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The Best 20 Books by Arthur Conan Doyle [PDF]

This time we bring you a selection of the best books by Arthur Conan Doyle in PDF format. But first, a little history about this wonderful writer.

On May 22, 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Although Doyle’s family was highly respected in the artistic world, his father, Charles, who was a lifelong alcoholic, had few accomplishments to speak of. Doyle’s mother, Mary, was a lively, well-educated woman who loved to read. As Doyle would later recall in his biography, «In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything, the vivid stories she told me stand out so clearly as to obscure the real facts of my life».

At the age of 9, Doyle was sent to England to Hodder Place, Stonyhurst, a Jesuit preparatory school, where he remained from 1868 to 1870. Doyle then studied at Stonyhurst College for the next five years. He then decided to pursue a medical degree at the University of Edinburgh. At medical school, Doyle met his mentor, Professor Dr. Joseph Bell, whose keen powers of observation would inspire Doyle to create his famous fictional detective character, Sherlock Holmes.

While a medical student, Doyle made his first attempt to write, with a story called «The Mystery of Sasassa Valley». That was followed by a second story, «The American Tale», which was published in London Society.

During Doyle’s third year of medical school, he served as a surgeon on a whaling ship that sailed around the Arctic Circle. The voyage awakened Doyle’s sense of adventure, a sentiment he incorporated into a story, «The Captain of the “Pole-Star».

In 1880, Doyle returned to medical school. Back at the University of Edinburgh, Doyle became increasingly devoted to spiritualism or «psychic religion», a belief system he would later attempt to spread through a series of his written works. By the time he received his medical degree in 1881, Doyle had denounced his Roman Catholic faith.

Doyle’s first paid job as a physician was aboard the steamship Mayumba, which traveled from Liverpool to Africa. After his time on the Mayumba, Doyle settled in Plymouth, England. When his funds were nearly exhausted, he moved to Portsmouth and opened his first practice. He spent the next few years struggling to balance his burgeoning medical career with his efforts to gain recognition as an author. Doyle would later abandon medicine altogether, to devote his full attention to his writing and his faith.

In 1885, while still struggling to become a writer, Doyle met and married his first wife, Louisa Hawkins. The couple moved to Upper Wimpole Street and had a daughter and son. In 1893, Louisa was diagnosed with tuberculosis. While Louisa was ill, Doyle developed an affection for a young woman named Jean Leckie. Louisa eventually died of tuberculosis in Doyle’s arms in 1906. The following year, Doyle married Jean Leckie, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.

In 1886, newly married and still struggling to make it as an author, Doyle began writing the mystery novel «A Tangled Skein». Two years later, the novel was renamed «A Study in Scarlet» and published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. This work introduced for the first time the popular characters, the Detective Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Watson, and finally earned Doyle the recognition he had long desired.

After being diagnosed with angina, Doyle ignored his doctor’s warnings and, in the fall of 1929, embarked on a spiritualist tour of the Netherlands. He returned home with chest pains so severe that he needed to be taken to the seashore, and then he was almost completely bedridden at his home in Crowborough, England. Rising for the last time on July 7, 1930, Doyle collapsed and died in his garden while clutching his heart in one hand and holding a flower in the other.

1) The Great Keinplatz Experiment

The Great Keinplatz Experiment is a fictional short story first published in July 1885. Its plot revolves around spiritualism and was written years before Doyle’s active participation in this cause.

The story introduces us to Professor von Baumgarten, who is an expert on spirits and is convinced that the spirit of hypnotized people can leave the body, travel and return at will, although this cannot be seen or verified.

But since he believes that one spirit can see another, he decides to conduct an experiment in front of several witnesses in which he will hypnotize himself at the same time as one of his students, Fritz von Hartmann, so that their spirits can observe each other. When they wake up, everything seems to indicate that nothing has happened since they have no memory, but perhaps the reality is different…

2) A Study In Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet marks the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who would become the most famous detective duo in popular fiction.

The book’s title derives from a speech delivered by Holmes, a consulting detective, to his friend and chronicler Watson about the nature of his work, in which he describes the investigation of the murder in the history as his «study in scarlet: There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, isolate it, and expose every inch of it».

3) The Captain of the Polestar

The Captain of the Polestar is a short story first published in January 1883. It tells the story of the captain of the Polestar Nicholas Craigie, who decides to anchor in the middle of the Arctic Ocean against the advice of his crew, as the ship could become trapped in the ice, which would mean death for all.

One morning, the second mate reports seeing a ghost at night, but he is not taken seriously. A few days later, a sailor claims to have also seen an apparition and the doctor accompanying them says he heard a scream in the dark. By now, the entire crew is convinced that something strange is hovering over them.

One night, the captain leaves the ship and disappears into the darkness as if following an invisible presence. The next day he is found dead on the ice with a bright smile on his face.

4) The White Company

At the age of twenty, young Alleyne, son of Edric, leaves the Catholic abbey where he has been raised, intelligent, skilled and beloved, but sheltered and naive, and goes out to meet the world, according to the terms of his father’s will.

