults, but I think I’d like to read it anyway. I’ve heard that we can learn things even from imperfection, you know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, well, really it’s Elementary, My Dear Watson! 😉 There’s an actual font available where you can turn anything into Dancing Men code – such fun! All the Holmes stories are well worth reading but there aren’t as many exciting and really memorable stories in this volume as in the others. But his writing style is so great they’re still pure pleasure to read. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Of course I’ve not read any of these since I’ve only read one (gasp!) Sherlock Holmes story in my life! 😱😱😱 Have you read any of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novels by Laurie R. King?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I may have to start a new challenge to make you read them all!! You won’t be sorry… 😉 Ugh, no! The very idea of Holmes getting married makes me gnash my teeth and want to start burning books. Blasphemy!!

      Liked by 1 person

        • Oops, sorry – spoiler!! But even the idea that he would mentor anyone at all, much less a woman, is so out of character. I don’t know why she didn’t invent her own detective instead of using the Holmes name to boost her sales! Gah! She makes me furious – can you tell? 😉 You’d be much better reading the originals… 😀

          Liked by 1 person

          • I do have the second in my TBR, but I had to find it at a used bookstore, so I might not try to find any more. There seem to be quite a few in the series. Sorry to stir up that hornets nest! 😱😳😬

            Liked by 1 person

            • Haha, lots of people love the series, but personally I think they should be burned under a blasted oak at midnight! She did actually do another series for a bit with her own creation, I think his name was Charles Stuyvesant, and I really enjoyed the couple of them that I read. So I do think she’s a good writer… 😀

              Liked by 1 person

  6. That first story is a bit of a miss for ACD and doesn’t set the best tone for the rest, but like the highlights you’ve picked out. I still remember Violet quite well though it’s been a time since I read that one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, just occasionally he makes Holmes too cold and heartless, and it’s hard then to see why Watson is so loyal. But then the next story usually redeems him!


  7. I didn’t realise Jacobi had narrated these! I’ll have to find his narrations. I’ve not read that many of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I don’t actually know if I’ve read any of these (except that the dancing man code does look familiar, so maybe that one).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think he’s one of the best narrators especially for these older books. His narration of The Hound of the Baskervilles is great, and he also does a wonderful version of Frankenstein. I always liked him as an actor, but I think I actually prefer him as a narrator!


    • Oh, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! And I’m so jealous of all the pleasure you have ahead of you, reading them all for the very first time! I love the short stories, but in recent years I’ve grown to actually prefer the long ones.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m very intrigued by this dancing man graphic you’ve included! That’s too bad about the weak backstory. Bringing any character back to life, whether it be in the movies, or books, or television is never easy, especially when it’s for financial reasons 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love the dancing men and it makes me so happy that some other Holmes geek out there with computer skills has turned it into a font. Imagine the fun of being able to send your school friends coded messages! Makes me wish I was a kid again… 😉 Yes, I’m glad he brought Holmes back from the grave but I wish he’d done a better job of it. Mind you, it’s not as bad as Pamela “waking up” only to discover the last two series of Dallas had been a dream and then finding her dead husband alive and well and having a shower! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

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