When I first read all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, having found them collected in full (not, of course, including last year's "lost" story) in two old volumes at an antique store, I understood immediately why they'd so quickly become so popular with their first readership in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Or rather, I should say that I felt it--that perfect alignment of form and substance that only comes along in popular art every few decades.
Whether that happened as a result of Doyle's craftsmanship or his luck I don't know, but it turns out that the adventures of his consulting detective play as well on the speakers as they do on the page, though in quite a different way. You can experience that difference for yourself, and experience it extensively, with Spotify's 64-hour, 163-track playlist of Sherlock Holmes stories performed aloud. (If you don't have Spotify's free software, download it here.)
The very first voice it presents is Doyle's own, speaking briefly on Holmes and spiritualism, which gives us time to settle in for a five-part rendition of the very first in the Holmes canon (and thanks to "more female interest than is usual," one of Doyle's personal favorites), "A Scandal in Bohemia." It comes performed by Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson, two of the most respected actors in 20th-century British theater. We've previously featured their portrayals, Gielgud's of Holmes and Richardson's of Watson (and we can hardly neglect to mention the one and only Orson Welles', of Moriarty), on the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio drama.
But this playlist provides a wealth of other voices from various eras interpreting Doyle's most beloved works as well, a variety that certainly suits its protagonist, the most-portrayed literary character of all time — which means that, unlike the collected print canon of Sherlock Holmes adventures (that "lost" story and its mysterious authorship aside), the collected audio adventures of Sherlock Holmes will only grow longer and longer, so those who want to listen to them all had best get on the case without delay.
You can find this playlist added to our collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.
Also find Sherlock Holmes stories in our other collection, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.