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Literature / Sherlock Holmes

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The literary canon of Sherlock Holmes as written by Arthur Conan Doyle consists of the fifty-six short stories and four novels. See the Sherlock Holmes franchise page for more information about the character and the various adaptations and non-Conan Doyle Holmes literary works.

For tropes found in the novels, visit their work pages. For tropes found in the short stories and general tropes regarding the character, see below.


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    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 
Contains 12 stories published in The Strand between July 1891 and December 1892 with original illustrations by Sidney Paget and then published in one volume in 1892.
  • "A Scandal in Bohemia"
  • "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League"
  • "A Case of Identity"
  • "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"
  • "The Five Orange Pips"
  • "The Man with the Twisted Lip"
  • "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle"
  • "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"
  • "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb"
  • "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"
  • "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet"
  • "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches"

    The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes 
Contains 12 stories published in The Strand as further episodes of the Adventures between December 1892 and November 1893 with original illustrations by Sidney Paget and then published in one volume in 1893.
  • "The Adventure of Silver Blaze"
  • "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" (this story is included as part of His Last Bow in American editions of the canon)
  • "The Adventure of the Yellow Face"
  • "The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk"
  • "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" (Holmes's first case, described to Watson)
  • "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" (another early case, told by Holmes to Watson)
  • "The Adventure of the Reigate Squire"
  • "The Adventure of the Crooked Man"
  • "The Adventure of the Resident Patient"
  • "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" (Mycroft appears for the first time)
  • "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty"
  • "The Adventure of the Final Problem" (Watson reports the death of Holmes; Professor Moriarty is introduced)

    The Return of Sherlock Holmes 
Contains 13 stories published in The Strand between October 1903 and January 1905 with original illustrations by Sidney Paget and then published in one volume in 1905.
  • "The Adventure of the Empty House" (the return of Holmes)
  • "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder"
  • "The Adventure of the Dancing Men"
  • "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist"
  • "The Adventure of the Priory School"
  • "The Adventure of Black Peter"
  • "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton"
  • "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons"
  • "The Adventure of the Three Students"
  • "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez"
  • "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter"
  • "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange"
  • "The Adventure of the Second Stain"

    His Last Bow 
Contains seven stories published 1908–1913, 1917 and then published in one volume in 1917.
  • "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge" (originally published simply as "A Reminiscence of Mr Sherlock Holmes", this story is made up of two parts given separate titles: "The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles" and "The Tiger of San Pedro")
  • "The Adventure of the Red Circle"
  • "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" (Mycroft appears)
  • "The Adventure of the Dying Detective"
  • "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax"
  • "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot"
  • "His Last Bow" (Narrated in the third person)

    The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes 
Contains 12 stories published 1921–1927 and then published in one volume in 1927.
  • "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" (second story narrated in the third person)
  • "The Problem of Thor Bridge"
  • "The Adventure of the Creeping Man"
  • "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire"
  • "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs"
  • "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client"
  • "The Adventure of the Three Gables"
  • "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" (narrated by Holmes; Watson does not appear)
  • "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane" (narrated by Holmes; Watson does not appear)
  • "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman"
  • "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger"
  • "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place"

The short stories contain examples of:

  • Absence of Evidence:
    • In the story "The Adventure of Silver Blaze", Sherlock Holmes points out the vital non-clue of a dog failing to react to a mysterious visitor... when a guard dog doesn't bark at an intruder it generally means it's someone he recognizes.
    • The absence of certain valuable deeds is a vital clue in "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder."
  • Accident, Not Murder:
    • In "The Adventure of Silver Blaze", Holmes and Watson travel to Dartmoor to investigate the crimes of the disappearance of the racehorse Silver Blaze and the murder of the horse's trainer, John Straker. Straker has been killed by a blow to the skull, assumed to have been administered by prime suspect Fitzroy Simpson with his walking stick. However, Holmes is able to demonstrate that Straker had been planning to lame Silver Blaze in order to fix a horse race when the horse kicked him in the head.
    • In "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane", Fitzroy died with his back covered with dark red lines as though he had been terribly flogged. Sherlock Holmes found out that the victim was attacked not by humans but by a lion's mane jellyfish.
  • Accidental Adultery: In "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor", the titular character's new bride ran away because her first husband, whom she had thought dead, turned up alive and well at the wedding.
  • Acid Attack: In "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client", Watson describes in detail what happened to a particularly nasty Asshole Victim after one of his former lovers threw vitriol in his face. The court, after learning the circumstances, had decided to give her as light a slap on the wrist as was legally possible.
  • Actually Not a Vampire: "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire."
  • Addiction-Powered: Subverted. Sherlock uses cocaine to stimulate his mind only when he has no sufficiently interesting cases to work on. The challenge of solving a mystery is intellectual stimulation enough that he doesn't need drugs while he's on the job.
  • Affably Evil: Professor Moriarty, who is gentlemanly enough to let Sherlock write a farewell note to Watson before their fight in "The Final Problem". Charles Augustus Milverton is another example, as long as he thinks he has the upper hand.
  • Ailment-Induced Cruelty: The culprit in "The Sussex Vampire" turned out to be not Robert's second wife (who'd been caught sucking blood out of her child's neck) but :his son from his first marriage, who had a deformed spine and an unhealthy attachment to his father. This, combined with his hatred for his perfectly healthy newborn stepbrother, made him stab the baby in the neck with a curare-tipped dart.
    Holmes: It is a distorted love, a maniacal exaggerated love for you, and possibly for his dead mother, which has prompted his action. His very soul is consumed with hatred for this splendid child, whose health and beauty are a contrast to his own weakness.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Holmes is perhaps the most well known example of this trope, and it could even be considered a staple of the character. He has a knowledge of crime that would put The Other Wiki to shame, and yet is unaware that the earth revolves around the sun, believes that the human memory can only hold a certain amount of information until it's full (though it seems that he later rejects this belief), suffers from "periods of lethargy", and is a casual cocaine user.
  • Animal Assassin: In "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", the villain murdered his victim by letting a venomous snake into her bedroom while she slept.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • Lestrade is often described as having bulldog or weasel-like features, usually depending on whether he thinks he's beaten Holmes to the punch.
    • Holmes himself is often compared to a hunting hound when he's hard on the trail of a criminal.
  • Arcadia: Deconstructed in "The Copper Beeches". On a trip into the countryside, Watson comments on the beauty of the country farmhouses, to which Holmes responds by pointing out that isolation enables criminals and abusers to get away with it much more easily than they could in the crowded city.
    "...But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser."
  • Artistic Licence – Biology: In order for the plot of "The Speckled Band" to work, you basically have to ignore the fact that snakes, while not deaf, most likely wouldn't be able to hear a blown whistle and are unlikely to consume milk.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Holmes uses his sitting room wall for target practice, which could be lethal for anyone in the next room over.
  • Artistic Licence – Linguistics: Holmes claims in "The Five Orange Pips" that the Ku Klux Klan derives its name from the sound of a rifle being cocked; it's actually a corruption of the Greek word kuklos, which means "circle."
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: Holmes was offhandedly mentioned to know "Baritsu." Doyle more than likely meant Bartitsu.
  • Artistic License – Politics and Artistic License – History: While there was a King of Bohemia in 1888, it was Emperor Franz Joseph, as the Bohemian Crown had been part of the Habsburg domains from 1526 onwards. In addition, he had been married since 1854, and was a strait-laced workaholic. (There was no King of Scandinavia, though there was a joint king of Norway and Sweden.) See Unreliable Narrator for speculation on why Watson/Doyle uses this trope.
  • As You Know: Occasionally lampshaded and justified when Holmes invites a client to restate their case in full, despite having heard it already, on the dual basis that (a) Watson hasn't, and (b) it might help Holmes' deductive process to hear it repeated from the beginning.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The title character of "Charles Augustus Milverton", who is so unsympathetic that Holmes and Watson allow his killer to get away; also seen in "Black Peter" with a victim who was abusive towards his family and an all around nasty piece of work. The rest of the stories provide plenty more examples. This shows up in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery", "The Cardboard Box", "The Crooked Man", "The Resident Patient", "The Abbey Grange" and "The Devil's Foot". In "The Abbey Grange" Holmes and Watson convene a kangaroo court essentially to find the murderer not guilty by reason of this trope.
    • Interestingly subverted in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery." Charles McCarthy was actually the victim of an Australian stagecoach robbery, and then decades later the victim of murder, both by the same man. In the intervening time, however, he'd been blackmailing his eventual murderer to such a degree and with such cruelty that this trope easily applies.
    • Subverted/Exaggerated in "The Norwood Builder". The asshole in this story turned out not be a victim at all, but had merely faked his own death and framed an innocent guy for his murder in order to get revenge on the guys mother.
    • When Sir Eustace, a drunken wife beater is killed by his wife's former sweetheart, few tears are shed.
    • The King of Bohemia in "A Scandal in Bohemia". While not quite as bad as the others listed here, he is clearly something of a selfish dick, and it's eventually revealed that Irene Adler has kept the compromising photograph not for blackmail purposes but merely to protect herself from the King's wrath should it become necessary. Both Holmes and Watson clearly come to feel that their client is the lesser person in the situation.
  • Author Filibuster: Several stories feature tragedies that arise due to unhappy marriages and characters in these stories often take the time to rail against both the legal and social difficulties in getting divorced in Britain at the time. Doyle was the president of the Divorce Law Reform Union and advocated for removing impediments to divorce to avoid exactly the sorts of situations he was writing about. For the record there's no evidence Doyle was unhappy in either of his own marriages.
  • Awesome by Analysis: Holmes couples innate talent with absolute obsession to produce awesomeness by analysis. Watson, on much rarer occasions, employs Holmes' methods successfully.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In "A Case of Identity", this happens because of Holmes' sexism. He thinks it's better not to tell his client that her disappeared fiancé was actually her step-father in disguise, because (according to Holmes) "there is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman". Holmes even agrees with the culprit that—loathsome though Holmes personally finds him—nothing he's done is legally actionable, despite the fact that breach of promise was a serious thing and she would certainly have won a civil suit against him.
    • Holmes does grab a horsewhip to give him a thrashing, though. He only escapes that by running out of the office.
  • Badass Boast: Moriarty to Sherlock in The Final Problem.
    Moriarty: "If you are clever enough to bring destruction upon me, rest assured that I shall do as much to you."
    • To which Holmes counters that he would gladly accept the latter in order to bring about the former.
    • Also in "The Devil's Foot," upon informing a disbelieving suspect that Holmes had shadowed him:
    Suspect: "I saw nothing."
    Holmes: "That is what you may expect to see when I follow you."
  • Badass Bookworm: Holmes is not only a brilliant detective, but also an innovative forensic scientist, good violinist, and a formidable martial artist who is strong enough to bend an iron poker with his bare hands — and unbend it again afterwards, the harder task. In "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet", he actually mentions that he has exceptional strength in his fingers.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: In "Copper Beeches", the Rucastle's child has a fondness for trapping and torturing small birds and mammals, and his father is particularly proud of his son's skill in squashing cockroaches. Holmes takes this as evidence of Rucastle Sr's malicious nature, noting that streaks of cruelty are often passed from parent to child.
  • Banana Republic: A character in "Wisteria Lodge" turns out to be the escaped dictator of a Central American republic named "San Pedro".
  • Bastard Bastard: James Wilder in "The Priory School".
  • Batman Gambit: Holmes continually employs these, on criminals and clients alike, to get what he needs. He's even done it to Watson, counting on the good doctor's sincerity and guileless nature to lure a murderer into a trap in "The Adventure of the Dying Detective". However, since Batman is partly based on Sherlock Holmes, this trope isn't really surprising.
  • Berserk Button: Don't compare Holmes to any other detective, even a fictional one. Holmes also appears to really, really despise blackmailers; most of the Asshole Victim characters whose murderers he refused to expose unless he needed to save an innocent were blackmailers, the remainder mostly being abusive drunks.
    • Also, do not lie to Sherlock Holmes. He will immediately turn down a case if he suspects that his client isn't telling him the true story, because, as he puts it, his job is difficult enough without the client giving him the wrong information.
    • Do not play Lestrade for a patsy, let alone in order to send an innocent party to the gallows.
