Book Reviews - Sherlockian Musings

Posted by Steve Emecz on

Sherlockian Musings has had dozens of fantastic reviews. Here are some of the most exciting from leading Sherlockian Societies and publications.

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London

Dr Goldfarb surveys each of the sixty stories, lighting upon all sorts of points that others may not have considered. The style is friendly and informal, but always intelligent and thoughtful. Of “The Empty House”, for instance: “Watson’s bereavement, presumably the death of Mrs Watson, is almost a cheery note. The gesture towards grown-up living, marriage, domesticity — that can all be forgotten now. Watson and Holmes can be adventuring boys again, and will be.” Of “Lady Frances Carfax”: “Poor Watson. He’s feeling old and rheumatic, and look how Holmes treats him: Go to Lausanne, track down Lady Frances, keep me informed — But then I’ll show up unexpectedly and tell you you’ve done everything wrong (but has he? most commentators say no). And for good measure you’ll get beaten up by the savage stalker, who I’ll then tell you is the good guy…” The “musings” were first published in The Petrel Flyer. This wider publication in more permanent form is well merited. 


The Ormsby Review - #943 Investigating Sherlock Holmes

Sheldon Goldfarb’s Sherlockian Musings live up to their title. They are very much musings, open-ended and accessible, and they are quite often amusing as well.

The book’s structure is immediately accessible — Goldfarb treats each of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories individually, roughly following the chronological order of their initial publication. So he begins with the novella A Study in Scarlet, which introduced Holmes to the world in 1887, and 290 pages later he ends with “The Retired Colourman,” which was not actually the last story to appear, but close to it — it was third last (the final Holmes publication, for those interested in such arcana, was “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place,” published in March 1927 in the US, and the following month in the UK).

Goldfarb straddles the division between academic and popular, or even Sherlockian, readings of the Holmes canon. Goldfarb’s previous literary output has prepared him well to take on Doyle’s stories – his CV includes academic publications on Victorian literature as well as a mystery novel set in mid-nineteenth century Manchester. On the other hand (and in his musing, Goldfarb is fond of the “one the one hand… but on the other hand…” balance), he is also a member of the Stormy Petrels, the Vancouver-based Sherlockian group. Sherlockians operate on the conceit that the stories are real — so that the an actual Watson recorded an actual Holmes’ real adventures and then gave them to a front man, Dr. Doyle, to publish. Consequently, the focus of Sherlockian discussions falls upon such things as whether Watson was married once or twice, and how to explain or accommodate chronological inconsistencies in the stories (and there are many!) - full review here.


Seattle Sherlockians

This book is a must-have for Sherlockian society discussions of the Canon.

"Wow, it’s been a really great year for Sherlockian books and publishing! Another fine offering is SHERLOCKIAN MUSINGS: THOUGHTS ON THE SHERLOCK HOLMES STORIES by Sheldon Goldfarb. This terrific volume is a study guide for Sherlockian readers who want to take the Canon to a deeper level.

Using Doubleday's ordering of the stories, Goldfarb approaches each Sherlockian tale by use of artfully composed mini-essays that explore details which might escape a mere casual reader. For example, in “The Six Napoleons” he considers Victorian views on foreigners, the meaning of all those busts celebrating England’s historic nemesis, the inspiration behind the character of Horace Harker, and Watson’s foray into detecting. For “The Blue Carbuncle,” we’re treated to a tour of Sherlockian jests, the goose both as a symbol and a peace offering, redemption themes, and issues facing Victorian era couples.

Goldfarb draws on a wealth of earlier criticisms, many of which are obscure and so not readily available for students of the Canon; it’s wonderful to see so many sources pulled together in such a user-friendly way. This book is a must-have for Sherlockian society discussions of the Canon! By the way, if Sheldon Goldfarb’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he is active with our good friends, The Stormy Petrels, up in British Columbia. He recently met up with many SOBs at the Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium in Portland." 


In Print - Clues: A Journal of Detection (38.2)

"thought-provoking discussion questions."


Peter Blau

Sheldon Goldfarb’s Sherlockian Musings is an interesting collection of the “musings” he prepared for meetings of the Stormy Petrels of British Columbia, by way of suggesting ideas for discussion of the Canon; it is nicely done, and will be helpful to other Sherlockian societies.  The author offers samples of some of the essays at his web-site


David Marcum

"I prefer to read about the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson – both those pitifully few 60 Canonical tales that came across the First Literary Agent’s desk, and all of those other later ones. I believe that the stories – both Canonical and those referred to as “pastiche” – are two very important legs of the Sherlockian stool. But the third, one that is beloved by many, is scholarship, that deep dive into an evaluation of the other parts of The World of Holmes beyond the action – the search for deeper meanings or themes, or investigations into various speculative aspects, such as dates, or religious beliefs, or questions of where wounds were located or how many times that Watson was married.

Many have written essays about these topics, usually published in journals or the occasional collected volume. Only a few have set out to examine The Canon as a whole. The most famous of these so far has been Martin Dakin’s “A Sherlock Holmes Commentary” (1972). And yet, Dakin has some curious ideas, and it seems at times as if he doesn’t really even like The Canon.

Now I’m very happy that Sheldon Goldfarb has created a new Canonical examination for the current generation. It’s a very interesting book, taking each story in order, and with Mr. Goldfarb’s musings, explanations, and commentary laid out naturally, with thoughts that would naturally occur to the reader while exploring the story.

This is a really amazing and well-researched book, and a must-have for Sherlockian fans – especially the scholars. (And I see that Dr. Goldfarb is also a mystery writer, so I hope that his next project will be to retrieve a story from Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box. When he does, and I encourage this, I hope to hear from him . . . .)"  David Marcum, Sherlockian Editor and Author


Sherlockian Musings: Thoughts on the Sherlock Holmes Stories is available from:

Amazon USA     Barnes and Noble  

Amazon UK    Book Depository  (free worldwide delivery)

Amazon Canada  

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