March of 1927, after all of the Sherlock Holmes stories had been
written but not yet fully published in book form, the Strand
Magazine announced an open competition for the public to guess
which were Arthur Conan Doyle's favorite dozen Sherlock Holmes
short stories. (The last 12 adventures would be released as
"The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes" in June.) Doyle had
made a list that contained his favorites from the first 44 short
stories which had been released in hardcover. (The entire Canon
was originally published in the Strand Magazine in England.) The
results were included in the June 1927 issue, with the winner, a
Mr. R.T. Norman, successfully naming 10 of Conan Doyle's dozen.
As a result, Mr. Norman won £100 and a signed copy of Doyle's
autobiography. What follows is a listing of Doyle's favorites, as
well as a synopsis of each adventure. By clicking on the title,
you may view or download the story in .txt format.
The Speckled Band
young woman seeks Holmes' help after her twin sister is
mysteriously murdered in her locked bedroom by something with a
"speckled band." Holmes investigates and discovers a
connection between an evil stepfather, a stipend, and a pet
The Red-Headed League
red-headed pawnbroker is hired by a philanthropic organization
called the "Red-Headed League" to perform a menial task
for eight weeks. Holmes reveals this to be a diversion for others
to gain riches through "underground channels."
The Dancing Men
English gentleman married to an American with a mysterious past
seeks the assistance of Holmes when strange chalked stickmen
figures begin appearing outside his house. A delayed Holmes
arrives too late to prevent a murder and an attempted suicide,
but captures the culprit by breaking his code.
The Final Problem
to be the last we see of the Sleuth, the vacationing Holmes
becomes the target of his evil equal. A struggle between the
Detective and his arch-nemesis, Prof. Moriarty at Switzerland's
Reichenbach Falls results in the probable deaths of two brilliant
A Scandal in Bohemia
soon-to-be-married King of Bohemia employs Holmes to retrieve a
compromising photograph from his former mistress. A disguised
Holmes gains entry to her house in order to discover its hiding
place, but is outsmarted by whom he admiringly refers to as
The Empty House
Watson visits the scene of an unexplained murder, he is
flabbergasted when visited by a disguised Holmes after his
presumed death three years earlier. A wax bust of Holmes, a very
special air gun, and an empty house on Baker Street set the stage
for the capture of the murderer.
The Five Orange Pips
delivery of envelopes containing a few orange seeds preceed the
deaths of members of the Openshaw family. Holmes finds a
connection between these fateful messages, the Ku Klux Klan, and
a ship's ruthless captain, although justice is left to the sea.
The Second Stain
missing and gravely important letter is passed to a foreign agent
by the blackmailed wife of a high government official. When the
agent is murdered, Holmes breaks the case through the inspection
of a blood-stained carpet.
The Devil's Foot
finds a strange white powder on a lamp in the residence of his
murdered client after hearing of the sudden and mysterious death
of his sister and insanity of his two brothers on the same night.
When Holmes burns some of the residue, he and Watson nearly
seccumb, but survive to deduce a family quarrel and an avenging
African explorer to be the keys to this puzzle.
The Priory School
tires and cowprint horse shoes are the clues to this adventure
when the illegitimate son of a Duke secretly arranges the
kidnapping of his younger brother and the murder of a German
master on the moors.
The Musgrave Ritual
butler of Holmes' former college aquaintance discovers more to a
ritual family recitation than his employer grasps. Holmes finds
that the ritual contains directions, which he follows. They
ultimately lead to the body of the butler and the ancient crown
of Charles I.
The Reigate Puzzle
torn corner of a strange letter provides the key clue for Holmes
upon the inspection of an unusual burglary and the murder of a
coachman near Reigate. He discovers a local father and son had
used the burglary to divert attention away from the stealing of
an important document involved in a land dispute.
abbreviated from The Life and Times of Sherlock
Holmes, by Philip Weller