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The Novels
(A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear)

By Arthur Conan Doyle
Edited by Leslie S. Klinger

Norton, November 7, 2005 ($70.00)
Hardback with Slipcover
ISBN: 039305800X

Reviewed by Lawrence Jung

The new annotated volume of the four Shelock Holmes novels, edited by Leslie Klinger, at first sight seems a bit too formidable in size and expense for all but the most serious Sherlockian. The average book buyer would probably admit that the volume was collector quality. The volume is oversized, protected by a substantial slipcover. The binding and paper are of above average quality. The ink is crisp on the page. Those things alone would justify its price. But the true value lies within its stout covers.

Klingerís annotated text opens up the four Sherlock Holmes novels. For the modern reader, the Victorian world is at best half understood. He and she are explorers journeying through a forgotten continent. Without a guide, the explorers are awed at magnificent structures along the way, but are no wiser as to the function of these structures and why they came about. Half understood clues are found, but only give a murky picture. We are the same way reading THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE SIGN OF FOUR, THE VALLEY OF FEAR, and THE STUDY IN SCARLET. But we are saved by the trusty guide of the copious marginal notes in Klingerís annotated volume. Not only does our guide explain the landmarks and their significances, but he is filled with insider knowledge, commentary, and controversy. Indeed the annotations often are of interest of themselves. Many are mini-articles inspired by the Holmes text. It is often delightful to observe the mental gymnastics performed. Open the pages here or there and more often than not the reader will come on a tasty tidbit or amusing anecdote. Klingerís selections speak to the modern reader and avoid the stale air of old history.

If the average book buyer would chance to open and browse Klingerís volume of Holmes novels, he or she may discover that the price is quite reasonable for admission to journey a literary continent inhabited by the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, the demon hound of the Baskervilles, Jonathan Small and the Sign of Four.

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