The Sherlock Holmes Book, published under the always-amazing DK imprint from Penguin Random House, is among the handsomest volumes in my Sherlock Holmes library. But it’s not just another pretty face. It has some depth, despite its rather uncreative name.
The book is lavishly and colorfully illustrated, of course, with drawings and photos both old and new. Its pages are also enhanced with pull-out quotes, sidebars, timelines, and charts. The charts are a real treat, illustrating Holmesian deductions, relationships between characters, and other complicated concepts. One of my favorites breaks down “Shoscombe Old Place” into the facade and its mirror image in reality.
The largest part of the book is a march through the entire Canon in order of publication. Two to six pages are devoted to each story, depending on how much David Stuart Davies and the seven other contributors have to say. Each begins with an “In Context” section including publication date and a list of all the characters in the story.
Each story is summarized, and the novels get a chapter-by-chapter outline as well. But the summaries are more than simple sketches of what happens in the story. They often contain insights that might be new even to veteran Sherlockians. The authors suggest, for example that “The Crooked Man” might be the morally corrupt Col. Barclay rather than the deformed Wood; that Holmes could be considered the real hound of the Baskervilles; and that the palimpsest Holmes studies in “The Golden Pince-Nez is a metaphor for Holmes’s crime-detection methods.
The mistakes are few, but annoying – referring to the wildly eccentric Sir Henry Merrivale as “aristocratic” (!), for example, and identifying a poster of the film A Study in Terror as a “gory Sherlock Holmes comic book horror.” Perhaps these can be corrected in a future edition to make the book even better.