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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Holmes Edition for Budding Detectives

A really interesting book came my way recently through the kindness of a friend of a friend. She bought it in a thrift shop.

It’s called Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, but it’s not the Canonical volume of that name. Instead, it’s an 8x11-inch book for children that includes the first half of A Study in Scarlet, three great short stories (“The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”), and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

With all that in one volume, published in 1968 by Classic Press for young readers, you might expect that these stories are abridged or paraphrased. They are not! The complete texts are there (except for the American chapters of Study), plus a “Backward” with two essays.  

Even better is the really distinctive feature of the book: The margins contain informative notes that often amount to little essays. Here the reader learns the definition of a billycock and a street arab, for example. But many of the notes are tutorials for budding sleuths. Here’s one example: 
if: In any homicide investigation, IF is a big word. Not every mysterious death is murder. It might be natural. Or accidental. Or a suicide. The investigator should know that suicides sometimes use strange methods. Conversely, some natural-seeming deaths may actually be murder. 
Another note, accompanied by a drawing, says: 
footsteps: The “walking picture” is important in investigations. This is the whole pattern of walk, not just a single step. This includes length of stride, distance off center, angle, shape, and so on. The usual length of step is 20 inches to 40 inches. Over 40 inches, the person was running. 
I wonder if some previous young reader of this book is a walking in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes today, solving crimes in the manner of the Master?