Sherlock Holmes Books In Order: Best Way To Read Arthur Conan Doyle’s 9 Books

Sherlock Holmes: you’ve heard the name! Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the most famous fictional detective of all time. Additionally, he was also one of the first.

Sherlock Holmes Books In Order: Best Way To Read Arthur Conan Doyle’s 9 Books

Appearing in just four novels, but also fifty-six short stories that have been collected into various volumes, the detective has solved a spectacular array of complex, interesting mysteries with the help of his assistant, Dr. Watson.

The author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, wrote the first Holmes mystery at just 27, but it was surprisingly not a series that Doyle wanted to continue for long.

Eager to return to his historical novels, Doyle wrapped the series up after only a few years but then brought the character back a decade later – and continued writing about him in short stories for years.

After all, the character had proved incredibly popular and is one that has only endured in the near century since Doyle’s final story.

Sherlock Holmes has been adapted into hit movies, TV shows, and games, as well as various books by other authors.

It can be difficult to know which order to read the Sherlock Holmes stories in, so we’ve got the best order explained in our guide below!

About Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is very likely the most famous detective in all of fiction, inspiring all kinds of other detectives and parodies.

The character is famous for his incredible skills in observation and deduction, allowing him to solve cases in ways nobody else can.

He is also popular for the logical reasoning that he applies to cases, a strict process but one that frequently yields impressive results.

Holmes primarily exists in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, between the periods of about 1880 and 1914.

He is accompanied on his cases by Dr. John Watson, who also sometimes lives with Holmes at the famous literary address of 221B Baker Street in London.

In fact, Watson is often the narrator of the books, offering a unique perspective on Holmes that really throws readers into each case and gives them a personal touch.

Key themes throughout the stories of Sherlock Holmes revolve around intelligence and the powers of observation, the idea of justice, and various notions about class and society.

On top of that, Holmes himself has some troubled aspects to his personal life that make his character far more rich and interesting.

Sherlock Holmes Books In Order

The Sherlock Holmes Collection

When it comes to reading the Sherlock Holmes books in order, there are a few different orders you can take.

However, we’re going to recommend reading them in chronological order, rather than the order in which they were published, because it means that you won’t be jumping about in time and potentially spoiling future events in the stories.

Similarly, you could read the Sherlock Holmes books in the order of the format – by which we mean, reading the novels and then reading all the short story collections.

However, this will still have the shortcoming of the books jumping around in time.

As a result, we really do recommend reading the stories in chronological order, and we’ve got a detailed breakdown of it below.

A Study In Scarlet (1897)

A Study in Scarlet (1891 Illustrated Edition): 100th Anniversary Collection

A Study In Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes novel and the very first appearance of the character, is a great place to start with the series.

By reading this first, you’ll get a fantastic introduction to the characters of Holmes and Watson, and the book even shows you their first meeting.

Dr. John Watson has just come back from the harrowing experience of war in Afghanistan and needs a place to stay in London.

He ends up sharing rooms with Sherlock Holmes, an enigmatic character. However, Watson’s brief return to peace isn’t to last, because the pair are soon informed about a dead man who has been found in a house in southeast London.

Investigating the body, Watson sees that the face is twisted into a horrified expression the likes of which Watson has never seen before – and he has just been a doctor in a war.

Stranger still, the German word for “revenge” is scrawled in blood on the wall. However, the victim has no wounds. Holmes steps up to the challenge of solving this curious mystery, and the world-famous investigative partnership is born.


  • It’s the first appearance of one of literature’s most iconic characters!


  • Some find it overlong, more fitting for a short story

The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (1892)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Dover Thrift Editions: Crime/Mystery)

The next Sherlock Holmes book to read is this 1892 volume, which is the first collection of short stories involving Holmes and Watson.

There’s a total of twelve stories to enjoy, each of which had been published in a magazine, and the stories are unified by a theme of being about correcting social injustices.

There are too many to go into detail on, but we’ll give you a sample!

“A Scandal In Bohemia” involves Holmes dealing with a compromising photograph of the King of Bohemia, which is being used to blackmail the royalty.

