Fans were Sherlocked, so to speak, long before Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed the "high-functioning sociopath" on the popular BBC show. Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance in A Study in Scarlet written by Arthur Conan Doyle and published in London in 1887. Since that time legions of mystery aficionados have been captivated by the Baker Street detective and his powers of deduction.
|Holmes first appeared on December 1, 1887|
Okay, back to Sherlock because, even though Poe's detective came first, C. Augustus Dupin does not really roll off the tongue like Sherlock Holmes. Also, Poe only wrote three short stories featuring Dupin compared to Doyle's Sherlock Holmes canon consisting of four novels and fifty-six short stories.
Of course, the notoriety of Sherlock Holmes extends far beyond the original books and stories. You could never read a single word penned by Arthur Conan Doyle and still identify a calabash pipe and deerstalker cap as belonging to Sherlock Holmes. Interesting side note: The calabash pipe (the long, curved bowl kind) and deerstalker cap never appeared in any of the initial Holmes mysteries.
These iconic items may not appear in Doyle's original stories but they do look quite dashing in movies and on television. It is not incredibly surprising that Sherlock Holmes is the most filmed character of all time. The more recent movies starring Robert Downey Jr. as well as the television series, Elementary and Sherlock, depict the famous detective as highly erratic (bordering on insane) and definitely sexier than the the Holmes described by Doyle.
Here is Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson
in what is probably the most famous Holmes mystery,
The Hound of the Baskervilles
I cannot write about Sherlock Holmes movies without bringing up Young Sherlock Holmes which came out in 1985. This was one of my favorite movies growing up and, ooohhh, I thought that Nicholas Rowe was so dreamy in the title role. It may not be the greatest movie ever made but Young Sherlock Holmes is fun and you can actually watch it with your kids. Well, at least with older kids since there are a few scary moments.
Speaking of a teenage Sherlock Holmes there are several outstanding book series featuring the famous detective during his youth. The most notable is The Young Sherlock Holmes series (unrelated to the film) by Andrew Lane. I have read the first two books in this series, Death Cloud and Rebel Fire, and both were a blast to read with plenty of action to keep tweens and teens entertained. Lane's take on a 14 year old Holmes is a creative and fun introduction to the character for kids not quite ready to tackle Doyle. I happen to love the writing of Arthur Conan Doyle, but it was written over a century ago so it will probably come across as a bit staid and cumbersome to a younger reader.
The character Arsene Lupin, the gentlemen thief, was created by Maurice Leblanc in the early 1900s. Leblanc actually wrote a story in which Lupin meets Holmes in the short story, Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late, in 1906.
Naturally, a mystery soon presents itself that the three friends must use their ingenuity and cunning to solve. I am kind of obsessed with this series right now. I am such a book geek, so I love the mash up of the different historical literary characters and the mysteries in them are incredibly clever. The books also include lots of amazing illustrations that look like they were copied straight from a Victorian era magazine.
Ok, this is the last series for kids that I am going to talk about and Sherlock Holmes does not even play a pivotal role. The main character (and detective) is Sherlock's little sister Enola Holmes. The Enola Holmes Mysteries are written by Nancy Springer and are perfect for girls that have graduated from Nancy Drew. It is hard not to root for the precocious and resourceful Enola who is just as clever, if not more so, than her two older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock.
Maybe I am just a prude too, but I didn't like that Horowitz chose a plot line that read more like an episode of Criminal Minds. Not saying that horrendous crimes did not happen during that time period, but they are just not what I associate with Sherlock Holmes. Overall, The House of Silk was wonderfully written, a true homage to Doyle, but the mystery was too simplistic and crude for Sherlock Holmes.