  • Big Bad: Though he only appears in one story, Professor Moriarty is stated to have been behind many of the other cases that Holmes solved prior to their encounter in "The Final Problem," including the plot of The Valley of Fear (in which Holmes attempts to prevent Moriarty's agents from committing a murder).
  • Big "WHAT?!": Also a case of Not So Stoic. In "The Man With the Twisted Lip," Holmes has concluded that a young man has most certainly been killed, and arrives to deliver the bad news to his widow, in his most businesslike and sympathetic fashion. Then he learns that she just received a letter from him. His whole reaction is justified (and priceless).
    Sherlock Holmes sprang out of his chair as if he had been galvanized. "What!" he roared.
  • Bewildering Punishment: Watson thinks one man guilty because he does not profess this at being arrested; Holmes points out that he must have realized that the evidence was against him, and felt guilty because his behaviour before the murder had been unfilial.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the ending of "The Speckled Band" Helen Stoner is saved from being murdered, but we know from the very beginning of the story that she's going to die within a few years regardless.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Sherlock Holmes quotes Flaubert in the original French in "The Red-Headed League".
  • Black Comedy: "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs", as noted by Watson himself in the introduction.
  • Blackmail:
    • Charles Augustus Milverton's fortune was made by purchasing documents, always making sure they were genuine, that jeopardized well-to-do people's reputations and then he squeezed them for every penny he could. If they aren't rich enough to make the payment, he made an example of them to other victims.
    • Also the alleged reason for the King of Bohemia wanting the photograph of himself and Irene Adler: he told Holmes that she would blackmail him with it.
    • In "The Second Stain", the reason the politician's document was stolen was because Eduardo Lucas had acquired a letter written by the politician's wife and threatened to lay the letter before her husband unless she stole the document.
  • Blackmail Backfire: "Black Peter". Subverted; The titular Black Peter was approached by an old member of the crew of the whaling ship he captained who threatened to reveal that Black Peter robbed and murdered a castaway that the ship had picked up. Black Peter tried to silence the blackmailer, but it turned out that the blackmailer was quicker on the move and rammed a harpoon through him. Impressively, this is one of the few occasions in which the blackmailer is somehow the more sympathetic character despite being both a blackmailer and a murderer, since it was technically self-defence and Black Peter is just that much of an Asshole Victim.
  • Blindfolded Trip: In both "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" and "The Greek Interpreter", Holmes' client was bundled into a carriage that they could not see out of and driven to an unknown destination.
  • Bluff the Impostor: In "The Three Garridebs", Holmes tests John Garrideb by asking after a supposed old friend who used to be mayor in the town Garrideb claims as his home. Garrideb replies that the man is still honoured back home, instead of calling Holmes out for making the man up, showing that he's lying about his background.
  • Body Horror: The stump where the engineer's thumb used to be in the story of that name.
    • The Acid Attack in "The Illustrious Client" turns a handsome sociopath's face into a mirror of his hideous soul.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Watson says of Sir Robert Norberton, the antagonist in "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place", that "he is one of those men who have overshot their true generation", being a deplorable scoundrel by modern standards in a way that would have fit right in among the gentry of Regency England.
  • Brain Fever: Used in several Sherlock Holmes stories, including "The Copper Beeches" in which a girl's stepfather pesters her about her inheritance until she gets brain-fever; "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty" in which a man is ill for nine weeks after a treaty is stolen from under his nose; and "The Crooked Man", where the dead man's wife is conveniently rendered insensible after witnessing her husband's sudden death.
  • Breakout Character: Mycroft Holmes and Irene Adler come up more times in adaptations than they ever do in the actual stories: Mycroft only appears in three ("The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter", "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans") whereas Irene only appears in "A Scandal in Bohemia" and is referenced indirectly in a Continuity Nod in "The Five Orange Pips".
  • Breakout Villain: Professor Moriarty is a classic. It helps that he's retroactively credited within the one story he appears in as having been The Man Behind the Man for several other past cases, a theme many adaptations take up and run with.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Mycroft is not only an Aloof Big Brother to Sherlock, he's even better at the science of deduction. Subverted in that, while Mycroft is physically lazy, he's actually an extremely hard-working civil servant whose encyclopedic knowledge frequently decides British national policy. Mycroft could easily have been a detective himself, but as he explains in "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" he loathes the idea of doing the legwork needed to actually gather the facts he'd need to make his deductions.
    • Some qualification: Mycroft is better at observation and reasoning, but stinks as a detective. His manner of handling the Greek Interpreter case tips off the bad guys big time, who then come back and try to torture the client to death. The point of the story seemed to be that figuring out someone's profession by their left pinky is a cute trick, but it does not a detective make.
    • This might also tie in Sherlock's refusal to learn anything he deems unimportant to his work, like the Earth turning around the Sun or cultural history not related to crime. Meanwhile Mycroft needs to exactly know these little things for his line of work.
    • Sherlock himself may sometimes qualify as this, although his "periods of lethargy" as described by Watson often come closer to full-on manic depression than simple laziness.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Holmes is a fairly messed up genius and in early stories was Book Dumb in an odd way - knowing minute details about criminal history and the topics of his monographs but barely knowing how to read a map and uninformed about a variety of other topics. He actually has a logical (even if said logic does hail from the moon) explanation for this - he considers the mind to be like an attic, possessed of a limited amount of space and therefore useless if you throw just any old shit in there. So interesting-but-functionally-useless facts like "the Earth revolves around the sun" have no place in the mind of a consulting detective, but some of the more eclectic applications of chemistry with little practical day-to-day use may well occupy the forefront of his mind for weeks at a time if he thinks it'll solve a case.
  • Bus Crash: Mary Watson's death is only hinted at, by Watson's oblique reference in "The Empty House" to "my own sad bereavement", and Holmes' advice that "Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson," although it's fairly clear that she must be in some way absent given that Watson moves back in with Holmes in the next story.
  • Busman's Holiday: In both "The Adventure of the Reigate Squire" and "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot," Holmes takes a country holiday with express orders to relax, then ends up solving crimes anyway.
  • Call to Agriculture: Holmes retires to keep bees on the Sussex Downs. In "The Lion's Mane" he writes of "the soothing life of Nature for which [he] had so often yearned", a rather hypocritical statement given Holmes used to describe the countryside as the birthplace of the most horrible crimes.
  • Call-Back: In "His Last Bow", Holmes mentions the case of the king of Bohemia to von Bork in order to identify himself.
  • Cane Fu: Holmes is an expert singlestick player.
  • Career-Revealing Trait: Sherlock Holmes specializes in recognizing these traits: in his first meeting with Watson in A Study in Scarlet, he quickly determines that Watson is a military man from his stance and bearing, and judging by his deep tan and broken arm (held stiffly), is a veteran of Afghanistan.
  • The Casanova: Baron Gruner, the villain of "The Illustrious Client" is described as “extraordinarily handsome, with a most fascinating manner, a gentle voice, and that air of romance and mystery which means so much to a woman. He is said to have the whole sex at his mercy and to have made ample use of the fact.”
  • Cat Scare: A cat scares the crap out of Watson as he and Holmes are sneaking through the house of "Charles Augustus Milverton".
  • Catchphrase: "It is simplicity itself." and "You know my methods."
  • Celibate Eccentric Genius: Holmes one of the most famous examples in English-language media.
    • Mycroft as well (probably).
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Watson has his moment in "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton."
  • Chaste Hero or Celibate Hero: Holmes. He views romance and sex as a distraction, though it is implied he develops feelings for a couple of the women he encounters. And then there's his relationship with Watson...
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Foreign agent Oberstein is mentioned in "The Second Stain" and winds up playing a larger part in "The Bruce Partington Plans".
  • The Chessmaster: Moriarty and Sherlock.
  • Christmas Episode: "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle".
  • Classy Cane: Holmes, being a Victorian gentleman, would almost never leave home without his walking stick. Ditto his faithful friend and companion Dr. Watson, who actually needed his cane as a result of the wound he suffered in Afghanistan.
  • Clingy Child: "The Sussex Vampire" has Mr. Ferguson's disabled son who glomps his father with girlish enthusiasm. It's a clue that he's the attempted murderer, since he hated his new, uncrippled half-brother for taking his father's attention away from him.
  • Clothes Make the Legend: Even if the cape and hat were not really in the stories, it's hard to imagine Holmes without them.
  • Clueless Mystery: The series predates the fair play convention. As such, some clues are not announced to the reader at all (e.g. typewriter forensics), or you only receive the act of observation rather than the result of the clue (e.g. tapping something with a stick, but not telling the result or what it means). Lampshaded by Holmes in "The Crooked Man".
    Holmes: “The same may be said, my dear fellow, for the effect of some of these little sketches of yours, which is entirely meretricious, depending as it does upon your retaining in your own hands some factors in the problem which are never imparted to the reader.”
  • Combat Medic: Watson literally was this before the start of the series; he encounters Holmes after being invalided home from a tour as an army doctor in Afghanistan. He subsequently acts as both doctor and combat support for Holmes.
  • Combat Pragmatist: An interesting case: Holmes isn't above breaking the law for a good cause, but still averts this trope - the rules of boxing are sacred. Only on one occasion, when dealing with one really nasty scoundrel, does he take out a riding crop and threaten to give him a good 'thrashing 'around the ears. On the other hand, Watson, who only breaks society's rules in extreme scenarios (which, living with Holmes, has made them not that rare) will just grab a chair or a fire poker and threaten, with complete intent to use it on his opponent.
    • Milverton would also qualify, as he carries a gun around to every negotiation to avoid any physical confrontation.
    • Moriarty is the king of unfairness. He doesn't do anything himself, instead dispatching an army of professional killers to pick off his victims in the most sudden, unexpected, and brutal ways. Typically they don't even see it coming. Until, of course, in the final scenes of "The Final Problem" when he's lost everything. He just lunges at Holmes - no weapon, no nothing - with the sole intention of sending Holmes, and probably himself as well, over the Falls.
  • Compromising Memoirs: A note at the start of one of the short stories indicates that there are plenty of people who do NOT want Watson to write these stories. Many others live short lives after Holmes helps them. Conveniently letting Watson tell his tales with impunity.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Holmes refuses to believe this trope in "The Second Stain" when he is investigating the disappearance of a politician's document and the murder of a Knowledge Broker is reported. The murder took place not far from the house where the paper was stolen, during a period of time when the theft could have taken place. It turns out that the Knowledge Broker blackmailed the politician's wife into stealing it for him, and she left his house just before the murder, passing the murderer as they entered. The murder itself, however, was a pure coincidence that had nothing to do with the stolen papers.
    • Another incident that turned out to be not contrived at all occurs in "Silver Blaze". The stable boy had been drugged with powdered opium — which has a distinct flavor — which was mixed with his supper, which happened to be curry. Holmes realizes the person who drugged the food had to be a member of the household, because no stranger could have had the luck to drug the dish the very night it would be something spicy.
    • "Blue Carbuncle" is set in motion by a series of genuine coincidences. A thief caches a stolen jewel in a Christmas goose, then accidentally gets the wrong bird when trying to retrieve his loot. The bird with the jewel ends up getting sold a few times before ending up in the hands of a man who ends up dropping it while accosted by ruffians, who are driven off by one of Holmes' neighbors, who collects the bird and calls on Holmes for advice when the jewel is found by his wife while stuffing the goose for dinner.
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: In "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", Holmes uses a hot coal from the fireplace to light his pipe.
  • Counterfeit Cash: The bad guys in "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" are doing this. The engineer in question is asked to examine their metal press.
    • The goal of the criminal in The Three Garridebs is to access a building where a recently deceased counterfeiter had hidden his press.
  • Cramming the Coffin: In "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax", the villains are too squeamish to commit murder outright, so they chloroform Lady Frances and hide her in the coffin containing the body of her old nurse, which is due to be buried the next day.
  • Crime-Concealing Hobby: In The Red-Headed League, a pawnbroker's assistant is always taking pictures and running off to the darkened basement to develop them. In fact, he's digging a tunnel to the bank behind the shop.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist", the local bully makes the mistake of picking a fight with Holmes while he is gathering information at the pub. Holmes ignores him until the man backhands him. It doesn't end well for the bully.
    Holmes: I emerged as you see me [minor bruises and scratches]. Mr. Woodley went home in a cart.
