Why is Sherlock Holmes So Popular? It’s Elementary

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Every once in a while, a book character comes along and changes things. Not just for one reader (although that is also a huge accomplishment), but for society in general. This character moves from the page to everyday culture. This is what has happened with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
Phrases like, “The game is afoot,” and “no s***, Sherlock” are ubiquitous. Almost everyone at least knows who Sherlock Holmes is. Now, the question is: why? Sherlock himself is actually a very unlikable character. He’s too smart for his own good, is constantly making everyone else look less-than-competent, and is less demonstrative of his feelings than others often are. So, what makes this unlikable character so darn likable?

I think a good chunk of his charm is the way he was written. Arthur Conan Doyle was fantastic at bringing his characters to life. He could also craft a mystery like no other. Even though some of the conclusions Holmes comes to border on the impossible, Doyle makes the reader want to suspend disbelief. We like thinking that there is someone out there who can solve the difficult problems and can bring the bad guy to justice. Of course, it does bear mentioning that literary Holmes did not, in fact, solve every case. That only serves to make him an even more interesting character. Contemporary mysteries almost always end with “good” prevailing. Seeing know-it-all Holmes be wrong every once in a while only serves to make him a more three-dimensional character.

Whatever the reason, Doyle’s famous detective has given birth to many books, movies, plays, and TV shows that all aim to do one thing: show their love of Sherlock Holmes. There are books that are at least partially inspired by Holmes, such as Jackaby by William Ritter and A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro; books that include their own versions of the actual characters, such at the Young Sherlock Holmes series by Andy Lane and Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (although, I would never have thought of Mycroft in the way he’s written); and of course, more TV and movie adaptations than you can shake a stick at. Basil Rathbone’s version, and the incredible BBC TV show happen to by my favorites on screen.

At any rate, I’ve noticed something rather odd: it seems that more people are enjoying the things based on Sherlock Holmes than reading the original itself. Honestly, though, I think it’s important to read the original Conan Doyle stories. Aside from the fact that they are fantastic, they will bring a deeper appreciation to the other versions that we all enjoy. If, like me, you have a love of the one and only Sherlock Holmes, I’ve listed a few new takes on the famous detective below. However, if you haven’t read the original Sherlock Holmes, I implore you to give them a go.

– A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Thodora Goss (I haven’t read this one yet)
-The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by John Joseph Adams
Moriarty by Anthony Horrowitz
Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Jackaby by William Ritter
– Young Sherlock Holmes by Andy Lane
Sherlock Holmes- The Improbable Prisoner by Stuart Douglas

Which ones have I missed that I need to read?

21 thoughts on “Why is Sherlock Holmes So Popular? It’s Elementary

  1. Holmes is awesome, I have nothing insightful to add sadly, just awesome.👍📚😂 I’d add the Cthulu Casebooks trilogy by James Lovegrove to the list blending Holmes and Watson with Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos, likewise Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove too, brilliant and more like classic Holmes and then, very out of the box, but Paul Kane wrote Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, a Holmes and Cenobite (Hellraiser) mashup which sounds crazy as all hell, but is a terrific book.

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    1. I LOVED The Great Mouse Detective as a kid! I just realized that the detective mouse was named after Basil Rathbone when I read your post. 😂

      I’ll have to read the original! 💖

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I loved A Study in Charlotte! I think it’s such a shame that copyright law is the way that it is now because it often prohibits this sort of transformative fiction from existing! There are dozens upon dozens of rewritten versions of Sherlock Holmes or Alice in Wonderland than only serve to bring more and more fans in – but copyright law now prohibits these retellings of newer “classics” from ever existing.

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  3. As far as TV goes, you could’ve mentioned Elementary or House. Sticking to books, Holmes on the Range was a pretty fun book (never got around to the rest of the series).

    And I’m legally obligated to mention any Holmes reader owes it to themselves to read the adventures of the son of Holmes and Adler (according to one theory, anyway)–Nero Wolfe (although, he takes after his uncle more than his father in appearance).

    (you have to mention Dragonlance every 1.7 days, I’m on a similar schedule with Wolfe)

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  4. I’ve not read any of the Sherlock Holmes books but received the Barnes and Noble complete Collection for my birthday this year from my brother, so hopefully I’ll be correcting not having read them soon.

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