Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry“How, then, did you know of it?”
“My dear fellow, you know my methods.”
“You deduced it, then?”
“And from what?”
“From your slippers.”
I glanced down at the new patent leathers which I was wearing. “How on earth–” I began, but Holmes answered my question before it was asked.

There are a lot of little things that make a long-term buddy read like this one of the complete Sherlock Holmes canon so rewarding. Having time to read each story without rush, having a friend to bounce ideas off or do research with or just have fun with are some of the best parts of course. However, I also like the way that this particular project has lead to a little Friday night ritual: I get home from work, make supper and pour a mug or glass of something to settle down with and open up the next of Holmes’ adventures, then exchange thoughts with my reading buddy.

Why am bringing this up?

The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk is not a brilliant story. It evokes a sense of deja vu with a plot that features a young man who is offered a post of employment that he is not obviously qualified for, that is paid at a rate that he can’t refuse, and that sounds too good to be true. Our young stockbroker’s clerk may not have a fine full head of read hair but the feel of this story strongly reminds of The Red-Headed League. There is not the same sense of fun or mystery about this story, and yet, it is a solid story that is filled with comfort – starting with the usual exchange between Holmes and Watson, Holmes exposing his method to Watson, and both of them departing on an adventure shortly after.

While the story is not brilliant, the comfort factor is the same as having a little ritual to look forward to at the end of the working week. And just as I have mine featuring the Holmes stories, I can see how ACD’s readers of the original Strand articles might have felt that same way – looking forward to the publication of the next story, maybe reading the story on the commute back home or once they get home, or after dinner.

I have no idea why it is this story, not any of the previous ones, that makes me imagine a sense of community with ACD’s original readers. Maybe it is because I had to think whether it matters that ACD re-used a previous idea (with a different twist…), and how the serialisation of the stories in a magazine could have affected ACD’s choice of story – or length of story.


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