Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is a ferociously clever ‘consulting detective’ living at 221B Baker Street, in London — and he has become the stuff of legend. He first appeared in Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet (1887) and The Sign of the Four (1890). Conan Doyle then began serialising Holmes’ adventures in The Strand Magazine throughout the next two decades. Accompanied by Dr John Watson, Holmes uses the power of observation and reason to solve seemingly impossible cases. Readers have adored the detective since he first burst onto the page, and they were so furious when Conan Doyle tried to kill him off, that he was forced to bring him back to life. Over a century later, readers are still captivated.


‘How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?’ Holmes asks Watson in The Sign of the Four. It is partly the detective’s superhuman intellect that makes him so popular — each story is a celebration of a hero who triumphs using his brains, not his brawn.


Holmes is not the first crime and murder mystery detective to capture an audience’s imagination, but he is certainly the most famous. Murder is probably the worst crime of all — is that why culture continues to be fascinated by it?


The comforting thing about a murder mystery is that darkness goes hand in hand with the knowledge that justice can be served. Whoever the killer is, we trust that Holmes will find him or her and restore order. Is justice that simple in real life?

Victorian era

Sherlock Holmes has become such a symbol of Victorian London that it is hard to think of one without the other. Conan Doyle’s stories are rich with the themes of the time: from Holmes’s dedication to ‘modern’ developments such as telegrams, to the British Empire’s stolen Indian treasure in The Sign of the Four.


Victorian society was deeply divided by class — but Holmes was not impressed by rank, nor interested in how much money his clients had; he only cared how interesting their problems were. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his clients. Has Britain moved on since the 1800s?