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Book Review

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Sherlock Holmes is a quirky British detective with an unusually keen eye for detail. With the help of his friend and biographer, Dr. John Watson, Holmes takes on strange and challenging cases. He often solves crimes Scotland Yard cannot. The following are the cases included in this book:

A Scandal in Bohemia The Bohemian king, preparing to marry, asks Holmes to retrieve an incriminating photograph of him with a former mistress, Irene Adler. Holmes dons several disguises and enlists Watson’s help to find the photo in Adler’s home. Holmes accidentally ends up serving as a witness in Adler’s elopement with another man. Adler bests Holmes when she discovers his investigation. She tells him she is happy with her new husband and has no intention of blackmailing the king. She is only keeping the photo in case the king should try to ruin her reputation. The king is satisfied to let the matter drop.

The Red-Headed League A pawnbroker named Jabez Wilson approaches Holmes about the strange and sudden loss of his side job. He applied for a position with the Red-Headed League, which his assistant insisted was an elite organization that paid well. Once able to prove his hair was legitimately red, Wilson was hired and asked to copy pages from the encyclopedia for several hours a day. One day, a note on the office door said the society was disbanded. Holmes discovers a pair of criminals concocted the Red-Headed League to keep Wilson out of his shop so they could dig a tunnel beneath it and access a bank vault.

A Case of Identity A woman named Mary Sutherland asks Holmes for help finding her missing fiancé, Hosmer Angel. Just before Angel’s disappearance, he made her promise to wait for him, no matter what. Holmes deduces that Angel was Sutherland’s stepfather, Windebank, in disguise. As long as Sutherland lived in his home, waiting for her beloved (but phony) fiancé, Windebank had access to her money.

The Boscombe Valley Mystery Holmes investigates the murder of an Australian named Charles McCarthy. He and his son, James, lived on land owned by a wealthy old acquaintance, John Turner. Witnesses say McCarthy and James argued just before McCarthy’s body was discovered. Holmes learns McCarthy was trying to arrange a marriage between James and Turner’s daughter. McCarthy and Turner had worked together with a band of thieves in Australia, and McCarthy was blackmailing Turner. Turner, who was dying anyway, murdered McCarthy so he wouldn’t gain control over his daughter.

The Five Orange Pips A young man named John Openshaw approaches Holmes when his uncle and father die in the same strange manner. Each received a letter containing five orange pips and demanding the recipient leave some papers on the sundial. Openshaw is concerned, as he has just received the same cryptic message himself. Holmes ties the orange pips back to the Ku Klux Klan in America and conjectures someone is after papers incriminating specific Klansmen. Openshaw is killed before Holmes can solve the case, but Holmes finally tracks the antagonist to an American ship that sinks at sea.

The Man with the Twisted Lip Watson visits an opium den to retrieve a neighbor and finds Holmes there in disguise. Holmes is helping Mrs. St. Claire find her missing husband, whom she recently saw in a window nearby. She says when her husband made eye contact with her, he looked frightened. Holmes learns Mr. St. Claire, a former actor, discovered by accident that begging was more lucrative than his normal job. He had been disguising himself as a homeless man and begging. When he saw his wife, he fled in fear that his family would learn his secret and be ashamed of him.

The Blue Carbuncle Holmes’ cohort discovers a priceless blue carbuncle gemstone inside a goose his wife just killed. Holmes deduces a hotel employee named Ryder stole the jewel from a wealthy guest. Ryder admits he tried to hide the stone by forcing it down a goose’s throat while visiting his sister’s farm. He ended up retrieving the wrong bird by mistake. Holmes lets Ryder go free so he won’t rot in the prison system.

The Speckled Band A woman named Helen Stoner, who lives with her stepfather, Dr. Grimsby Roylott, asks for Holmes’ help. Her twin sister was murdered in her bedroom under suspicious circumstances two years earlier and mentioned a speckled band just before dying. Now that Miss Stoner is engaged, Roylott is making her sleep in her dead sister’s room. Holmes examines the house and discovers Roylott has set up an elaborate system to get a poisonous reptile in and out of the room. Holmes uses Roylott’s own trick to provoke the snake to attack its trainer.

The Engineer’s Thumb An engineer named Hatherley, with a recently severed thumb, comes to Holmes’ house. He says a secretive man hired him to fix a hydraulic press he claimed was used to filter a type of clay. Hatherley discovered the press was actually full of metal. The men at the site tried to crush Haverley in the press, and they severed his thumb as he was escaping. Holmes investigates and deduces the men were silver counterfeiters.

The Noble Bachelor Holmes meets with Lord St. Simon, one of England’s highest-ranking noblemen. St. Simon had just married an American woman of means, Hatty Doran, and she promptly vanished. Holmes learns the woman was already married to a miner she met years earlier. He had gone off to seek his fortune to earn her family’s favor. Hatty thought her husband was dead, but he reappeared right before the wedding. Holmes convinces Hatty and her husband to tell St. Simon the truth.

The Beryl Coronet A man named Holder was tasked with looking after a priceless tiara containing gemstones called beryls. He went crazy when he caught his son holding the crown one night. Several of the gems were gone. Holder’s niece, Mary, defended her cousin as the police investigated. After Holmes joins the investigation, Mary runs off with a scoundrel named Burnwell. Holmes deduces the two robbed Holder. Holder’s son had seen them, but he loved Mary too much to tell her secret. Holmes recovers the missing jewels and tells Holder that Mary will receive ample punishment by being stuck with someone like Burnwell.

The Copper Beeches Miss Violet Hunter consults with Holmes about whether to take an unusual governess position. The Rucastles wants her to cut her hair, wear certain clothes and sit in certain places at certain times. Violet takes the job because the money is great. She reconnects with Holmes when things become stranger. Holmes discovers Rucastle is using Violet as a decoy for his daughter, whom he has locked in another wing of the house to hide her from a suitor. Rucastle has tried to keep his daughter under his roof so he can control her money.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard admires Holmes’ investigative skills and calls on him for help solving cases. Parents in several stories go to desperate lengths of control to retain their children’s money.


The Lord’s name is used in vain. Fingerprints and bruises on Miss Stoner’s wrists indicate her stepfather has been abusing her. The stepfather is later mangled and nearly killed by a hungry dog, which Holmes shoots to death (“The Speckled Band”). A man’s thumb is severed and bloody (“The Engineer’s Thumb”). Blood and murder are mentioned in other stories as well.


A man doesn’t want his daughter to be looked upon as a slut.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs/Alcohol: Sherlock Holmes uses cocaine and alcohol to combat his boredom in life. As a doctor, Watson expresses his concern about Holmes’ cocaine use. Other characters, such as Whitney in “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” use and abuse opium in opium dens.

Prejudice: Ku Klux Klan members kill those who could expose their crimes (“The Five Orange Pips”).

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

18 and up


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle






Record Label



Originally these stories were serialized in The Strand Magazine (between July 1891 and June1892), then published in 1892 by George Newness. The reprint reviewed was by Dover Publications in 2009.


On Video

Year Published





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