  • Curtain Camouflage: In the adventure "Charles Augustus Milverton", Holmes and Watson break into a blackmailer's house and duck under a curtain when they hear Milverton coming in.
  • Deadly Gas:
    • The murder weapon in "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot", a root which causes hallucinations and terror when burned.
    • The villains in "The Greek Interpreter" attempt to use carbon monoxide to dispose of their prisoner and a witness.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sherlock Holmes himself, a trait that has proved popular in the many, many adaptations.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: In "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place", Holmes is called to investigate the strange behaviour of Lady Beatrice Falder and her brother, Sir Robert Norberton. He discovers that Lady Beatrice had died and Sir Robert had arranged for an impostor to take her place temporarily so that he could secure the family fortunes before her death became known.
  • Death by Childbirth: Implied with a man Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes are observing in "The Greek Interpreter". An ex-soldier doing his own shopping is wearing mourning clothes (implying that the person he's mourning is his wife), and the fact that one of the items he has is a rattle (at least one of his children is very young).
  • Death by Woman Scorned: In "The Second Stain", Eduardo Lucas meets his end when his wife in France comes to London and murders him.
  • Descending Ceiling: In "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb", said engineer runs afoul of some counterfeiters, and winds up getting trapped inside of their metal press.
  • Detective Patsy:
    • In "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman", the title character hires Holmes to determine what became of his runaway wife, only for Holmes to prove that he murdered her himself.
      "You certainly seem to have met every difficulty," said the inspector. "Of course, he was bound to call us in, but why he should have gone to you I can't understand."
      "Pure swank!" Holmes answered. "He felt so clever and so sure of himself that he imagined no one could touch him. He could say to any suspicious neighbour, 'Look at the steps I have taken. I have consulted not only the police but even Sherlock Holmes.'"
    • Mentioned as a possibility in "The Problem of Thor Bridge". A man hires Holmes to prove that the woman he loves is innocent of a murder she has been accused of, and more than one person expresses the belief that he's so confident she didn't do it because he did it himself. This turns out not to be the case, however.
  • Detectives Follow Footprints: In fact, Holmes has perfected it to a science and claims to have published several papers on the subject.
  • Dingy Trainside Apartment: A plot point in one story, used to explain how a dead body found on the tracks came to be found miles away despite multiple stops where people should have seen the murder. He was murdered in the apartment, and the body thrown on the train as it was passing by.
  • Dirty Coward: The true criminal in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is scared enough of the consequences of his theft that when an innocent man is accused of the crime he's willing to let the man go to prison. Holmes later exploits this by letting the man go, noting that the case against the innocent man will collapse now that the carbuncle has been found and the true thief is too frightened to ever commit a crime again.
  • Disability Alibi:
    • Subverted in the story, "The Man with the Twisted Lip". Watson asks how a crippled beggar could have killed a man in his prime, but Holmes explains the beggar merely had a limp, his arms are strong enough. The ending reveals a more convincing reason why he is innocent, he actually is the man he is accused of killing.
    • In the story "The Adventure of Black Peter": The first suspect in Peter's murder is a man who broke into his house. He claims he was looking for information about his missing father. Holmes is quick to point out to the police that such a small guy could hardly have impaled a man with a harpoon.
    • In the story "The Three Students", a university professor is certain that one of his three scholarship students went into his office and started copying down the exam text before being interrupted. Holmes quickly figures out only someone of his height or taller could have seen the papers on the desk from the window.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Sherlock frequently smokes a pipe.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • The killer in "Silver Blaze" is the titular horse, but given that his victim was about to perform an operation to lame him...
    • It's implied in the ending of "The Greek Interpreter" that Sophia Kratides took revenge on the men who tried to extort money from her and her brother and murdered him.
    • Charles Augustus Milverton was murdered by the last person he ruined.
    • The title character of "The Veiled Lodger" had been a battered wife who with the circus strongman conspired to murder her husband.
      • More generally, oppressed subjects of "Tiger of San Pedro" managed to overthrow the dictator and (eventually) murder him.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • The Asshole Victim of "The Abbey Grange" physically and verbally abused his wife regularly, which is why he was killed.
    • The titular character of "The Veiled Lodger" is a woman who was abused by her husband.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: In "The Crooked Man", a tortured and crippled soldier avoids his old love for fear of her pity.
  • Downer Ending: Quite a few stories end in a situation where every single player in the crime is a victim of another player's gainless vindictiveness; Holmes remarks that it's almost enough to make one lose his faith in God.
    • "The Five Orange Pips": Three people are killed during the story (one shortly after asking Holmes for help).
    • "The Cardboard Box": The culprit, James Browner, killed his wife and her lover and feels that he's going insane from guilt; his wife's sister, who introduced the cheating couple as revenge on Browner for spurning her, comes down with brain fever.
    • "The Final Problem": Holmes is (apparently) Killed Off for Real.
    • "The Dancing Men": Mr. Cubitt has been murdered by Mr. Slaney, who never got what he wanted and was sentenced to life at labor for it. Mrs. Cubitt lives, but her past has come back to haunt her and she's been widowed.
  • Dowry Dilemma:
    • "A Case of Identity" has a situation where a lady is looking for her recently-disappeared fiance. It turns out her stepfather was abusing her poor eyesight to play the part of the fiance, so that he could both not pay the dowry and keep her income close at hand.
    • "The Speckled Band" had a retired doctor whose primary source of income was his late wife's estate, and her will specified that her daughters from her first marriage were entitled to a third of said estate upon their marriage, causing the doctor to use unscrupulous means to keep them unwed.
    • "Copper Beeches" had a father try to browbeat his daughter into signing away her inheritance before she married so that the husband could not claim it as dowry.
  • The Dragon: Colonel Sebastian Moran to Moriarty, as well as most of his associates.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: At least one Finnish translation of "The Adventure of the Reigate Squire" mistranslates a vital clue. The words on the ripped note still alternate between the handwriting of Alec and his father, yet the order of the words is changed in a way that Alec should have written the word "twelve" — yet Sherlock still matches the handwriting with the elder Cunningham and everyone acts like he wrote it.
  • Dying Clue: In "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", the last words of a woman who died under mysterious circumstances (an apparently nonsensical rant about the titular speckled band) is the first clue revealed in that case.
    • The last words of the murdered secretary in "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez" are also a clue, though what they mean is only discovered at the very end.
  • The Edwardian Era: Some of the late mysteries happened in the early 20th century.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Done twice. Once to get a murder confession in "The Adventure of the Dying Detective", once to get the location of a stolen gem in "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone".
  • Escort Distraction: In "The Retired Colourman", Holmes takes on a retired painter's case, who wants to know where his wife has gone. A telegram comes from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, so Holmes dispatches Watson and the painter there. However, when they arrive it turns out the message was faked, forcing them to stay the night before returning to London. At the denouement it turns out Holmes was the one who sent the telegram, so as to ensure the painter wouldn't be at home for a full day, allowing Holmes to discover the painter had murdered his wife and her lover by locking them inside a gas chamber.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: "Killer" Evans, the villain in "The Three Garridebs", claims that he never killed a man who wasn't ready and able to fight back, which is why he went to the trouble of an elaborate con to get what he wants instead of just killing the target and taking it.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Moriarty to Holmes. In fact, Moriarty is probably one of the most well-known examples of this archetype.
    • Moran to Watson, as ex-military men who served in the British Army in Afghanistan and serve as a close friend and backup to geniuses on opposite sides of the law. In works where both Watson and Moran appear, this aspect is played up.
  • Evil Laugh: Wilson Kemp's high-pitched giggle that he punctuates every other sentence with in "The Greek Interpreter" fits the bill.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear:
    • In "The Speckled Band", the villain is killed by his own Animal Assassin after Holmes deflects it from its intended victim.
    • In "Silver Blaze", a man who was apparently murdered with a blunt weapon was actually killed in self-defense by the eponymous racehorse.
  • Extremely Cold Case: "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual". In the course of investigating a present-day disappearance, Holmes solves a mystery dating back to the English Civil War.
  • Facial Horror:
    • The villain of "The Illustrious Client" gets sulphuric acid tossed in his face. Watson provides a garish description of the damage.
    • In "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger", the lodger takes off her veil to show Holmes and Watson.
    • Averted in "The Man With the Twisted Lip"; the "beggar" 's scar was just stage makeup.
  • Faint in Shock:
    • In "The Adventure of the Empty House" Doctor Watson falls down in a dead faint when Holmes suddenly appears in his study after having been thought dead for three years.
    • "The Naval Treaty" ends with Trevelyan fainting when Holmes presents him with the missing treaty on a silver platter (literally).
  • Fake Faint:
    • In "A Scandal In Bohemia", Holmes (in disguise as a priest) fakes being knocked out during a fight so he can be brought into Irene Adler's house and learn where she keeps a compromising photograph.
    • In "The Reigate Squire", Holmes is in the countryside on a medically-imposed break. He suffers a few nervous attacks, which turn out to have been faked so that he could search the house unobstructed (it almost gets him killed by the criminals when they catch him red-handed, but allows them to be caught as they're strangling him).
    • In "The Resident Patient", a patient visiting a doctor fakes an attack of catalepsy to keep the doctor busy while his accomplice goes up to get at the titular resident patient (a former criminal who gave evidence against them).
      Watson: And the catalepsy!
      Holmes: A fraudulent imitation, Watson, though I should hardly dare to hint as much to our specialist. It is a very easy complaint to imitate. I have done it myself.
  • Faking the Dead: "The Man with the Twisted Lip", "The Norwood Builder", and Retconned in for The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
  • False Teeth Tomfoolery: The Dundas separation case mentioned in the beginning of "A Case of Identity", where a wife was trying to separate from her husband due to his habit of winding up every meal by taking out his false teeth and hurling them at her.
  • The Family That Slays Together: In "The Abbey Grange", it's mentioned that there's a gang called the Randalls, who are a father and two sons and are thought to have committed the murder of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. They turn out to be a Red Herring.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: In "The Adventure of the Creeping Man", there is a Czech character named Dvorak. A. Dvorak.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Baron Gruner of "The Illustrious Client", whose manner is described as "most affable... a superficial suggestion of afternoon tea with all the cruelty of the grave behind it." Holmes clarifies that Gruner's affability is that of "a purring cat who thinks he sees prospective mice."
    • Wilson Kemp in "The Greek Interpreter" has a nervous giggle that is presumably an attempt to put the person he's speaking to at ease but instead just makes him seem even slimmer, creepier and more threatening. His confederate Harold Latimer is also constantly making barely-veiled threats in a softly-spoken, seemingly polite manner.
  • Females Are More Innocent: This could be the Trope Codifier, as Sherlock Holmes never brought any woman to justice. He would always either allow them to escape or make sure no charges were filed against them. (Though in one case, letting a female culprit escape meant leaving her to the mercies of her dime-store sociopath of a boyfriend.) This courtesy was sometimes extended to men, if they were sufficiently Justified Criminals (or if they had a female accomplice, or on one occasion because the culprit was repentant and it was Christmastime).
  • Femme Fatale: The King of Bohemia tries to give the impression that Irene Adler is one, helped along by her profession as an opera singer in a time when "actress" was frequently synonymous with "prostitute," and Watson refers to her as "of dubious and questionable memory." However, she has none of the usual earmarks of the trope, particularly not regarding using sexuality to manipulate men.
  • Finger in the Mail: "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" has a pair of ears placed in a box but delivered to the wrong person.
  • Fingore: "The Engineer's Thumb" begins with an engineer asking Watson for help because his thumb was severed.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: A mildly amusing accidental example in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery": Watson, working from the clues provided by Holmes, was just going to say the murderer's name aloud when he was interrupted by the hotel waiter announcing the name of the just-arrived-visitor - who was indeed the murderer.
  • Flanderization: Inverted in the sense that the official police detectives were often portrayed as inept bunglers in the early stories, but later cases recognized their own merits and otherwise had them contribute to the case in their own ways. Sadly, many adaptations reverse this process, especially on poor Lestrade.
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: Foggy weather in London is a trademark of many stories set in late 19th century or early 20th century England, thus Sherlock Holmes' stories as well.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The imperiled client in "Speckled Band" had to survive that adventure, because Watson cites her more recent death as the reason he can now publish her story.
