I come back to this question often. Every time the answer seems straightforward. Yet, it is also tough trying to delve deep into what truly attracts a reader to Conan Doyle’s stories of the London detective.
Without too much elaboration, I’ve whittled down my thoughts to a simple list. A list which I’m sure many other Holmes readers have already identified on their own as to the main criteria of why they are haunted by this literary figure.
6) The Supporting Characters
Sherlock Holmes literature would not be the same without the ever-concerned Mrs Hudson, Mycroft’s reserved attitude, the childish arguments of Gregson and Lestrade, or the numerous other minor characters we are presented with in each case. They help populate an already rich world and allow us to further explore our main protagonists’ personalities as they interact with them.
5) The Victorian World
There is an exotic feel to London in the late 1880s that is superbly illustrated in Conan Doyle’s writings. The fog-enshrouded alleyways, the bustling noises in Oxford Street, the dispatches of telegram notes, the intense cab journeys. The list is endless. You can smell the rich scents of a London morning and distinctly visualise the atmospheres and environments that help create such engaging stories as our characters wade through this unique world.
4) The Cases
Perhaps surprisingly, this is not the primary reason why I enjoy reading Sherlock Holmes stories. However, a well-executed mystery-solver is crucial, no matter how engaging the characters are. Conan Doyle delivers fascinating riddles with unexpected twists and turns. Some readers believe his later contributions failed to deliver the charm and suspense of the first short story collections. While this may be true of a few, the majority of cases are nonetheless unparalleled in their innovative approach to crime-solving.
3) The Villains
Without a good villain there’s no case, as well as no sleuth able to bring them to justice; John Clay, Sebastian Moran, Culverton Smith, Charles Milverton and, of course, James Moriarty. These characters, obstructing Sherlock Holmes in his quest for the truth, are a major ingredient in a successful and tasty story. Conan Doyle’s criminal world is teeming with intricate and captivating personalities that simply enhance the world on the page.
A Sherlock Holmes story would not be complete without the series of deductions so succinctly executed by the titular character. The “revelation” at the end of a lengthy and intricately-worded deduction is one of the most memorable traits in Holmes. Unless you have a mind like the London detective, first-time readers will replicate Watson’s constant expression of awe and disbelief at the simplicity with which Holmes is able to read expressions, movements or the subtlest of clues to construct entire arguments that ultimately prove to be true.
1) Holmes and Watson’s relationship
Above everything else, beyond the mysteries of the case or the style of writing, lies the relationship between the two main characters. Being polar opposites of each other, who can nonetheless work in harmony to solve a case, is the epitome of Conan Doyle’s writing skills. Balancing the genius of Holmes’ mind with Watson’s more pragmatic and humane approach, the stories reflect a dynamic and often feisty interaction between our protagonists.
Let us know what YOU think is so alluring about Sherlock Holmes.