Sherlock Holmes is a rather fascinating character, a man who can pick up the tiniest of clues in the smallest of places and know everything there is to know. With that in mind, the longer the stories go, the less charming they are. Early Holmes work is better than later Holmes work, and even his creator apparently was having a hard time coming up with mysteries only Sherlock Holmes could solve. There is still a lot to recommend, and the further I read, the more interesting the variations on the formula got. Holmes was a narrator instead of Watson twice for adventures Watson sat out, and the omniscient third person came into play a couple times. The stories also showed their age in other ways, such as how one of the early adventures posed the ultimate evil coming from, of all places, the Mormon Church. A later one plays with degenerate lodges in what looks like the Freemasons.
A few times, Holmes’ presence didn’t really solve anything, and once the local police inspector actually had his eye on the same suspect Holmes did, which was a pleasant surprise. Overall continuity isn’t a big concern either, given how Watson’s wife disappears almost without notice after Holmes returns from the dead, and just try guessing what the first time Watson heard Moriarity’s name. Plus, given how much attention is given to them in various adaptations, it is also interesting to see how little Moriarity or Irene Addler are actually seen in the original source material (which is to say, one short story each and the Professor is an unseen presence in one of the novels).
Of course, this volume also contains the complete “Tales of Terror and Mystery,” a dozen other stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that are indeed focused on terror and mystery. The terror stories come across as mostly subpar Lovecraft, while the mystery ones were largely forgettable adventures that Holmes could have probably settled on his own. They weren’t bad stories, but they weren’t unforgettable either.