In March of 1927, after all of the Sherlock Holmes stories had been written but not yet fully published in book form, the Strand Magazine announced an open competition for the public to guess which were Arthur Conan Doyle's favorite dozen Sherlock Holmes short stories. (The last 12 adventures would be released as "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes" in June.) Doyle had made a list that contained his favorites from the first 44 short stories which had been released in hardcover. (The entire Canon was originally published in the Strand Magazine in England.) The results were included in the June 1927 issue, with the winner, a Mr. R.T. Norman, successfully naming 10 of Conan Doyle's dozen. As a result, Mr. Norman won 100 and a signed copy of Doyle's autobiography. What follows is a listing of Doyle's favorites, as well as a synopsis of each adventure. By clicking on the title, you may view or download the story in .txt format.

Click for the storyThe Speckled Band

A young woman seeks Holmes' help after her twin sister is mysteriously murdered in her locked bedroom by something with a "speckled band." Holmes investigates and discovers a connection between an evil stepfather, a stipend, and a pet serpent.

Click for the storyThe Red-Headed League

A red-headed pawnbroker is hired by a philanthropic organization called the "Red-Headed League" to perform a menial task for eight weeks. Holmes reveals this to be a diversion for others to gain riches through "underground channels."

Click for the storyThe Dancing Men

An English gentleman married to an American with a mysterious past seeks the assistance of Holmes when strange chalked stickmen figures begin appearing outside his house. A delayed Holmes arrives too late to prevent a murder and an attempted suicide, but captures the culprit by breaking his code.

Click for the storyThe Final Problem

Intended to be the last we see of the Sleuth, the vacationing Holmes becomes the target of his evil equal. A struggle between the Detective and his arch-nemesis, Prof. Moriarty at Switzerland's Reichenbach Falls results in the probable deaths of two brilliant men.

Click for the storyA Scandal in Bohemia

A soon-to-be-married King of Bohemia employs Holmes to retrieve a compromising photograph from his former mistress. A disguised Holmes gains entry to her house in order to discover its hiding place, but is outsmarted by whom he admiringly refers to as "The Woman.".

Click for the storyThe Empty House

After Watson visits the scene of an unexplained murder, he is flabbergasted when visited by a disguised Holmes after his presumed death three years earlier. A wax bust of Holmes, a very special air gun, and an empty house on Baker Street set the stage for the capture of the murderer.

Click for the storyThe Five Orange Pips

The delivery of envelopes containing a few orange seeds preceed the deaths of members of the Openshaw family. Holmes finds a connection between these fateful messages, the Ku Klux Klan, and a ship's ruthless captain, although justice is left to the sea.

Click for the storyThe Second Stain

A missing and gravely important letter is passed to a foreign agent by the blackmailed wife of a high government official. When the agent is murdered, Holmes breaks the case through the inspection of a blood-stained carpet.

Click for the storyThe Devil's Foot

Holmes finds a strange white powder on a lamp in the residence of his murdered client after hearing of the sudden and mysterious death of his sister and insanity of his two brothers on the same night. When Holmes burns some of the residue, he and Watson nearly seccumb, but survive to deduce a family quarrel and an avenging African explorer to be the keys to this puzzle.

Click for the storyThe Priory School

Bicycle tires and cowprint horse shoes are the clues to this adventure when the illegitimate son of a Duke secretly arranges the kidnapping of his younger brother and the murder of a German master on the moors.

Click for the storyThe Musgrave Ritual

The butler of Holmes' former college aquaintance discovers more to a ritual family recitation than his employer grasps. Holmes finds that the ritual contains directions, which he follows. They ultimately lead to the body of the butler and the ancient crown of Charles I.

Click for the storyThe Reigate Puzzle

The torn corner of a strange letter provides the key clue for Holmes upon the inspection of an unusual burglary and the murder of a coachman near Reigate. He discovers a local father and son had used the burglary to divert attention away from the stealing of an important document involved in a land dispute.

Descriptions abbreviated from The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes, by Philip Weller

 

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