After that, “The Red-Headed League” sees Holmes investigating the curious case of a pawnbroker who had been paid to copy out the Encyclopedia Britannica – potentially a decoy for a robbery.

Meanwhile, “A Case of Identity” deals with a disappearing groom, and “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” deals with a man wrongly accused of murder.

“The Five Orange Pips” deals with another disappeared husband, and the remaining short stories include potentially murderous stepfathers, damaged valuables, a bizarrely high-paying governess job, and more.


  • You get a great range of mystery tales


  • Not every story is as interesting as the other

The Sign Of Four (1890)

The Sign of Four (1892 Illustrated Edition): 100th Anniversary Collection

The second Sherlock Holmes novel sees a troubled Holmes sitting in a stupor in his flat. A yellow fog is working its way through London, contributing to this miserable atmosphere.

Thankfully, Holmes is visited by a beautiful young woman in distress, Mary Morstan.

Her father disappeared ten years ago, and six years ago (and every year since) she has been receiving the same luxurious gift of a massive pearl.

For all that time, she had no idea who was sending her the generous gift, but now she’s been sent an invitation to meet the mysterious benefactor.

Understandably weary, Morstan wants Holmes and Watson to go to the meeting with her.

This is just the kind of intrigue to get Holmes out of his stupor, and he’s happy to take on the case with Watson.

The following investigation involves exciting things like a love affair and Indian treasure, and plenty of gripping twists and revelations.


  • The narrative flows better than the first novel


  • There are some dated attitudes toward Africans

The Casebook Of Sherlock Holmes (1927)

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (Dover Thrift Editions: Crime/Mystery/Thrillers)

Our next recommended entry is actually the final collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that Conan Doyle ever released.

Our choice for putting the book here in the order is that the stories are a great opener for interweaving tales that you’ll get in later books, so it’s best to read them now.

Once again, the collection has twelve short stories. The first one is “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client”, where Sir James Damery comes to the detective duo on behalf of an illustrious client’s problem (the client is heavily implied to be King Edward VII!).

After that, “The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” sees a soldier asking Holmes and Watson to find his vanished comrade.

Another story is “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”, where Holmes receives a mysterious letter referencing vampires.

The next morning, he and Watson get a visit from a man who believes his wife has been sucking their baby’s blood.

Naturally, Holmes doesn’t believe in the supernatural – so what’s really going on?

Other stories include a mysterious lodger, a troubled engagement, a stable with strange goings-on, and much more.


  • Two tales are narrated by Holmes


  • Since these were the last written stories, they sometimes lack freshness

The Valley Of Fear (1914)

The Valley of Fear (1915 Illustrated Edition): 100th Anniversary Collection

Next up is the final Sherlock Holmes novel, which tells the story of an early encounter with Holmes’ nemesis, Professor Moriarty.

The mystery is afoot when Holmes and Watson are sent a cipher message from one of Moriarty’s henchmen.

The message tells them about evil things that are going on at a manor house, which naturally sets the pair off to investigate.

The men travel to Sussex but soon find a grisly body. The mystery deepens, too, when it seems that the origins of this case really lie over in America.

It isn’t long before Holmes and Watson find themselves in the middle of a mystery involving an American Pinkerton and the shady work of a secretive lodge…


  • One of the most exciting tales


  • Sherlock sometimes takes a backseat

The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes (1894)

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (100th Anniversary Edition): With 100 Original Illustrations

Although published before The Valley of Fear, this collection of short stories actually takes place after the events of that novel, so it’s best to enjoy the various short tales after reading that book.

Another collection of twelve short stories, the last of these was actually supposed to be the very last Holmes tale.

However, this was changed the next year, where it found that Holmes had fared better during the short story’s events than we had been led to believe.

The collection begins with “The Adventure of the Silver Blaze”, one of Doyle’s favorites. It involves the disappearance of a brilliant racehorse and the murder of its trainer.

After that, you should have “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”, though it isn’t always published in every edition.

