On the pages of National Review, we have occasionally published short reviews under the heading “Books in Brief.” Five years ago, I contributed this item:
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes,by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
edited by Leslie S. Klinger
(Norton, 1,878 pp., $75)
Upon encountering these two large volumes, many Baker Street aficionados may ask: What was wrong with the old annotations by William S. Baring-Gould, published in 1967? The answer is elementary: Although the earlier version contained a wealth of fascinating information, the works were arranged in a bizarre chronological fashion — the order in which Baring-Gould surmised the stories and novels to have occurred in the life of the world’s greatest fictional detective, rather than the order in which Arthur Conan Doyle actually wrote them. This handsome new edition of the short stories corrects that mistake and also takes advantage of more recent speculation on such vital questions as why Dr. Watson’s wife, in “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” refers to her husband as James rather than John.
The most probable answer — that Doyle simply goofed — is quickly dismissed in a manner that frankly wouldn’t impress Sherlock. Yet loving attention to such details is what Holmes devotees want, and Leslie S. Klinger capably delivers. He even plays along with a traditional conceit among faithful fans that Holmes and Watson were real people and Doyle their biographer. This will strike some as sweetly nerdy while others will find it merely cloying. When it comes to Holmes, either the game is afoot or it’s not; for those who hunt, Klinger provides a fine companion. — JOHN J. MILLER
Last year, for the Wall Street Journal, I wrote on Klinger’s annotations to Dracula.