Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle, Read by Stephen Fry

Audible has produced a new Sherlock Holmes collection, read in the order they first appear by Stephen Fry. It contains nearly the entire collection with the exception of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, which was printed a few years before the death of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Along with the stories and novels Fry has written his own introductions to the collections and novels from the perspective of someone who has been a fan since his youth and, at age 14, gave his own talk to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

Sherlock has a perfection of time and place that made him so popular that even his author couldn’t kill him off, as much as he tried. Doyle felt that his historical fiction was better written, and famously killed (or at least “disappeared”) Holmes in the short story The Final Problem. The story had such an impact on the public that people wore black armbands in mourning on the streets of London. Fortunately for us, Watson never found a body at the base of Reichenbach Falls. Fortunate for Doyle as well, for his income died nearly as surely as his hero did and resurrected along with him as well.

Stephen Fry does a wonderful lilting job over the nearly 63 hour (2.6 day) reading of the books. He doesn’t work too hard at creating different voices for Holmes and Watson, though some characters do have unique voices from various locations in London and England. Mostly the stories come across with Fry’s warm humor and excellent pacing.

Audible offers several different readings of the Holmes canon. I can steer you away from Charlton Griffin and B.J. Harrison as pretty atrocious readers, particularly over the long haul. Simon Prebble and Simon Vance both do very worthy readings. The Fry reading offers the intimacy and insight of someone familiar with the works for nearly half a century. Any of these can be purchased with a membership credit or you can get one free for joining Audible.

There are also various good and bad versions at Amazon, either in Kindle or print editions. I own the Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes and there’s a newer version from Leslie S. Klinger. For any adamant fan these are a treasure. They happily treat Holmes and Watson as real people and fill the margins with arcana such as rail schedules, possible secret identities of some of the characters, Victorian-era insights, and lots of illustrations. Baring-Gould is out of print but available from Amazon third-party vendors. Klinger can be had in individual volumes or a slip-cover edition. As the original books are all public domain you can have the full collection for free as a Kindle book or get a pretty thick pair of paperbacks for a reasonable price.

Arthur Conan Doyle created the original CSI mindset for evidentiary justice and Holmes is his advocate. As Fry says in his introduction, the author was a typical Victorian, with a keen interest in a variety of subjects that seem unimaginable these days. This is reflected in his main character, side-kick Watson, and many of the “perhaps you read my monograph on the subject” secondary characters that inhabit the books. A story at a time or in a wonderful weekend flood from Fry the books are consistently interesting, entertaining, and inspiring.