It’s been well over 100 years since Arthur Conan Doyle unveiled Sherlock Holmes with A Study in Scarlet and not only does that story hold up remarkably well, Holmes remains perhaps the most famous literary detective in the world. That’s a staggering feat, particularly when you consider that Sherlock Holmes has so captured the popular imagination that writers continue to go the well dug by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887. Holmesian fiction has virtually become a genre unto itself with a host of talented writers either creating new adventures or re-imagining the character in inventive ways. Here are a few of our favorites.
A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
Laurie R. King
In the latest novel in this long-running series, Mary Russell and her husband Sherlock Holmes are pulled into the search for the missing, and possibly disturbed, aunt of an old friend. Fans of this series can tell you that Laurie R. King has a deft touch with Sherlock and her intricately-plotted mysteries would do Arthur Conan Doyle proud.
The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer
This true-crime thriller is a must-read for Sherlock Holmes fans. In 1908 a wealthy woman is brutally murdered in her home. A Jewish immigrant, despite his clear innocence, is tried and convicted of the crime. Fascinated and outraged by the case, Arthur Conan Doyle proves his own investigative chops and turns his full attentions winning the man’s innocence.
In this fascinating series, author Sherry Thomas imagines “Sherlock Holmes” as the assumed name of female consulting detective, Charlotte Holmes. Shunned by Victorian society, Charlotte has nonetheless flourished, putting her considerable deductive powers to use despite working under a pseudonym. When a friend tasks Charlotte with locating her first love, she winds up in a mystery deeper and more personal than she would have ever suspected. Keep an eye out for the third entry in the series, The Hollow of Fear, arriving in October.
The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Final Case
Exploring what led a young Sherlock Holmes to become the detached and brilliant detective conceived by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is understandably fertile ground, ground that Shane Peacock takes full advantage of with his The Boy Sherlock Holmes series. While written with young adults in mind, the series definitely has its charms for the not-so-young reader.
In an ingenious bit of meta-plotting, Edgar-nominated author Gordon McAlpine imagines a long-retired Holmes living in disguise as professor at Cambridge when he’s approached by an author fearing for his life. That author, of course, is none other than Arthur Conan Doyle. How does Conan Doyle know of Holmes’s true identity? Who’s trying to kill the modestly successful author? These questions alone are more than enough to pique Holmes’s infamous curiosity.
Stories inspired by the Holmes canon
Edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
Anyone who’s read the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series can tell you that Laurie R. King knows a good Holmesian tale when she sees one. It’s a skill she put to good use editing this collection of short fiction inspired by the Holmes canon and featuring contributions from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman, and Lee Child.
The Final Solution is Michael Chabon writing about an octogenarian Sherlock Holmes drawn into one final case. I really shouldn’t need to say more. In the novella, Chabon imagines Holmes living a quiet life in an English village where the locals vaguely recall that he was once a famous detective. When a nine-year-old mute boy enters his life with a parrot who spouts a mysterious string of numbers, Holmes is drawn into one final mystery as only Michael Chabon could conceive.
Historian and author Caleb Carr made his mark when he introduced the decidedly Holmesian Laslo Kriezler in The Alienist. It should come as no surprise that Carr proves a deft touch penning his own Sherlock Holmes tale. The Italian Secretary sees Holmes called by his brother Mycroft to investigate the gruesome death of two young men in a case with disturbing ties to Queen Victoria and a mystery that could put the entire monarchy in danger.
A Slight Trick of the Mind is another entry in the “aged and retired Sherlock Holmes” subgenre (which certainly seems to be a thing). It’s also one of my personal favorites. Set in 1947, Holmes, now 93, has long since retired to life as a beekeeper in Sussex. Slowly succumbing to dementia, his relationship with the young son of his housekeeper leads him to revisit his final, devastating case. Be sure to watch the well-done 2015 adaptation “Mr. Holmes” as well.
Laurie R. King
The first novel in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series remains one of the best. Set in 1915, a retired Sherlock Holmes spends solitary days studying honeybees from his home in Sussex. His quiet life is abruptly upended when fifteen-year-old Mary Russell stumbles onto his doorstep. With a keen intelligence to rival Holmes’ own, the young Ms. Russell begrudgingly impresses the curmudgeonly detective and soon finds herself assisting when Holmes is called from retirement to lend a hand in a missing persons case.
This fascinating book traces the inspiration and creation of Sherlock Holmes. The book begins with Arthur Conan Doyle as a young medical student enthralled by the stunning deductive abilities of Dr. Joseph Bell and culminates in the eventual emergence of the literature’s pre-eminent detective in the classic A Study in Scarlet. Arthur and Sherlock is a classic origin story tailor-made for Holmes fans.
A Life in Letters
Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, and Charles Foley
This annotated collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s letters is a must-read for any Sherlock Holmes fan. Offering insight into both vaunted literary sleuth and the man behind the creation, Arthur Conan Doyle is a rare view into the creative process and early struggles of one of the mystery genre’s most influential authors. This one is a fascinating read, particularly when it delves into Conan Doyle’s struggles with the overwhelming popularity of Sherlock Holmes.