  • Forehead of Doom: Moriarty has one, and given the contemporary belief in phrenology he mocks Holmes for not measuring up.
  • Foreshadowing: Watson remarks in "The Sign of the Four" that "to this day [Mary Morstan] declares that [Watson] told her one moving anecdote" about firing a tiger-cub at a double-barrelled musket. This meant she would survive the adventure and be close enough to him to warrant such gentle ribbing. Indeed, she gets married to him, and what is shown of the Watsons' family life in canon is a loving one.
  • Forgets to Eat: Holmes occasionally gets so wrapped up in a case that he doesn't bother to stop for food. Other times he deliberately refrains from eating on the bizarre theory that it would inhibit his ability to think clearly by diverting energy toward the digestive system and away from the brain. Watson mentions that he has at least once starved himself to the point of actually fainting from hunger. Obviously all of this explains why he is so thin.
  • Formerly Fit: In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", Holmes's client Robert Ferguson. According to Ferguson, Watson himself also qualifies.
  • Framing Device: Holmes doing his thing is sometimes this to what basically amounts to a Watson-written drama/romance.
  • Functional Addict: Holmes uses cocaine when bored between cases. In a later story Watson implies that he eventually started becoming less functional, which prompted him to finally give the drug up. Watson himself has a mild gambling addiction.
  • Furnace Body Disposal: "Shoscombe Old Place" has the Impoverished Patrician Sir Robert spied putting a body in a furnace (and Watson confirms that a bone fragment found inside belongs to a human). However, it's not a murder as the body in question was taken from the family crypt and had been dead for centuries. The mummy was taken from the family crypt to leave a space so that Sir Robert could hide his sister's body inside: the sister had all the money and reporting her death would have led to Sir Robert's ruin. Waiting a few days allowed Sir Robert's horse to win a race that let him pay off his creditors.
  • Geek Physiques:
    • Holmes is thin as a rake, though surprisingly strong.
    • Watson is described as "thin as a lathe and brown as a nut" after first returning from his adventures in Afghanistan; he presumably develops a more comfortable physique once happily married and established in his practice.
    • Mycroft Holmes is the other extreme to his brother, being very fat with hands like flippers.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Professor James Moriarty was pretty much created solely to kill off Holmes in "The Final Problem."
  • Genius Bruiser: Holmes, while being a practiced marksman, swordsman and fist-fighter (but also a few other combat sports, such as Singlestick), also does not lack good old brute strength either. On one occasion, a client's relative threatens Holmes and Watson to back off an assignment. To intimidate them, he grabs an iron poker from beside the fireplace, and bends it with his bare hands. After he leaves, Holmes takes the same poker and bends it back into shape!
  • Genius Slob: Holmes could very well be the Trope Codifier. While always personally well-kept, Holmes's concept of organisation amounted to keeping his tobacco in the toe of his Persian slipper, his cigars in the coal-scuttle, and his unanswered letters jack-knifed to the mantelpiece, all the while conducting foul-smelling chemical experiments in his study, and even using his sitting-room walls for target practice.
  • Genius Thriller: One of the Ur Examples, probably the Trope Codifier.
  • Get It Over With: Holmes has been hunting Colonel Moran for years, and feels entitled to gloat a bit when he finally hands him over to the police. Moran agrees not to resist arrest, but doesn't see why he should have to listen to all that.
  • Giggling Villain: The bad guy that has kidnapped and tortured a victim in "The Greek Interpreter" has an unsettling giggling laugh.
  • Glowing Gem: "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle".
  • Gone Horribly Right: Holmes's experiment with the powder in "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot". It nearly causes both him and Watson to die in the same manner as the victims in that case.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: A rather vividly described evil pencil mustache belonging to Baron Gruner, the villain of "The Illustrious Client".
    Holmes: The Baron has little waxed tips of hair under his nose, like the short antennae of an insect.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Holmes isn't a bad guy, but boy he can be an ass. Made particularly clear in most adaptations.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: "The Adventure of Black Peter", "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist", "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty", and "The Final Problem".
  • Gorgeous Period Dress
    • The client from "A Scandal In Bohemia" dresses very ostentatiously.
    • In general, Holmes' meticulous observation of clues in people's clothing gave Conan Doyle justified grounds to describe their clothes in detail.
  • GPS Evidence: Hey, Holmes wrote that monograph on the many types of tobacco ash for a reason. He put that special sort of attention to detail to use, too; he could tell exactly where mud on someone's shoes came from, and used the info.

  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Mentioned in "The Blue Carbuncle", when Sherlock decides to release the man who stole the title gem: "This fellow will not go wrong again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to jail now, and you make him a jail-bird for life."
  • Hastily Hidden MacGuffin:
    • In "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons", a stolen pearl is hastily hidden in a plaster bust of Napoleon — one of a set of six, which are then sold to various customers, forcing the thief to seek out and smash them all.
    • In "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", a stolen gem is hidden by being force-fed to a live goose.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • Watson ejaculates in a couple of the books. Back then it just meant to interject a comment into a conversation.
    • Watson's friend Percy ejaculates every third paragraph in The Summation of "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty".
    • In "The Second Stain", Lestrade warns one of his officers that he would find himself "in Queer Street." This meant he would be in financial trouble back when it was written, but those unfamiliar with hundred year old British euphemisms might take that comment in a whole different direction.
    • "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place" does one better. Watson describes a suspect thusly: "a boxer, an athlete, a plunger on the turf, a lover of fair ladies, and, by all account, so far down Queer Street that he may never find his way back again.” For what it's worth, a "plunger on the turf" was a reckless gambler who preferred to bet on the horses.
    • "Very sorry to knock you up, Watson," said he, "but it's the common lot this morning. Mrs. Hudson has been knocked up, she retorted upon me, and I on you." - "The Speckled Band"note 
    • "She pulled a little handkerchief out of her muff" - "A Case Of Identity". A muff in this case being an article of women's cold-weather clothing.
    • "Thank you," said my patient. "but I have felt another man since the doctor bandaged me." - "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb". (Of course, he means he feels like another man.)
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Watson and Holmes are ostensibly the ultimate example, though the exact sexualities of both are the topic of much academic debate.
  • Historical Character's Fictional Relative: One of the few tidbits Holmes gives about his personal life (in "The Greek Interpreter") is that his grandmother was the sister of a French artist named Vernet (without specifying which of the several French artists with that name it was).
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Sherlock Holmes uses cocaine (legal in Victorian London) when he doesn't have a case, because otherwise his mind will burn out like a powerful engine running without a load (or, as he himself said "My mind is like a racing engine, tearing itself to pieces because it is not connected up with the work for which it was built"). Played straight with tobacco: he famously calls one case "quite a three-pipe problem" and solves another by sitting up all night and smoking an ounce of shag tobacco.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: In "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" there is a female character involved with the villain who ends up helping the heroes.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • In "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", Dr. Grimesby Roylott is bitten by the venomous snake he intended to use to murder his stepdaughter Helen. Holmes plays an indirect role in Dr. Roylott's death by attacking the snake with his cane and driving it back through the vent with Roylott on the other side, but notes that he's unlikely to feel much remorse over it.
    • In "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", when Jephro Rucastle is maimed by the starved mastiff he releases to kill his imprisoned daughter. Particularly appropriate, as he was the one who ordered the dog starved and imprisoned the girl.
    • In "Silver Blaze", the killer is the titular horse, whom the victim intended to make lame after betting against it.
  • Horsing Around: The Reveal in "Silver Blaze": the horse spooked and kicked the victim in the head.
  • Hyper-Awareness: One of the ways Holmes takes after C. Auguste Dupin is his belief in the powers of real observation, and as such, typically nothing gets past him.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • In "The Five Orange Pips", Holmes knows that the bad guys have killed John Openshaw's uncle and father, and that Openshaw is their next target. But he still tells Openshaw to go back home, unescorted. Unsurprisingly, the bad guys meet him on the way home and kill him (To be fair, Holmes' advice to Openshaw was to give them what they wanted because his life was in genuine danger, he just didn't expect the danger to come quite so quickly). Holmes must've been carrying the Idiot Ball that day, because there is only one other short story besides this where a person who has sought his help gets subsequently killed.
    • His experiment with the powder in "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot", which quickly becomes a case of Gone Horribly Right. After Watson barely escapes with Holmes in tow, Holmes even lampshades it:
    "It would be superfluous to drive us mad, my dear Watson. A candid observer would certainly declare that we were so already before we embarked upon so wild an experiment."
  • I Have This Friend: In "Sussex Vampire", the client is an old friend of Watson's who says he's approaching Holmes on behalf of a neighbor with a delicate problem. Holmes isn't fooled for a moment, and is amused when Watson remarks that it's just like his friend to want to help a neighbor.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In "Black Peter", the victim, an old sea captain, is harpooned through the chest with such force that he is pinned against the wall.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Lord Robert St. Simon from "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor". He comes from a long line of nobility, but he himself only owns a small estate and is largely broke. It's strongly implied that his reason for getting married to the daughter of a wealthy American is for the money that she would bring with her into the marriage.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: In "The Problem of Thor Bridge", a woman commits suicide using an elaborate method that disposes of the weapon, having already planted evidence that will frame the woman she considered a rival.
  • The Infiltration: "His Last Bow" (the in-universe last story) involves Holmes infiltrating a German spy ring for two years on the eve of the First World War and making sure they get nothing of worth and all the spies are arrested once it's too late for Germany to replace them.
  • Inner Monologue Conversation: Holmes does the C. Auguste Dupin version (deducing someone's inner monologue through observing their body language) once just to prove that he's as good as Dupin, though he describes it as "showy and superficial".
  • Inside Job: In "Silver Blaze", two of Holmes' hints are "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time" (it was completely silent) and the fact that powdered opium was put in a dish spicy enough to hide its taste. A dog would have barked at a stranger, and only a member of the household could have arranged for a spicy dish to be served on that particular night, so the trope must be in effect.
  • Inspector Lestrade: The Trope Namer, if not the Trope Maker.
  • Insufferable Genius: While rarely outwardly rude, Holmes wasn't exactly big on humility. He even says at one point: "I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers." (from "The Greek Interpreter")
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation
  • Inter-Class Romance: "A Scandal in Bohemia" has the "rich guy, common girl" romance with the Prince of Bohemia and Miss Irene Adler. Used to show how superior the resourceful and clever Miss Adler is to her "superior":
    "Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not a pity she was not on my level?"
    "From what I have seen of the lady, she seems, indeed, to be on a very different level to Your Majesty", said Holmes, coldly.
  • In the Blood: Holmes states that his amazing deductive skills and genius is hereditary, he and his brother both possessing them. He theorized it might have been because they were descended from the famous Vernet line of French painters. Interestingly, Vernet really did have a sister, who did have a few children, one of which would've had to have been a Holmes parent, legitimately or otherwise.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: And Holmes berates Watson for doing so.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In "The Lion's Mane", a man dies horribly on the day he was planning to elope with his fiancée. One of the suspects is a friend of the victim's who was in love with the same woman and is assumed to harbor some ill feeling toward his rival. After he is cleared, he explains that, once he was sure she would be happier with his friend he was content to stand aside, and even helped them arrange the elopement.
  • I Will Wait for You: Deliberately invoked in "A Case of Identity".
  • Inheritance Backlash: In "The Five Orange Pips", a guy receives a mansion from his uncle, but soon he's sent death threats from the KKK because his uncle had some papers incriminating them (unknowingly, these papers had been burnt long ago). Also note that Watson, nor the guy's nephew had any clue as to what the KKK was. Adding to the KKK's mystique is the fact that they're able to murder someone and make it look like an accident. Three people actually, and Sherlock and the Nephew are the only ones to see anything suspicious.
  • Invincible Hero: Averted, surprisingly. Holmes didn't always win.
    • In "The Five Orange Pips", Holmes freely confesses that he has been beaten four times; three times by men, and once by a woman (which is a Continuity Nod to "A Scandal In Bohemia"). And this was still early in his career. Presumably, those are just the ones where he knew who outsmarted him.
    • In the "Problem of Thor Bridge", Watson mentions his records contain many utter failures, which he only doesn't write about because Holmes's failure means that there was no resolution anyway.