That same day, the abbot expels John of Hordle for his worldly behavior: great appetite, teasing and flirting. They meet at Pied Merlin’s inn while resting each night. There they befriend the veteran archer Sam Aylward, who has returned to England from France to recruit for the The White Company of mercenaries.

5) Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is the second collection of short stories starring consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, first published in late 1893. It follows the collection entitled The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

It consists of 12 stories that were originally published between December 1892 and December 1893 in The Strand Magazine under the title The Adventures (numbers 13 to 24). Some of the stories are: “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”, “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual”, “The Adventure of the Reigate Squire” and “The Final Problem”.

Doyle intended to kill the detective in “The Final Problem”, but later, with the series The Return of Sherlock Holmes -which begins with the sequels to “The Final Problem”- it is revealed that Holmes survived, to the joy of the readers.

6) The Great Shadow

The Great Shadow, also known as The Great Shadow and Other Napoleonic Tales, is a novel of action and adventure published in 1892. It is set in the Napoleonic era in the town of West Inch located between England and Scotland.

The story introduces us to Jack Colder who is the protagonist and narrator of the novel, there is also Jim Horscroft, the only friend of the protagonist who is described as bigger and stronger than him. Another character is Jack’s cousin Edie, who is involved in a sort of love triangle with her cousin and Jim, although it only corresponds to Jim.

This novel brings us doses of friendship, camaraderie, admiration and respect while immersing us in a historical event of great relevance such as the Battle of Waterloo.

7) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of twelve short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, first published on October 14, 1892.

It contains the first stories starring the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, which were published in twelve monthly issues of «The Strand Magazine» from July 1891 to June 1892. The stories are collected in the same sequence, which is not compatible with any fictional chronology.

The only common characters in all twelve are Holmes and Dr. Watson and all are told in the first person from Watson’s point of view.

8) The Adventure of the Cardboard Box

The Adventure of the Cardboard Box is one of 56 short stories written about the detective Sherlock Holmes, first published in January 1893. In it, Holmes investigates the murder of Mary Cushing and her lover, which he believes was committed by her husband, Jim Browner, a sailor with a drinking problem.

Browner had sent a cardboard box containing the ears of Mary and her lover to the Cushing home with the intention of horrifying Sarah, Mary’s sister, as he blamed her for causing the problems that culminated in his wife’s murder.

Subsequently, Browner is arrested and confesses to being the perpetrator of the crime, tormented by the guilt of his act. Despite this, the story may have another villain, perhaps not legal but moral, and it is up to the reader to dive into the story to find out.

9) The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard

It is a collection that brings together 8 short stories first published in 1896, although the stories it contains were initially published in The Strand Magazine from December 1894 to December 1895.

The protagonist is Brigadier Gerard, a French officer in Napoleon’s army, of great courage, loyal to his cause and with great devotion to the emperor, perhaps to the point of absurdity. It is believed that Conan Doyle was experiencing a new direction in his writing with the creation of this character.

Even so, The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard is considered by Doyle’s fervent followers as the second most important collection after the one corresponding to his main and best known creation: the incomparable detective Sherlock Holmes.

10) The Great Boer War

It is a non-fiction work about the Boer War that took place in South Africa. A curious fact is that the book was finished in September 1900 when the British believed the war was over, however, it continued until 1902.

Conan Doyle wanted to see the war firsthand as a soldier, but the army was opposed to the writer wielding a pen in their ranks, instead they accepted him as a doctor. In 39 chapters he recounts the stories and experiences he obtained from his patients: details of the campaign, descriptions of the fighting, etc.

In The Great Boer War, Doyle attempts to provide the reader with a neutral history, which he succeeds to some extent. However, he seems to be a bit biased when he discusses the causes of the war, one of which, in his opinion, is the disenfranchisement of the miners.

11) The Hound of the Baskervilles

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dr. James Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes for advice after his friend Sir Charles Baskerville was found dead in the park surrounding his mansion on the Devon moors. The death was attributed to a heart attack, but according to Mortimer, Sir Charles’ face retained an expression of horror, and not far from the corpse the tracks of a gigantic hound were clearly visible.

According to an ancient legend, the Baskerville family has been cursed since the time of the English Civil War, when Sir Hugo Baskerville kidnapped and murdered a woman in the sights of Dartmoor, only to be killed by a huge demonic hound.

Supposedly, the same creature has been haunting the place ever since, causing the untimely deaths of many Baskerville heirs. Sir Charles believed in the hound’s plague and so did Mortimer, who now fears for the next in line, Sir Henry Baskerville.

12) The Return of Sherlock Holmes

It is a collection of 13 stories originally published in 1903-1904. It is the continuation of Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, in which the detective “died” in “The Final Problem”. Although Doyle originally had no intention of continuing to write about Holmes, due to pressure from his followers he felt it necessary to revive the character and, to the delight of many, he did so masterfully.

After being missing and presumed dead for 3 years we have the detective back in London and with the company of his esteemed Dr. Watson. And how timely! Because the city needed his services.

