Reading Sherlock Holmes was a milestone in growing up. I remember starting the first story when I was barely eight. It started “To Sherlock Holmes, she is always THE woman.” I stopped reading and ran to my mother to complain that she hadn’t handed me the first part: obviously there had to be another part beforehand! She explained to me that books for adults often worked in a less linear fashion, and that I should stick with it. Which I did.
I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories during a particularly uneventful summer. I remember how the books smelled and behaved when I got sand between the pages. I remember the sun and the sea and the constant lure of the books. I remember my family poking fun at the fact that they never saw me and had to drag me outside (a lie! I could read outside) and into the water (true).
My second stop that summer was visiting my father, who had moved to a new home. I got to stay in a tiny room that I had just to myself, and I loved everything about it. During the first night, I continued reading, and came to the tale of the Speckled Band – which takes place in tiny rooms where people get bitten by venomous snakes. I panicked, and had to be calmed down by the adults.
Every other mystery had to measure up to Sherlock Holmes for years after that, until I found Dorothy Sayers.