    • "The Yellow Face" is a whole case about how Holmes nearly screwed the pooch but the truth was still discovered regardless; Holmes assumed that the client's wife was hiding the survival of her first husband, but in reality she was hiding the existence of her mixed-race daughter from that first marriage. Holmes ends the case by asking Watson to remind him of this incident if it ever seems like he's phoning it in again.
    "Watson", said he, "if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."
  • Insistent Terminology: Private Consulting Detective.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: At the end of "The Noble Bachelor", after explaining to Lord St. Simon that his bride-to-be was already married to a man she truly loved but had believed until recently was dead, hence why she abandoned him at the altar, he invites all the parties to the affair to join him in dinner, hoping that it might aid with reconciling the hard feelings. Lord St. Simon coldly declines and leaves. While Watson has some hard comments about his Lordship's lack of grace, Holmes does acknowledge that he does have a point about not personally finding much to celebrate about recent events, especially as they also mean that he is now denied access to a fortune.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He keeps it well hidden behind a cold, logical exterior, but Holmes isn't entirely without a heart; it usually expresses itself through his friendship with Watson. "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" presents a particularly striking example, when Holmes is moved to a panic at the idea of Watson being wounded.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Many throughout the stories, but notably the murder of the blackmailer Charles Augustus Milverton. Both Holmes and Watson saw it happen and decided to protect the murderer, who was one of Milverton's victims (the fact that Holmes and Watson were burglarizing Milverton's home at the time would also complicate matters).
    • The murderer in "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" poisoned their victims with a rare and obscure African plant, causing them to either go insane or die in nightmarish agony. The person he stole the plant from finds out what he did and, furious, tracks him down and poisons him in turn with the remainder of it.
  • Kangaroo Court: Unusually for the trope, The Abbey Grange features a version cooked up in order to release the defendant. Watson-as-jury finds the culprit not guilty (probably by virtue of his acting in immediate self-defence and the defence of an abused woman) and Holmes-as-judge lets him go. He likely would have been found not guilty by a real jury, but none of the three men wanted to see a lady's name dragged into public scandal.
  • Kick the Dog: In "The Abbey Grange" the Asshole Victim is said to have once set his wife's dog on fire.
  • The Klan: The bad guys in "The Five Orange Pips." Controversially, Holmes expresses revulsion at them at a time when they were still publicly seen as a respectable organisation.
  • Known by the Postal Address: Sherlock Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street, and this location is iconic of the series and character. There's even a reference to it in the real Baker Street in London.
  • Last-Name Basis: Sherlock and Dr. Watson even after living with and knowing each other for decades only address each other by their surnames. Men of their social class would be expected to do so in Victorian and later Edwardian England. The only person who calls Sherlock by his first name is his brother Mycroft.
  • Later Instalment Weirdness: The last book of stories (which were previously always written in first person from Watson's POV) feature two stories narrated by Sherlock Holmes himself (though still presented as his memoirs), one that was basically a play, and one in third-person narration.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: In "The Gloria Scott", Hudson was fairly certain that the first mate didn't set off the gunpowder that wrecked the ship, but one of the mutineers with bad aim.
  • Let Off by the Detective: Holmes sometimes does this, reasoning that his job is simply to find a solution to a crime. Since he's not technically a member of the police or the courts, he doesn't feel obliged to turn someone over if he thinks their motive was noble.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: combined with an invoked dose of Surprise Difficulty for Holmes at the beginning of "The Blanched Soldier", one of the few stories in the canon narrated from the perspective of Holmes himself. After being challenged by Watson to try it himself after one-too-many derisive comments and dismissive put-downs about Watson's writing, Holmes is forced to concede that turning one of his investigations into a narrative that people actually want to read is a lot harder than he gave Watson credit for.
  • Locked Room Mystery: "The Speckled Band", in which the victim is killed while locked inside her room.
  • Loser Friend Puzzles Outsiders:
    • The Boscombe Valley Mystery subverts this. Two former Australians, John Turner and Charles McCarthy, are apparently such good friends that John is letting Charles live on his land for half-rent, and there is even talk of their children marrying. McCarthy is actually blackmailing Turner due to a robbery he committed in the past, and the marriage, while mutually agreeable to both children, would have allowed McCarthy to control Turner's money.
    • Similarly, The Gloria Scott has an Old Friend of Trevor Sr. show up as The Thing That Would Not Leave, abusing his position every day until Trevor's son tries to kick him out. It turns out Trevor Sr. was an ex-criminal being blackmailed by the so-called friend.
  • Love Forgives All but Lust:
    • In The Adventure of the Illustrious Client, Holmes must find a way to prevent a marriage with a rich young woman and a depraved baron, who has already convinced her that a man of his quality has many enemies, who are happy to spread rumours about his philandering and having killed his first wife. When one of his victims fails to convince her, Holmes looks for a diary in which he counts his conquests (his "lust-diary", as Holmes calls it). Once Holmes delivers it to her (and the baron is disfigured by said former mistress), the marriage is called off.
    • In "The Problem of Thor Bridge", Gibson's Costa Rican wife is fanatically in love with him, even though he's long ceased to love her. Then when she finds out he's making advances to the governess, and even though the governess refused him, the governess has more influence over the husband than the wife does, so the wife comes up with a plan to kill herself and frame the governess for it. It almost works, and Holmes hopes Gibson will be less of a Corrupt Corporate Executive afterwards.
  • Love Martyr: Watson to Holmes, essentially. For every Friendship Moment, there are many more instances of Holmes deliberately making him feel like an idiot or asking him for a favour and then criticizing the way he does it, but Watson is eternally loyal and says that a single sign of affection from Holmes is worth all the grief he puts up with.
  • The Mafia: Older Than Television, at least as far as fiction goes, since the Mafia are mentioned in "The Six Napoleons". Doyle describes the Mafia as "a secret political society, enforcing its decrees by murder."
  • Mandatory Unretirement: In "His Last Bow", Holmes, who had retired to the country to raise bees, is revealed to have come out of retirement at the behest of the Prime Minister to catch a German spy. (Doyle wrote one more short story collection later, but in universe, "His Last Bow", set in 1914, is the last Sherlock Holmes story chronologically.)
  • Marrying the Mark: In "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", Holmes himself goes in disguise as a plumber and gets close - in fact, engaged - to Milverton's housemaid to help him gain access to the house, and the vault in which Milverton keeps the blackmail material. Watson thinks Holmes went too far, but Holmes replies with I Did What I Had to Do.
    "But the girl, Holmes?"
    He shrugged his shoulders.
    "You can't help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards as best you can when such a stake is on the table. However, I rejoice to say that I have a hated rival who will certainly cut me out the instant that my back is turned."
  • Marry the Nanny:
    • In "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist", the young lady who seeks Holmes' help was hired by Mr. Carruthers, a rich widower, to be a live-in music teacher for his daughter. Carruthers turns out to have been part of a scam to inherit Violet's fortune, but he fell In Love with the Mark and comes to her rescue near the end. Of course, the lady in question was already engaged at the time (to a character who does not actually appear in the case) and had no interest in acquiring another suitor.
    • In "Thor Bridge", Holmes makes his contempt for Gibson (who tried to make his children's nanny his mistress, while already married) very clear, and only takes the case for the girl's sake (she was accused of murdering Gibson's wife).
  • Master of Disguise:
    • Holmes often disguises himself for his investigations, and in most instances not even Watson recognizes him. Notably, Watson can't see through Holmes's disguise when he first returns to London after pretending to be dead. Watson faints when Holmes takes off his disguise.
    • Irene Adler's claim to fame, canonically, is that she actually noticed Holmes' ploy, saw through his disguise, deduced who he was - and then, just to be sure, disguised herself as a man, sped to his address in time to watch him laughing his way up the steps into 221B Baker Street, still in the disguise he'd just used on her. She then walks past, wishing him good night and using his name. Holmes himself, still drunk on how smart he is, fails to realize he's in disguise and a stranger on the street just called him by name. A fandom was born.
    • Note that Holmes' ability to see through other people's' disguises wasn't always consistent with his usual perceptiveness. Many fans choose to believe that he did see through disguises, every time: he just didn't let on unless it suited his plans to do so.
  • Master Forger: The crux of events in The Adventures the Three Garridebs is the antagonist, dangerous gunman 'Killer' Evans was in a partnership five years before the story, with one called Prescot, which ended when Evans shot him. Released from prison he attempts to get hold of the fortune in Counterfeit notes Prescot had already made. When caught he even claims he should have received a medal, as even the Bank of England couldn't tell that Prescott's notes were fakes.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: ...or maybe just karma. Either way, the murderers of "The Five Orange Pips" meet a sudden end, shortly after Holmes vows revenge.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: The Twist Ending of "The Man With the Twisted Lip" is that the man suspected of murdering the client's husband is actually the supposedly murdered man, in disguise.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: While readers may be alerted that some piece of evidence is important, the nature of the evidence might not be known until near the end of the story. Of course, this could be dismissed as an Unreliable Narrator who tells the story from their point of view rather than getting the information from Holmes.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Not entirely, but Holmes is very thin yet surprisingly strong. For example, in "The Speckled Band", he laments that Dr. Grimsby Roylett left before Holmes could show him that he could bend the fireplace poker (which Roylett bent into a curve) back into its original form.
  • Mutually Unequal Relationship: In "The Musgrave Ritual", Holmes theorizes that this is what happened to the butler, who was found dead in an underground vault. Brunton had a history as The Casanova, and had previously been affiliated with a maid named Howells, but soon took up with another girl. Howells was seen acting strangely on the day Brunton was reported missing, and disappeared herself soon afterwards. Holmes believes Brunton thought Howells was still devoted to him, got her help to enter the vault, and only when she realized her chance for revenge (it's implied he got her pregnant) was right there did she slam the door on him.
    Holmes: This girl had been devoted to him. A man always finds it hard to realize that he may finally have lost a woman's love, however badly he may have treated her.
  • My Card: Due to the Victorian setting, it's common for men to use business cards.
  • My Greatest Failure: "The Yellow Face", in which Holmes forms a plausible theory for the solution that turns out to be utterly wrong. Downplayed in that not much actual harm is done as a result, but Holmes still comes out looking humbled (to his credit, he asks Watson to remind him of this if ever he looks to be half-assing a case in the future). Watson mentions that there were other cases where Holmes failed, but he doesn't write about them for the simple reason that where Holmes failed often nobody succeeded and a case without a resolution would be narratively unsatisfying; "Yellow Face" was written as an example of a situation where Holmes erred but the truth was still discovered.
  • Mysterious Past: Sherlock Holmes himself. Watson often wondered what set of circumstances could've produced Holmes, and Holmes never gave away anything about his history, larger family (except his brother), or education. We only know he's descended from French artists and British country squires. He went to University for two years, and has a brother, which doesn't even begin to explain all his weirdness. Then again, we actually learn even less about Watson (Father was fairly well off, dead before start of the series, elder brother was a wastrel who wasted his inheritance and drank himself to death) - but of course Holmes has way more strangeness to account for. Explaining Holmes' mysterious past is a common topic in pastiche and fanfiction.
  • Never Found the Body: Even though Conan Doyle fully intended to kill Holmes for real in "The Final Problem", he was savvy enough to use this trope, so when he changed his mind and decided to bring Holmes back, his death was easy to retcon away. The trope also applies to Moriarty, but he was never resurrected.
  • Nice Hat: Originated in Sidney Paget's illustrations, and has become a fixture of the character's pop-cultural image, even if he only wore it once.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • In the "Red-Headed League", if John Clay had kept the League running for two more weeks as a cover, Jabez Wilson would not have gotten suspicious and gone to Holmes, who in turn would not have been able to foil his heist.
    • Similarly, in "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder", Jonas Oldacre's plan to frame McFarlane for killing him was so good that even Holmes believed McFarlane might have done it; he only realized the truth when Oldacre tried to plant additional evidence against McFarlane, in the form of a bloody thumbprint on the wall of Oldacre's main hall, when Holmes knew for a fact there hadn't been such a mark there the day before.
  • No Antagonist:
    • In "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" Lord St. Simon's bride goes missing shortly after their wedding. At first a former lover of St. Simon's is suspected. But it turns out the bride's first husband, whom she believed dead, showed up at the wedding and she decided to just abscond with him.