This story involves a particularly nasty package that has been received by a poor woman, and Holmes is convinced that the parcel is evidence of a serious crime.

Other stories cover an old tale from Holmes’ university days, the introduction of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, and much more.

The last story, “The Final Problem”, involves Moriarty and was supposed to be the last Holmes story ever – until that changed.


  • “The Final Problem” is a must-read


  • Some adventures more exciting than others

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes (1905)

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

After the seemingly-definitive ending of The Final Problem short story in the previous collection, Sherlock Holmes returns!

In a change of pace, this collection offers thirteen short stories this time.

The first story, “The Adventure of the Empty House”, sees Holmes returning to London after a three year absence, and explaining what really happened after the last time we saw him.

Another story, “The Adventure of the Dancing Man”, begins with Holmes receiving some paper with a drawing of fifteen mysterious stick figures.

This message had been given to some newlyweds where the wife has a mysterious past, and the coded drawings appear to mean something to her.

Meanwhile, “The Adventure of the Priory School” sees a school principal asking Holmes to look into the disappearance of one of his well-off students.

The other ten stories have a wide range of fascinating mysteries, including a murdered secretary, six mysterious busts of Napoleon, the killing of Sir Eustace Brackenstall, the disappearance of a rugby player, and much more.


  • More short stories than any other collection


  • Stories are inconsistent

His Last Bow (1917)

His Last Bow (100th Anniversary Edition): With 50 Original Illustrations

Our penultimate pick is this final collection of short stories. Strictly speaking, this book is the end point of the Sherlock Holmes chronology, however, we’ve decided to finish with a different book for reasons we’ll explain shortly.

There are only nine short stories in the collection this time, and the first of these is more of a preface than an adventure.

In “Preface by John H. Watson”, Holmes’ faithful companion explains to readers that Holmes has long been retired from sleuthing, but is still alive and well.

It’s a nice touch to end the Sherlock Holmes chronology, leaving the character in a good place, before diving into some stories set prior to his retirement.

In “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge”, the short story involves a mysterious dead body and a spooky lodge.

Meanwhile, “The Adventure of the Red Circle” sees Holmes investigating a mysterious lodger who makes weird demands of his landlady, but has now disappeared.

Another story, “The Adventure of the Dying Detective”, hits closer to home than previous tales.

Watson is called to look after Holmes, who is apparently dying of Tapanuli fever, a rare tropical disease. But is all that it seems?

Other stories in the collection involve Holmes and Watson having a holiday that’s interrupted by a death, the disappearance of a Lady and her valuable jewels, and another appearance from Mycroft.

Some versions of this book also include “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”, which is also present in “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”, which we discussed earlier.

The final story, “His Last Bow: The War Service of Sherlock Holmes”, sees Holmes outwitting a German spy. The story was published during the First World War, potentially to improve morale for British readers.


  • The final chronological Holmes tales


  • Fewer stories than previous collections

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1902)

The Hound of the Baskervilles

We’re finishing our recommended reading order with perhaps the most famous Sherlock Holmes story.

Though this isn’t chronologically the final appearance of Sherlock Holmes, we believe that the novel represents the very best of the series, with plenty of tension and horror, and so it’s a great place to end it on.

When the body of Sir Charles Baskerville is found on the foggy Devon moorlands, with only the pawprint of a massive hound dog nearby, it’s assumed that this is the result of a family curse. But is that really the case?

Holmes and Watson must investigate the atmospheric, scary moors and find out whether the myth of a phantom hound really holds any weight – and do so before Baskerville’s heir is killed too.


  • Potentially the best Holmes book


  • Holmes isn’t in it enough

Final Thoughts

Sherlock Holmes is likely the most famous detective in all of fiction and a character that is as popular today as he was a century ago.

There’s a large mix of novels and short stories for readers to enjoy, each with gripping mysteries full of intrigue and suspense, and our recommended reading order is the best way to experience them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s The Best Sherlock Holmes Book?

Every fan will have a different answer, but “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is often regarded as the best.

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Anna Davis