Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Ranking the "Best" is a Fool's Errand

Holmes, Watson, Mycroft, and Lestrade - "The Bruce-Partington Plans" has them all! 

At least she warned us.

Jessica Plummer writes on Book Riot: “As a public service, I present to you this definitive ranking of all 60 canonical Sherlock Holmes stories and novels from worst to best. Please note that this list is a matter of opinion, and also that my opinion is always correct, all the time, about everything.

The rest her post is just as silly. (She ranks The Sign of the Four as #57, calling it “appallingly racist.”) In fact, the whole idea of “definitively” ranking the Canon is a fool’s errand. One cannot argue taste. (I find scotch undrinkable, for example, and the assertion by scotch drinkers that bourbon is too sweet befuddles me.)  

But it can be interesting to discuss why we like what we like. And here’s an even better approach to doing that: Four years ago this month, the late Meredith Granger asked selected members of the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis to talk about their favorite story, least favorite story, best story, worst story, strongest story, and weakest story of the Canon.

What I really like about this approach is the recognition that one’s choice of favorite, best, and strongest story may be three different tales.

Another interesting aspect about this exercise for me is that until Meredith asked the question, I’d never realized how great “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” is. It’s almost the perfect Holmes story, for the reasons I listed in the older post.

But tastes, since they are never “definitive,” can change. I never gave much thought to “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” until my friend Amy Thomas pointed out in a blog post how wonderfully gothic the story is, with a truly creepy villain. That completely changed my view and moved the story way up on my list of favorites.

Not that my opinion is necessarily correct, any time, about anything. 


  1. Whew! Dan, I thought I was alone in passing by the "best of" requests on Facebook. I do sometimes mentally rate a genre, a book, a song, a singer, or any other work or performance as "love", "like", "Ok", "meh", "eh", and "only if I must." Those rankings are as far as I go, and they can change with my age, my mood, or the weather, for that matter. As far as choosing among the things I love, well, that's like choosing which child or grandchild I love most. I may love them all for different reasons, I may rank their behavior in one specific hour, but I can't rank them for all time. And I can't rank books or stories either, and for the same reason.

  2. Thanks, Sandy! Excellent observations. You make a really good point about tastes changing over time. Mine certainly have.