Emily S. Whitten Reviews The Sherlock Holmes Book

Book Review: The Sherlock Holmes Book

Tis the season…for all of us to be enjoying whatever nifty new items we hopefully received for Christmas. For me this year, that includes The Sherlock Holmes Book, which came out on October 20, 2015 and is part of a series of Big Ideas Simply Explained” books from DK Publishing. These are general reference books that use photographs, illustrations, atlases, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and manuals to explore their topics.


I’m not done reading The Sherlock Holmes Book yet, but from what I’ve perused so far, it’s delightful. Even if you’ve been a Sherlockian for years and have enjoyed all of the canon multiple times, as I have, the book still serves as both a great reference book for summarizing the individual stories or refreshing the memory, and a fun source for supplementary knowledge beyond the canon.

It begins with a background on author Arthur Conan Doyle and on Holmes, his right-hand man Watson, and other main recurring characters in the stories before moving on to the canon itself, examining each individual story with relevant illustrations, historical photographs and images, maps, and small summaries of key characters. It also contains timelines of the stories, including of key events in the lives of Holmes and Watson, which I find particularly fun to flip through. Another neat feature are the summaries of historical events or inspirations for parts of some stories, and of the publishing and production history during Conan Doyle’s lifetime.

After covering the canon, the book moves beyond it to discuss in separate sections the myth and reality of the world portrayed in Sherlockian tales, the setting of the Victorian world and society, criminology and the forensic sciences, crime writing, fans of Sherlock Holmes, adaptations of the canon, and fan fiction (both amateur and professionally published). What I really like about this book is the way it examines the stories and world of Holmes from a number of different angles and presents, even to someone like me who is very familiar with the canon stories, new bits of information, connective tissue, and background on the Sherlockian world beyond the canon.

It really is a great reference book, presented in a colorful and dynamic way that engages the reader. It also, I must note, has a foreword from esteemed Sherlockian and member of the Baker Street Irregulars Les Klinger, author of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. I didn’t even realize this when I added it to my Christmas list, but it’s a further indication that this is a good Sherlockian resource to have (and maybe I will have to take it along to the BSI Weekend next weekend and get it signed!).

DK Publishing also has “Big Ideas” books for subjects like philosophy, Shakespeare, sociology, and science, and after seeing how well this book is done, I may have to add those to my next Christmas list. Until then, I shall keep perusing my newest cool Sherlockian book, and I hope you all Servo Lectio!