    • In "The Missing Three-Quarter", Holmes is asked to look for a rugby player who's gone missing. It turns out that the athlete left to visit his dying wife and didn't tell anyone.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Charles Augustus Milverton is based off of a real life (alleged) blackmailer, Charles Augustus Howell.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In "The Gloria Scott", two men are blackmailed by an Ungrateful Bastard whose life they saved years earlier.
  • Noodle Implements:
    • "The Reigate Squire", where thieves broke in a rich landowner's home and made off with "an odd volume of Pope's Homer, two plated candlesticks, an ivory letter-weight, a small oak barometer, and a ball of twine". They actually have nothing to do with the real crime, the burglars were looking for certain legal papers and grabbed random stuff off the desk to make it look like a break-in.
    • "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" opens with a threat to whoever has been attempting to steal Watson's papers that if the attempts continue, he'll publicise the full details regarding "the politician, the lighthouse and the trained cormorant".
    • Occasional references are made to Noodle Clues from unpublished cases, such as one Holmes solved by winding a dead man's watch, or another solution based on how far some parsley had sunken into the butter on a hot daynote .
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Several cases are referred to by name, but never explained. For example, "the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives", and "the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared."
    • Also, in "The Red Circle", the reason Sherlock admires Pinkerton Detective Leverton is because of a "Long Island cave mystery".
    • "The Second Stain" was occasionally referred to by Watson, but when the actual story came out it had nothing to do with the previously alluded-to version.
    • In "The Priory School", Holmes mentions that he and Watson are in the middle of the case of the Ferrars document, while another of his cases, the Abergavenny murder, is coming up for trial.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Adaptations vary in how they pronounce Lestrade's name, it can rhyme with 'hard' or with 'aid'.
  • Not So Stoic:
    • Holmes in "The Three Garridebs", after Watson gets hurt.
    • There are a few minor examples of Holmes' unshockable demeanour being cracked by a sufficiently out-of-the-blue revelation: "The Adventure if the Noble Bachelor," when Watson reads that the bride went missing; "The Second Stain," when Watson tells him he won't be able to talk to one of his suspects, because he's dead; and "The Man with the Twisted Lip," when the wife of a man thought to be dead announces she's just had a letter from him.
    • Holmes's initial exclamation after Watson saves his life after the near-disastrous experiment with the powder in "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" is specifically noted as a case of this by Watson.

  • Obfuscating Insanity: Holmes himself, in "The Adventure of the Dying Detective".
  • Oddball in the Series:
    • Two of the last stories Doyle wrote ("The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" and "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane") are narrated by Holmes, and the latter does not feature Watson at all.
    • "The Mazarin Stone", by virtue of being adapted from a stage play, is written in third person. Watson also barely shows up, as the original stage play didn't feature him.
    • "His Last Bow" is also written in the third person, and is written much more as a spy story rather than a mystery.
    • "How Watson Learned The Trick" was a special publication for a national event, only a few paragraphs long, and also in third person.
  • Oh, Crap!: In "The Illustrious Client", Watson has this reaction when he sees the headline "Murderous Attack upon Sherlock Holmes". He's so shocked and horrified he forgets to pay the newspaper vendor.
  • Old Friend: After being essentially absent for 6 books, Tobias Gregson treats Holmes like one when they meet up in "The Adventure of the Red Circle".
  • On One Condition: In "The Three Garridebs", a will stipulates that a man with the extremely rare surname Garrideb will inherit a property provided that he can find two other people with the same surname. The property will be split between the three of them. However, just two Garridebs would get nothing. The trope turns out to have been purposefully invoked by the villain, who made the whole thing up for his own purposes.
  • Only a Flesh Wound:
    • Subverted. Doyle (unsurprisingly given that he was a doctor) accurately treats Watson's wound in Afghanistan as highly physically debilitating. Unfortunately, he could rarely remember exactly where the wound was...
    • And then there's the time in "The Three Garridebs" when it was only a flesh wound, giving us a heartwarming moment when we see Holmes really and truly frightened at the thought of Watson being hurt.
  • Only Child Syndrome: "The Sussex Vampire" has a young boy deal very badly with the birth of his half-brother to the point of trying to murder him with a curare dart, even more so when the baby is perfectly healthy when the older one has a spinal injury.
  • Only Friend: Holmes's idiosyncrasies and general lack of interest in other humans except as puzzles ensures that Watson is his entire social circle. In later stories he acquires other contacts that he gets along with, but none so well as Watson.
  • Only in It for the Money: Holmes' primary motivation for becoming the King of Bohemia's henchman, in 'A Scandal In Bohemia.' God knows there wasn't a shred of honour in it. Although a later radio adaptation does have Holmes also point out in his defence that a man who's already gone to the lengths the King has tried to get the photo back isn't likely to baulk at eventually deciding on more drastic measures, and at least if he gets involved he can get it back with a minimum of fuss and harm to Miss Adler.
  • Opium Den: Watson goes to one in "The Man With the Twisted Lip" to retrieve a friend who has become an opium addict. He then finds Holmes, who is there in a different case.
  • Orgy of Evidence: In "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder", there is already considerable evidence incriminating the suspect in the eyes of the police, but the clincher is a bloody thumbprint of the suspect on the wall. Holmes finds this suspicious, especially as he had carefully searched that hall the day before, and there had been no bloody thumbprint there, making the clue in his eyes proof that it was a setup.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Watson, who is intelligent and capable in his own right; he just pales in comparison to Holmes.
  • Overprotective Dad: Decidedly not Played for Laughs: Several stories feature a father or stepfather forbidding the young lady to go out, usually because she has an independent source of income that goes to the parents while she still lives with them. Steps taken to ensure they remain single include forbidding them to go out, impersonating the daughter to allay suspicion on the fiancé's part, acting the part of fiancé, and outright murder.
  • Pet Positive Identification: Holmes has solved more than one case by observing the behaviour of pets around their owners and/or the owner's imposter:
    • In Holmes' adventure of Silver Blaze, the stables' guard dog doesn't bark, showing that it was familiar with the man who took the titular horse from his stall: namely, John Straker.
    • Holmes uses a dog to help solve The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place. When released, the dog bounds towards his mistress' carriage, but snaps angrily at her when he gets close. Holmes realizes that the "woman" is an imposter — actually her brother in disguise. The man had given the dog away in order to avoid such a reveal.
  • Pinkerton Detective: In "The Red Circle" one has come from America to catch an Italian criminal.
  • Pinned to the Wall: In "The Adventure of Black Peter", the eponymous Black Peter is found pinned to the wall of a shed by a harpoon.
  • Plucky Girl: Violet Hunter from "Copper Beeches", whose own inquisitiveness uncovers all the clues needed to solve the mystery, and who single-handedly locks Mrs. Toller in the cellar to give Holmes and Watson the opportunity to search the house.
  • Police Are Useless: In the early stories, the men of Scotland Yard were a collection of incompetent dullards who'd have trouble catching a cold, much less a criminal. Holmes' dim view of the police was actually Truth in Television at the time, such as fouling up the investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders, and as the real-life police took steps to improve their investigative techniques, their depictions in the stories also improved to the point where Inspector Gregson was praised for his courage and Inspector Lestrade was a more thorough investigator who simply lacked Holmes' Hyper-Awareness. The police were also generally portrayed as having their own merits and being capable of solving the everyday cases that were beneath Holmes' notice. However, in "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge", the country detective Baynes is nearly up to Holmes' standard for observation (finding and analysing the crumpled note in the fireplace) and tactical cleverness (the false arrest). Holmes handsomely congratulates him, saying "You will rise high in your profession."
  • Post-Adventure Adventure: Dr. Watson does this a lot. Many of the stories include references to other cases Holmes solved previously which never actually appear in the canon; such references serve either as this or as a Noodle Incident. (Many of these have since been taken up by pastiche authors.) Holmes himself will also allude to such cases from time to time, such as in this remark he makes in "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire":
    "Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson... It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared."
  • Post-Victory Collapse: Holmes at the beginning of "The Reigate Puzzle".
  • Prejudice Aesop: The Adventure of the Yellow Face contains a remarkably progressive anti-racist message for its time. The client hires Holmes to find out why his wife keeps asking him for money and not revealing what it is for. He also spies her making visits to a cottage and spots someone with a hideous jaundiced and deformed face from the window. He suspects a blackmailing plot, but when Holmes enters the cottage and confronts the yellow-faced individual, it is revealed to be a young black child wearing a mask. Turns out the wife was previously in an interracial marriage before her husband died, and she has been hiding their child out of fear that her current husband will leave her if he finds out that she was married to a black man. The story ends with the client picking up the child, kissing the young girl, and saying "I am not a very good man, Effie, but I think that I am a better one than you have given me credit for being."
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: In "The Solitary Cyclist", a man in love with Holmes's pretty, young client interrupts the story's villain forcing the girl to marry him.
    Villain: You're too late. She's my wife.
    Admirer: No, she's your widow.
    And then shoots him. Subverted in that the villain survives.
  • Private Detective: One of the first to popularize the genre. However, Holmes describes himself as a Consulting Detective, which he claims is different from an ordinary Private Eye— he takes the cases that are too hard for the Police Detectives and Private Investigators.
  • Professor Guinea Pig:
    • In "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot", Holmes' working hypothesis is that some unusual ashes he discovers become, when burned, a powerful poison. He tests his hypothesis... by burning the ashes while Holmes and Watson sit down and find out if they get poisoned or not. Holmes does take precautions, but even so appears to underestimate the possible potency of the poison, and only quick action by Watson saves both of their lives.
    • The man who introduces Holmes and Watson to each other notes that Holmes would be perfectly willing to inject someone with poison to document its effects... although in fairness, he'd have no problem testing it on himself. Sure enough, at their first meeting Holmes pricks himself without hesitation to have some blood for a forensic test.
  • The Profiler: Both Holmes and Watson often fancy themselves to be this, sometimes correct and sometimes not.
  • Psycho Serum: In "The Adventure of the Creeping Man", the title character is revealed to be taking a rejuvenating serum derived from monkeys, which as a side effect causes him to take on the attributes of a monkey.
  • Public Secret Message: Multiple examples. Conan Doyle seemed to like this one.
    • In "The Adventure of the Red Circle", someone places ads in the London Daily Gazette' "agony column" to send secret messages.
    • "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" also features messages in an agony column as a clue, this time in the Daily Telegraph.
    • In "The Adventure of the Dancing Men", a series of dancing stick figures appeared in several locations visible to anyone who passed by. Holmes decides the figures represent letters and decodes the message.
  • Purple Prose: Holmes accuses Watson's writing style of being this. He's forced to admit that writing it in a decidedly more clinical style does in fact make for a less interesting read.
  • Put on a Bus: Poor Mary throughout most of The Memoirs. Then, in "The Empty House", we're given an indirect indication that the bus crashed.
  • Rail Enthusiast: Watson can recite the rail schedules off the top of his head.
  • Real Fake Wedding: Inverted in "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist", where the groom claims the pastor (and therefore the wedding) was legitimate. Holmes replies that even if the pastor was real (doubtful at best) the forced wedding won't hold up in court.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Of the Spontaneous Eloquent Monologue type. Watson notes that several passages have been edited for clarity to avoid repetitions and hesitations by clients.
  • Recursive Canon: Watson and Holmes are both aware in-universe that Watson is writing and publishing stories about Holmes's career. Holmes disapproves of the sensationalistic tone of Watson's stories.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The two main antagonists in "The Solitary Cyclist": Bob Carruthers and Jack Woodley. Carruthers is a soft-spoken, seemingly kind-hearted man (blue) and Woodley is a boastful bully (red).
  • Remember the New Guy?: Professor Moriarty is introduced in "The Final Problem", written after two novels and two prior short story collections, as the archnemesis Holmes has been hunting for years.
  • Repulsive Ringmaster: In "The Veiled Lodger", ringmaster Mr. Ronder was a drinker and a fiend, whom his battered wife and the circus strongman killed and made it look like the circus lion had attacked. The scheme worked too well and Mrs. Ronder barely survived the lion's attack and was disfigured for life.
  • Retcon:
    • Remember that for seven years after "The Final Problem" was published, Holmes was dead, then Arthur Conan Doyle's publishers offered him enough money that he wrote "The Empty House".
    • It is implied that Watson does this all the time to avoid lawsuits.
