THE ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FOUR NOVELS AND THE FIFTY-SIX SHORT STORIES COMPLETE, edited by William S. Baring-Gould (Crown: $55; 1,536 pp., illustrated). Commemorating the centennial of Sherlock Holmes' advent into print, editor William Baring-Gould offers this compilation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's complete works detailing the adventures of the world's most famous sleuth.
The book begins with a dozen essays by other writers chronicling the growth of the Holmes legend in literature and theater throughout the world. Thoroughly documented and illustrated, these articles provide additional insight into Conan Doyle's troubled relationship with the character he created. "There's plenty of thread, no doubt, but I can't get the end of it into my hand" (Holmes in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery").
The original stories are possibly so burdened with annotations as to confuse the uninitiated; listed beside the text, the notes vie with the base material for the reader's attention. However, the extensive scholarship of these annotations, and their profuseness (up to 193 in "The Sign of the Four") are what distinguishes this from other collections.
"Never trust yourself to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself on details" (Holmes to Watson in "A Case of Identity." Despite its cumbersome format, one feels that this volume would have earned the respect of the great detective with its thoroughness of documentation. Certain to delight serious Holmes buffs.