Sherlock Holmes by numbers - The Sixty Stories From The Canon Ranked Best to Worst

Posted by Steve Emecz on

Guest post from author Orlando Pearson...

"So here it is.

Your cut out n’keep ranking of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The main problem with them is that there are only sixty.

I have done my best to make up for it by publishing thirty-one of my own in The Redacted Sherlock Holmes series – Volume VI just out.

A few years ago, my brother and I rated the Canon.

We were pretty much of one mind on the worst and had a complete mismatch on the best.

I hope everyone disagrees with most of this."

Orlando Pearson


  1. THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE- Is there a funnier story? And is there a more dashing villain than John Clay? And is there a more unexpected ending. Deciding my number one is not a three pipe problem.
  2. A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA - How risky to have your new detective hero bested in his first short story? And it works.
  3. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES - I wrote a sequel called The Dogging of Peers Baskerville and sold it as erotica. I had to change the name to The Hounding of Peers Baskerville before I sold too many copies.
  4. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BRUCE-PARTINGTON PLANS - Anything with steam trains floats my boat. And a full part for Mycroft.
  5. THE ADVENTURE OF SILVER BLAZE - A totally unexpected killer. This story’s high position is not a long shot.
  6. THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER - If there is a grislier murder, I have yet to read it.
  7. THE ADVENTURE OF THE SPECKLED BAND - The scariest wait.
  8. THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN Great jokes at the beginning. Deep tragedy at the end.
  9. A CASE OF IDENTITY A great villain. Shame he never reappears.
  10. THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL - Wonderful disguise. And not one adopted by Holmes.
  11. THE ADVENTURE OF THE YELLOW FACE - It would take a stonier heart than mine not to be moved by the ending even though Holmes doesn’t get it right.
  12. THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER - One of the funny ones with a brilliant denouement.
  13. THE ADVENTURE OF THE MUSGRAVE RITUAL - Would score even higher if Watson were involved.
  14. THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS - Great ending and great detective work.
  15. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LADY FRANCES CARFAX - Not reading this one would be a grave error.
  16. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLUE CARBUNCLE - Wildly implausible but good to have Holmes as both investigator and judge.
  17. THE MAN WITH THE TWISTED LIP - Brilliant atmosphere - even outside the opium den.
  18. THE ADVENTURE OF THE CARDBOARD BOX - A gruesome beginning and a philosophical ending.
  19. THE ADVENTURE OF THE NOBLE BACHELOR – Noble birth does not mean wealth. Or nobility.
  20. THE FINAL PROBLEM - The only death comparable to this one is the crucifixion.
  21. THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE - Great deductions though not clear what the resolution is other than sending the disabled criminal to sea.
  22. THE FIVE ORANGE PIPS - A great first half but a shame there is no arrest at the end
  23. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BERYL CORONET - Read the behaviour of the banker here and do not be surprised we had a banking crash.
  24. THE ADVENTURE OF THE RETIRED COLOURMAN - A brilliant villain and Holmes's nastiest petitioner. Shame we don't see more of him.
  25. THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE- Not many people return from the dead this plausibly (see also The Final Problem).
  26. THE PROBLEM OF THOR BRIDGE - Holmes's second nastiest petitioner.
  27. THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS - The most decent of the wrong-doers and Holmes shows his humane side.
  28. THE ADVENTURE OF THE ENGINEER’S THUMB - Great beginning but not much detection in the second half.
  29. THE ADVENTURE OF WISTERIA LODGE - One of Conan Doyle's stories with a duff back-story. And long.
  30. THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE GARRIDEBS - Wonderfully silly plot but a great exchange between Holmes and Watson at the end.
  31. THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST - Not much detective work from Holmes but a dramatic finish and we find out that Holmes boxes left-handed. And if someone offers you a job at above the going rate, avoid it – see also The Copper Beaches and The Stockbroker’s Clerk.
  32. THE BOSCOMBE VALLEY MYSTERY - Footprints apparently stay visible for days.
  33. THE ADVENTURE OF THE GREEK INTERPRETER - No proper ending but we do get to meet Mycroft.
  34. THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE - A good Damascene moment for Holmes.
  35. THE NAVAL TREATY - Very long with a rather obvious ending.
  36. THE ADVENTURE OF THE COPPER BEECHES - The closet ACD got to a fairy story. I like it that the dog's name means "madder" in German.
  37. THE ADVENTURE OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS CLIENT - Too many non-central characters and an ending too gothic for my taste.
  38. A STUDY IN SCARLET - Lestrade and Gregson but another interminable back-story.
  39. THE SIGN OF THE FOUR - A great chase on the river. But did I mention I dislike ACD's back-stories?
  40. THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ - The speed-smoking problem. Marred only by a dull back-story. Again.
  41. THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN - Political high-jinks. Shame there are not more like this.
  42. THE ADVENTURE OF THE GLORIA SCOTT What is it about back-stories? This is the least uninteresting of them.
  43. THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLANCHED SOLDIER - Some interesting biographical information about Watson but his absence is strongly felt.
  44. THE ADVENTURE OF THE CROOKED MAN - ACD gets all biblical and is harsher on the villain than the Almighty is on King David.
  45. THE VALLEY OF FEAR - The bang that is so loud as the be the key to the plot but which nobody hears.
  46. THE ADVENTURE OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON - A great villain but no real plot. Shame not more was done with this.
  47. THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER - Sad but not very entertaining.
  48. THE ADVENTURE OF THE STOCKBROKER’S CLERK - Same plot as The Red Headed League. Just nothing like as good.
  49. THE ADVENTURE OF THE RED CIRCLE - Holmes get a bit too lucky with the agony column.
  50. THE ADVENTURE OF THE REIGATE SQUIRE - Holmes entertainingly bonkers but not a very entertaining story.
  51. HIS LAST BOW - A story of its time and not really of this one.
  52. THE ADVENTURE OF THE RESIDENT PATIENT - Not much detective work here.
  53. THE ADVENTURE OF THE DYING DETECTIVE - Too silly to be good but Holmes does go agreeably loopy.
  54. THE ADVENTURE OF THE LION’S MANE - Would be entertaining if remotely plausible.
  55. THE ADVENTURE OF THE DEVIL’S FOOT - A made up poison. Some good lines but a poison unknown to man is bit easy as a detective mystery.
  56. THE ADVENTURE OF THE CREEPING MAN - A made-up elixir. Offal in nature if not by name.
  57. THE ADVENTURE OF SHOSCOMBE OLD PLACE - Deservedly at the end of the canon.
  58. THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE GABLES - Irredeemably bad apart from the wheezing servant
  59. THE ADVENTURE OF THE VEILED LODGER - A gruesome revelation does not make up for a dire plot.
  60. THE ADVENTURE OF THE MAZARIN STONE - The worst short story ever? Probably not. But definitely the worst short story never to have been out of print.

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