Among the stories of mystery and deduction that make up The Return of Sherlock Holmes we have: “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”, “The Adventure of the Priory School”, “The Adventure of Black Peter” and “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”.

13) Round the Fire Stories

It is a collection of 17 short stories of suspense and adventure, and of the mysterious and fantastic, first published in 1908. In the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself in the preface: this collection includes stories relating to the grotesque and the terrible.

For many of the writer’s followers, these stories present Doyle at his best. In them he includes diverse elements such as: murder, madness, spiritism, unsolved crimes, traps, unexplained disappearances and twists at the end.

Round the Fire Stories is a mixture of macabre tales that could remind us of Poe with others more attached to the detective plot of Sherlock Holmes, it is certainly a collection worth reading because it is a sure enjoyment. Some of the stories are: The Leather Funnel, The Pot of Caviare, Playing with Fire and Jelland’s Voyage.

14) The Crime of the Congo

It is a 1909 book that purported to be a denunciation of gross human rights abuses in the Congo Free State, an area occupied and designated as the personal property of Leopold II of Belgium.

In the Congo, indigenous people were brutally exploited and tortured, especially in the lucrative rubber trade. With The Crime of the Congo Doyle felt it necessary that this information be made known to the population.

For Conan Doyle these crimes were the greatest ever known and he expressed that slavery and ivory poaching were supported and promoted by the Belgian king and all this was defended and maintained by successive Belgian governments, which did everything possible to discourage the Congo Reform Association.

15) The Adventure of the Devil's Foot

The story of The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot takes place when Holmes and Dr. Watson meet at Poldhu in Cornwall one spring for the former’s health.

Mr. Mortimer Tregennis, a local gentleman, and Mr. Roundhay, the local vicar, come to Holmes to inform him that Tregennis’ two brothers have gone mad and their sister has died. Tregennis had gone to visit them in their village (‘Tredannick Wollas’), played whist with them and then left.

When he returned in the morning, he found them still sitting in their places at the table, the brothers, George and Owen, laughing and singing, and the sister, Brenda, dead. The housekeeper had discovered them in that state and had fainted.

16) The Adventure of the Dying Detective

Dr. Watson is called to attend to Holmes in The Adventure of the Dying Detective, who is apparently dying of a rare tropical disease, Tapanuli fever, contracted during a case. Watson is surprised, as he has never heard of his friend’s illness. Mrs. Hudson says that Holmes has had nothing to eat or drink for three days.

Holmes tells Watson to stay away from him, because the disease is very contagious. In fact, he despises Watson treating him and insults his abilities, surprising and hurting the doctor.

Although Watson wishes to examine Holmes himself or call in a specialist, Holmes demands that Watson wait several hours before seeking help.

17) The Poison Belt

The Poison Belt is a science fiction novel written in 1913, being the second book with Professor Challenger as the protagonist. He sends telegrams asking his three companions Edward Malone, Lord John Roxton and Professor Summerlee to meet him at his home and asks them to bring oxygen.

As they make their way to meet him they notice that people’s behavior becomes erratic and upon arrival they are led into a sealed room -in fact, much of the plot takes place in the room- along with Challenger and his wife.

After some investigation, Challenger determines that the Earth is heading toward a poisonous ether belt that will suffocate humanity, so he locks them in the room with oxygen cylinders, which he believes will counteract the effect of the ether.

18) The Valley of Fear

The novel The Valley of Fear begins with Sherlock Holmes receiving a coded message from Fred Porlock, a pseudonymous agent of Professor Moriarty. However, after sending the message, Porlock changes his mind for fear that Moriarty will discover that he is a traitor. He decides not to send the cipher key, but sends Holmes a note explaining this decision.

This small fact, triggers the whole plot of this novel that always keeps the reader on suspense.

19) A Visit to Three Fronts

It is a classic history text about World War I first published on August 19, 1916. To be more precise, this historical novel is about Conan Doyle’s experiences visiting three army fronts during World War I.

The book is intended to record Doyle’s impressions during his visit to these three Western Allied army positions and was written in appreciation of the brave soldiers who fought for their country. For many, it is propaganda intended to boost morale and increase support for the war at a critical time.

A Visit to Three Fronts is a collection of 3 articles previously published in newspapers, these are: A Glimpse of the Army, With the Italians and A Glimpse of the French Line.

20) Tales of Terror and Mystery

It is a collection that compiles 12 short stories and was first published in 1922 by John Murray. This collection is divided into two parts: Tales of Terror and Tales of Mystery which, as their names indicate, are horror and mystery stories intended for fans of the suspense and horror genre.

For many Doyle fans Tales of Terror and Mystery is worthy of further attention and appreciation. With excitement and suspense building as the plot unfolds, readers will not be left indifferent each time a new circumstance is revealed thanks to the writer’s incredible storytelling ability.

If you are a lover of both genres this is a must read for you. In Tales of Terror some of the stories are: The Horror of the Heights, The Leather Funnel, The New Catacomb and, in Tales of Mystery we have: The Lost Special, The Beetle-Hunter and The Man with the Watches.