Yeah, I could have used the more typical 'IV' form of the Roman numeral in the title of this entry, but I like the way the four 'I's visually draaaag oooon, much like this massive tome did.
To be fair, this book--which I have been slogging through since mid-March--actually contains all nine of Sir Arthur's books in one volume. Handy to have them all in one place, but a little hefty. [I read another paperback in bed, so I wouldn't crack a rib.]
This volume, as I mentioned before, contains all 4 Holmes novels: A Study In Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear. I found that I liked the novels more than the short stories, because there was more meat to them, and time for the characters to develop. If I had to generalize, I would say that they got a little rougher as the went on. The Valley of Fear had some pretty gruesome stuff in there, especially considering when it was written.
The last book, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, saw something new for Holmes: three of the stories were not narrated by Watson. Holmes himself narrates two of them, and a third is written without a narrator at all. These stories didn't have the same endearing quality as those done from Watson's POV, but I think it shows that Sir Arthur was trying to mix it up at this point. Doyle was clearly through with Holmes by this time, and in a short foreword to this last collection, he states that pretty succinctly. Holmes had already been brought back from the dead once to meet the demands of a loving public; and then the eight book is titled: His Last Bow. Doyle made it pretty clear that this wouldn't be happening again. He also pointed out that he felt that Holmes took away from his more serious fiction writing.
Holmes and Watson evolved a little--but only a little--during their trials. There wasn't much talk of drug use in the latter stories, for example. And Watson did seem to catch on a little bit quicker later on. Who knows, maybe folks wrote to Doyle about these things. And I never did square the timeline issues completely, even when reading the stories in the order there were written. In part, that's because many of them were written about things that occurred at some point in the past, and could only now be shared with the public, &c.
Lastly, I give you Professor James Moriarty: Sherlock Holmes's archenemy and greatest foe. The very lynchpin and underbelly of London crime. 'The Napoleon of Crime', in Holmes's own words. Moriarty has crept into pop culture as a larger-than-life nemesis of epic proportions. In the actual stories: not so much.
I won't say more, but leave it to you dear friends, to delve into this singular well of mystery and intrigue, guided by John Watson as he rides along with Sherlock Holmes on a rainy November night, to the scene of yet another inexplicable crime.