    • "The Adventure Of The Second Stain" is first mentioned in "The Adventure Of The Naval Treaty". Watson recounts how it involved so many of Britain's highest noble families, and involved Holmes explaining the true solution to the French detective M. Dubuque and the German detective Fritz Von Waldbaum. The version of "The Adventure Of The Second Stain" that is actually published is a completely different story (while French and German characters are named, they're foreign agents living in London and have no bearing on the case).
  • Retired Badass: Holmes himself in "The Lion's Mane" and "His Last Bow," both of which take place after he retired to keep bees.
  • Revenge via Storytelling: In "The Three Gables", a Mrs. Maberley is being harassed into leaving her home and everything in it. Holmes figures out they're actually after her recently-deceased son's luggage, which contains a manuscript in which an innocent young man is entrapped by a cruel woman. Obviously the story is the author's own with the names changed (Holmes notes that at the climax, the narrator switches to "my" rather than "his"), which he wrote as revenge for getting dumped by Rich Bitch Isadora Klein. Holmes agrees not to press charges against her or cause a scandal (Klein is about to get married to a nobleman almost two decades younger), but in exchange for a large sum which he gives to Mrs. Maberley so she can travel around the world.
  • Riches to Rags: Dr. Watson's older (deceased) brother, who inherited a good amount of money, but threw it all away and lived in poverty (with short intervals of prosperity) before dying after turning to drink. Holmes deduces all this by simply looking at Watson's watch, which he inherited from his brother.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A few stories were based on actual crimes, such as "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton"
  • Rule of Drama: Lampshaded — Holmes mildly disapproves of the way Watson relates the cases so as to prioritise their suspense rather than coolly laying out the logic by which they were solved, but they agree to disagree. Once Holmes takes to narrating his own adventures, he's confronted with the same problem.
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: In the first story, it's revealed that Holmes has no literary knowledge beyond modern crime literature, and when Watson explains the makeup of the solar system to him, he is interested, but immediately comments that he will "do his best to forget it." Why? Because Holmes reasons that there is only so much you can hold in your head, and he needs only what is required for his profession. This was later ignored by Doyle. Despite apparently having nil knowledge of literature, Holmes is able to quote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the original and is familiar with Thomas Carlyle. Perhaps Holmes just had one of those "famous quote each day" novelty calendars?
    • Then again, he's explicitly said once that he will read some Petrarch; and he's known to have discussed some strictly linguistic problems with no possible bearing on any crime whatsoever.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: This trope is Lampshaded by Holmes when he lets James Ryder go in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle". Holmes notes that Ryder is already a nervous wreck after everything he's been through, and that he's too scared to ever commit a crime again. Putting Ryder in jail would only make him a jailbird for life, but letting him go after very nearly being ruined will keep him from ever doing wrong again. In any event, the greater good would be served since Holmes would be able to ensure the man Ryder framed would be found innocent of the crime.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Holmes LOVES this trope. Made particularly clear in "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" where he convinces someone to wait for the police (which would take 24 hours to get a warrant) before breaking and entering the house of a conman in search of his kidnapped loved one... only for him and Watson to arrive to the conman's house and hold him at gunpoint while they search for the kidnapped person.
    "Where is your warrant?"
    Holmes half drew a revolver from his pocket. "This will have to serve till a better one comes."
    "Why, you are a common burglar."
    "So you might describe me", said Holmes cheerfully. "My companion is also a dangerous ruffian. And together we are going through your house."
  • Secret Other Family:
    • The expense of maintaining one is the motive in "Silver Blaze".
    • In a rare subversion, this also produces the heartwarming conclusion in "The Yellow Face".
    • Eduardo Lucas maintains one in France. This proves to be his undoing.
  • Secret Relationship: This turns out to be at the bottom of "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter"; the missing man is secretly married to a woman of a lower social class, and can't reveal it or his uncle will disinherit him. When she becomes fatally ill, he simply disappears so he can go to her without having to explain.
  • Self-Deprecation: "How Watson Learned the Trick" an original short story (very short, 503 words) written by Conan Doyle himself but not generally considered part of the Sherlock Holmes canon. In it, Watson decides to use Holmes's own methods of deductive reasoning against him, employing his own Sherlock Scan to deduce what Holmes is up to based on a single glance while at breakfast. After congratulating him, Holmes ends the story by explaining how Watson is totally wrong.
  • Sentenced to Down Under:
    • This is what happened to a character in "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott". However, he and his fellow convicts rebel and seize control of the ship before they reach Australia.
    • James Wilder's fate at the end of "The Priory School" after attempting to take his half-brother hostage.
  • Separated by a Common Language
    • "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" uses this for a plot point. Holmes is able to divine from the spelling of the word "plow" (in British English, "plough") and a couple of vocabulary choices that an advertisement purportedly from an Englishman is actually from an American.
    • Used for humour in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"
    Lord St. Simon: Lady St. Simon said something about ‘jumping a claim.’ She was accustomed to use slang of the kind. I have no idea what she meant.
    Holmes: American slang is very expressive sometimes.note 
    • In "His Last Bow", Holmes, who has disguised himself as an Irish-American, expresses his contempt for American vocabulary (according to von Bork, "he seems to have declared war on the King's English as well as the English King").
    Holmes: I shall no doubt reappear at Claridge’s tomorrow as I was before this American stunt — I beg your pardon, Watson, my well of English seems to be permanently defiled — before this American job came my way.
    • Occasional uses of "outhouse" in the British sense (i.e. a shed, barn, or other subsidiary building) can give American readers a chuckle, imagining fugitives hiding out in, police rigorously searching, or Holmes himself proposing to reach a window by clambering atop an enclosed outdoor toilet.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Sometimes Watson's war wound is in his shoulder, and sometimes it's in his leg.
    • In "The Adventure of the Twisted Lip", Mary Watson calls her husband "James".
    • In "The Final Problem", Watson doesn't know who Moriarty is, so Holmes has to explain it to him. However, in "The Valley of Fear", which was written after "The Final Problem" but takes place before it, Holmes already informs him about Moriarty and his terrible deeds, so Watson should've known about him in "The Final Problem". Of course, since "The Final Problem" is an account by Watson and he knows it will be the reader's first encounter with Moriarty, so there's no reason he couldn't insert a "fictitious" section introducing Moriarty for our benefit.
    • In "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty", Watson refers to another case he hasn't yet written about, "The Adventure of the Second Stain". He mentions some interesting facts about the case, specifically that the case "implicates so many of the first families in the kingdom that for many years it will be impossible to make it public", and that it involved "Monsieur Dubuque of the Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the well-known specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their energies upon what proved to be side-issue". "The Adventure of the Second Stain" was finally published 11 years later, but it turns out that only one "first family" was implicated in the case, and there's no mention of Dubuque or Waldbaum in the story, nor does it seem very likely that anyone in Paris or Dantzig was ever involved in investigating the case.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Holmes liked to dress well and, as noted above, in the books would never wear countrywear in the city.
  • Sherlock Can Read: The Trope Namer - In "The Adventure of the Yellow Face", Sherlock Holmes stuns the client of the day by giving his name before he'd introduced himself.
    Holmes: My dear Mr. Grant Munro—
    Munro: What! You know my name?
    Holmes: If you wish to preserve your incognito, I would suggest that you cease to write your name upon the lining of your hat, or else that you turn the crown towards the person you are addressing.
  • Sherlock Scan: The Trope Namer - Sherlock's favourite marketing shtick, a perfect means to impress potential clients as to his skills.
  • Shipper on Deck: ("The Adventure of the Copper Beeches") Watson has brief hopes for his friend and Violet Hunter, an independent-minded governess with a remarkable knack for observation. He's disappointed when Holmes loses all interest in the woman after the case is solved.
  • Shotgun Wedding: A literal one in "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist".
  • Shout-Out: Holmes often tosses off a pithy quotation at the end of the early stories. Goethe is a favourite source.
    • In "The Cardboard Box" Holmes mentions a "sketch by Poe" about a detective executing a particularly impressive Sherlock Scan to read the train of thought of his companion by his body language, and goes on to show that he's capable of doing it too. This is a reference to The Murders in the Rue Morgue, often considered the Trope Maker of the detective genre (and, evidently, of the Sherlock Scan).
  • Signature Instrument: Sherlock is famous for playing the violin. This is one of his more innocuous eccentricities.
  • Simple Solution Won't Work: Watson's objections of "just arrest him" are often shot down by Holmes, who point out that the evidence they have is too tenuous, or that arresting the leader of a criminal conspiracy immediately would result in the smaller fry getting away.
  • A Sinister Clue: Holmes is able to finger the murderer in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" because the blow to the victim's head was delivered when the murderer was directly behind him, with the blow occuring on the left side of the head.
  • Slave to PR: The Duke of Holdernesse in "The Adventure of the Priory School", who would rather leave his young son in the hands of kidnappers than allow his family unhappiness become public.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: The stories can be read in any order (with a very few notable exceptions like The Final Problem and The Empty House). And after the first few stories, they aren't all set in the order they were written in, anyway. Conan Doyle deliberately wrote them like this so that readers would not quit following the series just because they had missed a story or two.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • Ronald Adair in "The Adventure of the Empty House". It's heavily implied that he caught his card partner Colonel Moran cheating and threatened to expose him unless he resigned his membership. Since Moran relied on his cheating as income, he murdered Adair. The unique circumstances (such as the bullets) tip off Holmes, creating a situation where he could put Moran away for good and return to London, starting off the third set of short stories: The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
    • Eduardo Lucas in "The Second Stain". He was killed the night before the story begins, but he is responsible for the main plot going into motion by blackmailing Lady Hilda into stealing one of her husband's documents.
  • Snakes Are Evil: Holmes compares Moriarty's shifty gaze to that of a snake. When describing Milverton, a particularly odious blackmailer, he claims he gets the same impression as when looking at the snakes at the zoo.
  • Sounding It Out: Inverted: Watson will ask Holmes what a letter says, and rather than tell him, Holmes will hand it over so the full text can appear in Watson's narration.
  • Spanner in the Works: "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty" features Joseph Harrison, the brother of Percy Phelps' fiancee stealing an important treaty. He hides it under the floorboards in his bedroom, intending to sell it to the French or Russian Embassies later, but before he can Percy comes home after suffering a nervous breakdown over the treaty's theft. Joseph ends up kicked out of his own room, where Percy goes to rest, and the treaty remains hidden under the floorboards where Joseph can't reach it. This prevents the treaty from being sold long enough for Percy to recover from his fever and enlist the help of Holmes.
  • Spicy Latina: Isadora Klein in "The Three Gables" (Spanish), Mrs. Ferguson in "The Sussex Vampire" (Peruvian), and Mrs. Gibson in "Thor Bridge" (Brazilian), are all noted for great beauty and Hot-Blooded personality.
  • Spin-Off: Recurring characters Mycroft Holmes, Irene Adler and Lestrade all have their own authorized series of non canonical books, with varying degrees of success.
  • Spiteful Suicide: This is the solution to "The Problem of Thor Bridge" — the victim killed herself in such a way as to frame her rival in love for the murder.
  • Stab the Picture:
    • In "The Retired Colourman", Holmes's client is a man whose wife ran off with his best friend and his money. Watson observes him violently tearing up a picture of her. It turns out that he murdered her.
    • "The Norwood Builder" mentions a woman's photograph as being "shamefully mutilated" by a jealous ex-fiancé (she'd broken off the engagement on hearing of his shocking cruelty). Sure enough, the man tried to have her son executed for his faked murder.
  • Stealth Insult: See Inter-Class Romance above for what Holmes says when the King of Bohemia expresses regret that Irene Adler was a commoner not at his "level".
    • In "The Boscombe Valley Mystery":
    Lestrade: I find it hard enough to tackle facts, Holmes, without flying away after theories and fancies.
    Holmes: You are right, you do find it very hard to tackle the facts.
  • A Storm Is Coming: "His Last Bow", which was written in 1917 and set in August 1914 just a few days before Britain's entry into World War I, ends with Holmes anticipating what is to come.
    Holmes: There's an east wind coming, Watson.
    Watson: I think not, Holmes. It is very warm.
    Holmes: Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind has never blown on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.
