Banner art by Chelsea Sprauer

Everyone’s heard of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, but how much do you really know about the residents of 221B Baker Street? In addition to four novellas (one of which we covered at GUY.Com), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote five collections of 56 short stories starring the world-famous detective and his faithful associate. We’ll be spotlighting 20 of them, to get you caught up just in time for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. All of these stories are public domain, so find a free copy online and read along!

The Red-Headed League

Found in: “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”

The Case: Mr. Jabez Wilson is a London pawnbroker with a fiery red head of hair. He learns of an eccentric millionaire who recently died and left his fortune to the Red-Headed League, with instructions to spend the money on providing easy work for men whose hair is of the right color. Mr. Wilson takes the job and gets paid four pounds a week just for copying the encyclopedia. However, when the League suddenly disbands for no apparent reason, Wilson hires Holmes and Watson to figure out what’s going on.

The Solution: *Wilson was being conned as part of a bank heist.*

Impressions and Fingerprints: Pretty much everything that you need to know about Sherlock Holmes is in here. Not only does this provide a clear and solid demonstration of Holmes’ observational methods, but it also contains references to Holmes’ tobacco use, his love of violin music, and his preference toward cases that are strange and unusual. Additionally, Holmes’ strained relationship with Scotland Yard also plays a part.

Better yet, the story is a fine introduction to John Watson, as it alludes to his medical career and his status as a war veteran. This is a perfect example of the working relationship between Holmes and Watson, not to mention their respective skills in crime-solving and in combat.

Is it still worth it? The case is a little weak, but if you’re looking for an introduction to the series, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Part 20: “The Last Bow”
Part 19: “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”
Part 18: “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”
Part 17: “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange”
Part 16: “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
Part 15: “The Adventure of the Empty House”
Part 14: “The Final Problem”
Part 13: “The Naval Treaty”
Part 12: “The Crooked Man”
Part 11: “The Reigate Puzzle”
Part 10: “The Greek Interpreter”
Part 9: “The Musgrave Ritual”
Part 8: “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
Part 7: “Silver Blaze”
Part 6: “The Five Orange Pips”
Part 5: “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”
Part 4: “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”
Part 3: “A Case of Identity”
Part 2: “A Scandal in Bohemia”
Part 1: “The Red-Headed League”