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Community Read: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Introduction


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The concept of a "Community Read" project originated in Seattle, Washington, fifteen years ago. Huntsville-Madison County Public Library has sponsored a community read project annually since 2002. Every spring, the library encourages everyone in Madison County to read the same book. In support of this initiative, the library and partnering community groups sponsor lectures, book talks, discussions, film screenings, exhibits, concerts, and family events related to elements and themes of the selected book.

The specific goals of community read projects vary from city to city. For Madison County, we hope to encourage a love of literary reading and to help build and strengthen community bonds through shared discussion and experience.

Sherlock and Moriarty

UNITED KINGDOM - CIRCA 1993: A stamp printed in Great Britain shows Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty in "The final problem", circa 1993.

Our Book: The Adventures of Sherlock Homes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Community Read 2013

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the first collection of stories that depict the exploits of the famous detective. In the first adventure, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes and his sidekick, the narrator Dr. Watson is visiting Holmes as a client arrives, and Holmes asks Watson to stay and learn about the case. The client, William, King of Bohemia, is attempting to recover a compromising photo from the actress Irene Adler. The King and the actress had an affair in the past, and she is intent on publishing a scandalous photo of them hoping to undermine his engagement to a princess.

In the next case, “The Red-Headed League,” portly Mr. Wilson asks Holmes to look into the philanthropic organization he joined that was supposedly created by an American millionaire. During his investigation, Holmes discovers that the League is a front for an ongoing bullion heist led by renowned thief John Clay.

The other cases Holmes and Watson investigate include “A Case of Identity,” where Miss Mary Sutherland asks Holmes to look into a disagreement between her stepfather and Mr. Hosmer Angel, her fiance. In “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” Watson is called on to help solve the death of Mr. McCarthy. McCarthy's son is indicted for the murder, but Holmes discovers that an old man from a rural village has killed McCarthy to prevent the son from marrying the man's daughter against his wishes. The case of “Five Orange Pips” develops as Watson reconstructs his files to recount how Holmes solves the mystery but could not close a case involving orange pips. John Openshaw's uncle received an envelope from India containing orange pips inside and the letters KKK on its flap. Seven weeks later, the uncle apparently committed suicide. In “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” the disappearance of a friend of Watson's is linked to opium. Holmes employs a disguise to uncover the ruse of the missing man, who is leading a double life as a beggar, which earns him an impressive amount of additional income.

Illustration by Sidney Paget of The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb, which appeared in The Strand Magazine in March, 1892. Original caption was "'HE CUT AT ME.'"Watson and Holmes are approached by Helen Stoner in “The Adventures of the Speckled Band.” Helen feels threatened by her stepfather, Dr. Roylott, and recalls that her sister died mysteriously two years earlier just before she was to be married: her dying words were “The speckled band!” In “The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb,” a man appears in Watson's medical practice with a severed thumb and an amazing story about being lured with 50 guineas to serve as a coin consultant. “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” follows the tribulations of Lord St. Simon, whose marriage to the daughter of a California millionaire ends abruptly when his new bride vanishes from the wedding breakfast. A disturbed banker named Alexander Holder shows up and asks Holmes' help in “Adventure of the Beryl Coronet.” It seems that a nobleman asked Holder for a large loan secured by a beryl-encrusted crown. When three jewels are found to be missing from the crown, the banker's wayward son Arthur becomes a suspect.

As Holmes accuses Watson of sensationalism in his accounts of their adventures, a note arrives from a woman who seeks the detective's advice on whether to accept a position as a governess. The proposal has an odd twist to that prompts her visit to Holmes. During “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” it is discovered that she has been hired to impersonate a daughter who is locked up and deprived of her fortune.

Excerpted from

"Overview: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." Gale Online Encyclopedia. Detroit: Gale, 2013. Literature Resource Center. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.   [available in fullt-text via the Alabama Virtual Library]