Masters of Mystery Monday: Sherlock Holmes


Welcome to Masters of Mystery Monday, where we feature a classic mystery, detective or author, with a pop culture emphasis.  Today, we start with… *drumroll* …Sherlock Holmes!

no, not him…


Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes, sleuth extraordinaire:

Unless you have been living in a cave and have had no contact with the outside world (that’s right, no cell phone or internet – gasp!), you know who Sherlock Holmes is.  You know he was a late-nineteenth century invention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with a sidekick/narrator named Dr. Watson, and that he said things like “the game is afoot,” and “Elementary, my dear Watson.”  Perhaps you also know that Holmes appeared in 56 short stories and 4 novels.

Some interesting facts you may not know about Holmes and Doyle:

1. Sherlock Holmes would never have existed if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had more patients (not patience).  Doyle went to medical school and set up an independent practice as an oculist (eye doctor).  Because of a rift with his family, he was without the social connections or letters of introduction necessary for a thriving medical practice.  As a result, he was dependent upon foot traffic and word-of-mouth to bring in patients.  With a new wife and a great need for money, he wrote stories during the long hours he spent idle in his office.

2. Holmes says “the game is afoot” only once in the stories.  It’s a quotation from Shakespeare’s King Henry V.

3. Holmes’ iconic deerstalker hat and Inverness cape were never worn in London; it was considered country attire, as evidenced by Sidney Paget’s illustration of Holmes in “The Boscombe Valley Mystery.”

4. Doyle resented his character’s popularity, and felt as if Holmes was taking over his life (which he was).  People wrote to Doyle but addressed him as Sherlock Holmes, asking for advice about their own problems, giving advice or criticisms of the solutions to the mysteries, and even sharing recipes (?!).  Readers ignored Doyle’s other fiction (historical and spiritualist), which he thought was of superior quality to the “hack-work” of the Holmes stories.

3. Holmes’ death:  After writing 24 Holmes stories in 2 years, Doyle decided to kill off his detective in a story entitled “The Final Solution.” Holmes and his arch-villain, Professor Moriarty, go over the Reichenbach Falls to their deaths.  One of Doyle’s later biographers claimed that “not until the death of Queen Victoria seven years later was there such widespread mourning.”  Of course, that’s probably an exaggeration.  But, 20,000 people did immediately cancel their subscription to The Strand Magazine.  Holmes was resurrected 10 years later when Collier’s, an American magazine, offered Doyle a record amount of money to bring Holmes back from the dead.


5. Doyle’s death:  When Conan Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930, the expression of grief was so overwhelming that his family had to hire a private train to convey all the flowers, letters, and telegrams from London to the funeral in Surrey.

Some fun pop culture images and cartoons:


At the risk of sounding like Billy Mays, but that’s not all! You, too, can be a master of mystery, by testing your mystery fiction knowledge with a fun quiz!

Masters of Mystery Quiz:

1. Sherlock Holmes is partly modeled after a person in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life.  His name was:
a) Han Solo
b) Dr. Joseph Whittingham
c) Dr. Joseph Bell
d) Oliver Wendell Holmes

2. Agatha Christie’s detective, Hercule Poirot, favored this method of detection:
a) examining physical evidence, such as footprints and tobacco ash
b) beating a confession out of the murderer
c) relying on eyewitness testimony
d) using the little gray cells

3. Nancy Drew had two friends (who were probably jealous of her cool red roadster!) who acted as her sidekicks and assisted in her investigations.  They were:
a) Porgy and Bess
b) Bess and George
c) George and Ned
d) John and Yoko

4. True or False:  the character of Charlie Chan was never played by an Asian in the films.

5. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not knighted for his creation of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but for something much more important to the empire.  What was it?

“Official” answers next week, along with another quiz – but I won’t be coy in the comments section if you ask me, promise. 🙂  Hope you had fun!  So, who’s your favorite detective, or mystery author, or mystery novel?  I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading,

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9 thoughts on “Masters of Mystery Monday: Sherlock Holmes”

  1. Peter Saint-ClairPeter Saint-Clair

    Great post. I actually just started reading these stories again. It's amazing that even after all these years, the stories still stand up well.

    You forgot to mention that Holmes was also a drug addict, cocaine I believe it was.

  2. Paul D. OwenPaul D. Owen

    I was a big Holmes fan as a teenager. Later I became acquainted with my uncle's Agatha Christie collection, and M. Poirot replaced Holmes as my favorite detective of all. I think Murder on the Orient Express was the first of many stories I read featuring the little Belgian. Eh, bien.

  3. Bridgette BoothBridgette Booth

    I had no idea Conan Doyle had such a revulsion for Sherlock! The recent PBS shows had stirred my interest in the books enough for me to put a few Sherlock titles on my to-be-read again list, but now I think I'll have to bump them up a bit higher. 🙂

  4. Kim StenbergKim Stenberg

    So where are the answers to the quiz? By the way, have you seen the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downy Jr.?

  5. kbowenwriterkbowenwriter

    Thanks for your comment, Arthur! Do you mean the earlier film, or the new one coming out?


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