Sims’s magnificent work of scholarship isn’t a birth-to-death biography of Conan Doyle but a more specific investigation into the events leading up to those fateful weeks in the late winter and early spring of 1886 ... Sims is himself an ingenious investigator. Among his most intriguing explorations is his teasing out of not just Conan Doyle’s personal history but the history of the detective story itself.
...a worthy addition to any scholarly Conan Doyle/Holmes bookshelf. Many Holmes fans know the bones of the origin story, but Sims dives deep into Conan Doyle’s biography to put flesh on it. The physician-turned-writer becomes much more human to the reader in the process ... At times, the book reads a little like an overstuffed suitcase, with facts spilling out the sides; it makes for heavy going ... Fans of Holmes and his creator, however, will find the journey is worth the tiny bumps.
The issue is not a lack of detail. Sims offers an abundance of it as he traces Doyle’s path from poverty in Edinburgh, Scotland, through his years as a struggling writer to the dawn of literary immortality. I wanted a book that focused on that rise, but Sims is keen to tell the story not just of Doyle’s struggle but of everything that influenced him along the way. This means that interesting biographical anecdotes — say, Doyle’s experience on an 1880 whaling voyage — are related in almost as much detail as the resume of the former medical school professor whose studies inspired Doyle to engage in a reckless experiment in self-poisoning ... Arthur and Sherlock is slowed by such narrative cul-de-sacs. But once I finally accepted that the road to Holmes’ birth would be paved with tangents, I settled into the ride. Which does have rewards ... Later sections offer the well-told biographical tale I was looking for.
Although Sims has carefully tracked Holmes’s origins, he glosses over Conan Doyle’s own evolving character. Notably, he fails to explore how the science-oriented Conan Doyle embraced spiritualism the same year that A Study in Scarlet was published ... When The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was published in 1892, Conan Doyle dedicated the collection to 'my old Teacher Joseph Bell, M.D.' Sims abruptly ends his enlightening but limited study at this point — far before Conan Doyle was through with Sherlock. Readers can hope for a second volume.
Sims combines extensive scholarship with excellent writing and organizational skills to produce a work that is not only informative but eminently readable. What's most interesting is how he places Doyle, Holmes and the genre in historical context ... My only nit is that is that the book stops around 1891, two years before Sherlock and his archenemy Prof. Moriarty plunge to their supposed deaths over Reichenbach Falls in The Final Problem. It would have been a perfect coda to an otherwise wonderful book to explain why he did it and why he ultimately resurrected the detective in The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes who want to know about the equally remarkable man who created him can learn a good deal from Arthur and Sherlock ... There are some additional stories I wish Mr. Sims had told, for example of two distinguished men—Lawson Tait, one of the era’s leading physicians, and Lord Coleridge, the poet’s grandnephew and Lord Chief Justice of England—writing to the obscure author jointly in late 1890, after The Sign of Four had appeared to say how much they enjoyed it and hoped to read more about the remarkable Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle was struck by their letter, and six months later did give his unsuccessful character Sherlock Holmes one more chance.