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Only four novels exist in Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous series – the rest are short stories.
Held up against most novels, even those four volumes are slim by comparison, and despite reading novels aplenty I think there’s something very appealing about the compact format.
It lets us meet a new cast of characters while holding onto old friends, and of course, it gives me less time to rumble that suspect alibi or chart out timelines on a napkin.
The best books to read if you like Sherlock Holmes might just be the ones that feature a recurring lead character, but do they always need to follow the hero?
Like Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories, many of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries premiered in the pages of literary magazines.
Poirot Investigates collates several tales previously published in The Sketch throughout the preceding year.
In truly Holmes style, the Belgian detective, his moustaches and his Watson-like sidekick, Hastings, work their way through freestanding cases like The Adventure of the Western Star and The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan.
Following two murders on the titular street, amateur detective Dupin employs his exceptional skills of deduction on the unsolvable crimes.
Holmes makes a scathing remark when Watson suggests the same in A Study in Scarlet (Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887), but I’m with John on this one – Baker Street’s detective shares more than a thing or two in common with C. Auguste Dupin.
Written by the brother in law of Arthur Conan Doyle, the Raffles stories introduce a pair of gentlemen thieves who are in many ways like Holmes and Watson.
Arthur Raffles uses his cricket ability and society connections to pull of elaborate crimes around London. When Bunny Manders falls into debt, he becomes an accomplice.
Sadly, at least one of the current editions is cursed with a yawn of a jacket illustration, but please don’t be put off – the stories move a mile a minute.
On the other hand, these short stories and novellas put forward a pretty good defence for the standalone…
We’re taking a turn for the ghostlier, but if you enjoy the Holmes books’ love of the supposedly unexplainable, I think you’ll get along just fine with this Christmas omnibus put together by Charles Dickens.
In a slightly odd framing story, Dickens invites his contributing writers to spend a midwinter’s evening telling ghost stories in a haunted house.
Each author takes on a room and reveals its spooky inhabitants.
Sound good? Try Mel’s recommendations for more of the same.
Arthur Conan Doyle often plays on the edge of the supernatural, using it as a cobwebby filter while the realities of the plot are far more grounded.
For me, The Ghost in the Garden Room (Elizabeth Gaskell) and The Ghost in the Cupboard Room’s (Wilkie Collins) came closest.
The Aspern Papers is a great choice of Victorian novella.
While the Sherlock Holmes stories follow the detective’s trail, here the reader joins a literary historian with his own covert agenda.
Although the American author’s short stories are mixed in content, this one focuses clearly on unscrupulous dealings, against a Venice backdrop.
An Australian crime writer takes up a critic’s challenge to write about a crime more typical than murders – parking offences. His research, however, leads him to witness his first real murder.
The relaunched Strand Magazine has published short stories by contemporary mystery writers like Alexander McCall Smith, including the Edinburgh author’s No Place to Park, but you can also find it in The Mammoth Book of Best British Mysteries: Bk. 6 (Maxim Jakubowski, 2009).
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