  • Strictly Formula: Not the stories themselves, but Watson notes on reading a newspaper article about a divorce that he already knows what it's about: a drunken husband, who pushes his wife one time too many, and a sympathizing landlady. But in this case, he's Wrong Genre Savvy: Holmes was involved in the case because the husband was in the habit of throwing his false teeth at his wife.
  • The Strongman: In "The Veiled Lodger", the wife of a travelling circus had an affair with the circus strongman and conspired with him to murder her abusive husband. He made a club that left wounds similar to a lion's paw, the plan being to crush his skull and blame the lion but it all went wrong, the husband was killed and the lion blamed, but the wife ended up horribly disfigured.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: In "The Problem of Thor Bridge", a woman is suspected of murdering her employer's wife; it turns out that the wife committed suicide after planting evidence pointing to the woman she considered her rival, and having devised a method for the murder weapon to be removed from the scene after it had done its work.
  • Talk About the Weather: Lestrade resorts to this once, where the case is very odd and he's not sure he should tell Holmes.
  • Techno Babble: In "The Missing Three-Quarter", the captain of a rugby team rattles off a massive speech of rugby terms that explains why his team is screwed if Holmes doesn't find his missing three-quarter.
  • Thanatos Gambit: In "The Problem of Thor Bridge", the wife, jealous of the governess that her husband has fallen in love with, rigs up an elaborate suicide that is intended to frame the governess for murder.
  • There Should Be a Law: Holmes' reaction to the perpetrator, who has technically broken no law, in "A Case of Identity."
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Very occasionally, Watson is allowed to figure things out for himself. For instance, in "The Norwood Builder" Holmes performs a Sherlock Scan on their client, and Watson manages to determine how Holmes reached his conclusions before Holmes tells him (McFarlane's untidiness of attire shows he is a bachelor, the sheaf of legal papers confirm his profession, the watch-charm indicates that he is a Freemason, and the breathing reveals that he is asthmatic).
    • "The Adventure of the Second Stain": Lestrade actually catches the right killer without Holmes having to tell him.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: In "The Retired Colourman", the title character's wife has disappeared and is thought to have run away with her lover; Holmes proves that he murdered her (and the supposed lover).
  • Time Skip: The skip between "The Final Problem" (set in 1891) and "The Empty House" (set in 1894). Canonically, Holmes spent this period travelling the world.
  • Too Clever by Half: Brunton, the butler from "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual".
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Sherlock Holmes pretty famously became a bigger asshole than he ever was before from "The Empty House" and onward. Given that Doyle hadn't wanted to resurrect the character, it's hard not to see this change as a result of his bitterness.
  • Total Party Kill: The fate of all the honest crew on the Gloria Scott and then a second time shortly afterwards, with the mutineers, as well as the entire ship.
  • Treasure Map: "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual". However, given that the map's directions gave the starting point derived from the shadow of one tree when the sun was above a second tree as they were nearly two and a half centuries before the map was used (They would have grown, changing both the angle of the sun and the length of the object casting the shadow - given that they weren't the same kind of tree, they might not have grown at the same rate, further complicating the issue), and the directions were given in the highly inaccurate paces (Holmes has noted that the length of a man's pace is directly related to his height many times, and the idea that Holmes' legs are the same length as the legs of the man who made the map is a bit of a stretch, even if it was noted the man who followed the map was rather tall), the fact that they actually found the treasure is rather surprising.
  • Truth In Literature:
    • Doyle himself would go on to investigate, Sherlock Holmes style, the cases of two men who had been wrongly imprisoned and found the evidence to set them free.
    • The examination of a victim's clothes for clues and the use of plaster to make impressions of marks on the ground was first done in the stories and later became a real-life procedure.
  • TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Vocabulary: In "The Crooked Man", the deceased's wife is heard to shout "David! David!" Turns out the David in question was deceased a little over twenty-eight centuries.

  • Uncertified Expert: The criminal of The Dying Detective is stated by Holmes to be an expert in tropical diseases, not because he's a doctor, but because his plantations in southeast Asia put him in daily contact with them. This allows him to kill his victims with diseases the average London doctor (including Watson) has never heard of.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: A major part of "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist". A fake one is used in "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" and "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder".
  • Unreliable Narrator: Holmes accuses Watson of being one to some extent. Specifically, how Watson ramps up the suspense element instead of the logic, which probably means Holmes' infuriating habit of making Watson wait until the end of the case to hear the solution (and Watson's own cluelessness up to that point) are both narrative inventions of Watson's. Holmes also criticises the general portrayal of himself as an infallible supergenius.
    • Considering Watson openly admits to having mixed up narratives in ordinary conversation at a tense moment (e.g. firing a tiger cub at a double-barrelled shotgun rather than vice versa), it could be argued that he accuses himself of being one, too.
    • Many Holmes scholars have noted that people and places Watson gives in his accounts - villages, street names, British nobility, etc simply don't exist. We can only assume that Watson created false names for the sake of client confidentiality, which makes sense since Holmes wouldn't be in demand if all the world knew of his clients' personal problems. The King of Bohemia as described in "A Scandal in Bohemia" is from an entirely fictitious Royal House (The real life king of Bohemia was also king of Hungary, Croatia, and Emperor of Austria) and therefore has to be a stand in for some other European monarch a subject rife for fan speculation, but King Edward VII is the most popular choice. Said King is about to be married to the second Princess of Scandinavia - when Scandinavia was not (and, in fact, has never beennote ) a single country.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Setting up culprits to incriminate themselves, Holmes never lets Watson or the police in on what he's planning. Often, they (and readers) don't even have any idea which culprit he's expecting will show up.
    • Note that "A Scandal in Bohemia", Holmes' most well-known failure to catch a culprit, involves Holmes telling Watson and his client his plan in exact detail, only for it to be foiled.
    • Similarly, "The Yellow Face" has Holmes give Watson his conclusion regarding the mysterious masked man's identity before the end of the story, and later proven wrong (it's not the woman's dead husband but their daughter). This being the case that Holmes asks Watson to remind him of if ever he starts taking things too lightly.
  • The Uriah Gambit: "The Crooked Man", with the Trope Namer being discussed at the end.
  • Unbuilt Trope: By now, even ardent fans of the series are used to the classic image of Holmes as the genius "superhero detective" who stands up for justice and battles criminals and evil geniuses. The series shows many tropes that are now familiar in the genre.
    • Asshole Victim: Several times; see the Asshole Victim entry above.
    • Defective Detective: Holmes' eccentricities are portrayed very differently from more modern depictions of the detective. While the modern Defective Detective can credit much of their forensic skills to their eccentricities, they also at times hinder the detective.
    • Forensic Drama: Holmes simply explains all of his forensic analysis at the end, with the reader seldom privy to intermediate steps.
    • Police Procedural: Sherlock Holmes, a private detective, is seldom described doing the same procedure exactly the same way. He is also wildly inconsistent on whether or not he does detailed interviews of witnesses. The police, who do follow a set procedure, generally don't get the job done.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: In "The Problem of Thor Bridge" Watson mentions at least three cases even Holmes could not solve. He even justifies not publishing them because: "A problem without a solution may interest the student, but can hardly fail to annoy the casual reader."
    • Holmes mentions a few that were unsolved at a time, but that he proceeds to resolve in the current story.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The Swiss messenger who lures Watson away in "The Final Problem" was formerly the trope namer.
  • Vehicle-Roof Body Disposal: The Ur-Example and Trope Maker is "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans". The killer deposited the corpse on top of a train that was stopped outside the window of the flat where the murder was committed. The body later fell off in the Underground.
  • Vehicular Kidnapping: In "The Red Circle", the client's husband is kidnapped by a group of toughs who ambush him in the street and drag him into a horse-drawn cab. He's later released when the kidnappers realize they've got the wrong man, but the strange event is what draws Holmes into the mystery.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Mrs. Trelawney Hope keeps the second key to her husband's dispatch case in "The Second Stain", and Milverton's visitor kept her gun in his self-titled story.
  • Villainous Lineage: Holmes believes that Moriarty turned out evil because of "hereditary tendencies of the darkest kind" magnified by his incredible natural genius.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: No one could believe Moriarty was a master criminal even when "The Final Problem" was published. According to Watson he only published an account of his dear friend's death because, thanks to Moriarty's brother, people still didn't believe he was guilty. Moriarty was described by an Inspector as being "a very respectable, learned, and talented sort of man" and even went as far as saying that "When he put his hand on my shoulder as we were parting, it was like a father's blessing before you go out into the cold, cruel world." Holmes couldn't help but chuckle at the irony.
  • Wall of Weapons:
    • The decor at Hurlstone from "The Musgrave Ritual" is mostly old wall-mounted trophy weapons. Musgrave picks up a battle-axe from one of these to deal with an intruder... which turns out to be his butler Brunton.
    • "The Crooked Man"'s death takes place in a former Indian colonel's home, so the presumed murder weapon is believed to have come from there.
    • "The Second Stain" has one of a set of knives in the home of Eduardo Lucas; the knife used to kill him came from this set.
  • The Watson: The Trope Namer. Watson virtually never guesses what is going on or makes a correct deduction of his own, but instead serves to ask the reader's questions and make Holmes look good. Lampshaded by Holmes in "The Blanched Soldier".
    Holmes: A confederate who foresees your conclusions and course of action is always dangerous, but one to whom each development comes as a perpetual surprise, and to whom the future is always a closed book, is indeed an ideal helpmate.
    • It's possible Watson even writes things down differently from what actually happened in order to make a better story, something Holmes always reproaches him, but when he finally does it himself realizes Watson had a point.
  • We Help the Helpless: Holmes sells his services to anyone and everyone, from the poorest pawnbrokers to the wealthiest kings. Helping some of his university classmates with their dilemmas inspired Holmes to do it for a living.
  • We Would Have Told You, But...: Holmes has occasionally deceived Watson in order to trick his quarry. One prominent example is "The Dying Detective" — in order to maintain the ruse that he was deathly ill, he forbade Watson from examining him with the excuse that the disease in question was contagious by touch. As he later explained, he had little faith in Watson's ability to deceive others (he wanted Culverton Smith to believe Holmes was truly ill with the disease), but a good deal of respect for Watson's medical skills.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The Baker Street Irregulars are called on in the first two novels, and are never seen again. The authorized pastiche The House of Silk endeavours to explain this.
    • Toby, the tracking dog who Holmes claimed to be more useful than all of Scotland Yard, was introduced in "The Sign of Four" and was never mentioned again. Another dog was used in "The Missing Three Quarter".
    • In "The Copper Beeches," we hear a certain amount about Mr. Rucastle's son, the unpleasant little boy who is Miss Hunter's charge as governess. But he's never actually portrayed, is nowhere to be found during the climax of the story (just as well for him, as his father tries to kill his half-sister and gets horribly maimed for his troubles), and no mention is made of him in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. His only real functions are to provide a pretext to hire a governess and for his animal abuse to suggest his seemingly jovial father's depravity.
  • Wham Line: "The Final Problem" manages to begin with one (or at least, what certainly would have been one for readers at the time of its release):
    Watson: It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: At the end of "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches", Watson tells us that Mr. Rucastle was an invalid for the rest of his life and that Violet Hunter got a successful start elsewhere. Other stories also have one or two paragraphs about what happened to key figures in them (others have a throwaway line at the beginning saying said figures are dead, so their story can now be made available to the public).
  • White-and-Grey Morality: In "A Scandal In Bohemia", "The Man with the Twisted Lip", "The Noble Bachelor", "The Crooked Man" and "The Yellow Face", it is revealed that there is no villain, and the apparent victim turns out to be the morally gray character.
    • "A Scandal in Bohemia": The king claims that Irene Adler is planning on ruining his upcoming wedding, but Adler herself gets married not long after he engages Holmes' services. She leaves behind a note saying the king needn't fear her doing anything, but she's keeping the photo as insurance against any action taken against her in the future.
    • "The Man With the Twisted Lip": The "victim" was never murdered. He was concealing a double life as a beggar. He never intended to hurt his wife and in fact was trying to protect his family from the scandal.
    • "The Noble Bachelor": Lord St. Simon, unbeknownst to him, married a woman who had previously been married and had agreed to the match after thinking herself widowed. Her husband turned up at the wedding and her disappearance afterwards was her own doing. She apologizes to Lord St. Simon, who is royally miffed.
    • "The Yellow Face": The secret was that Effie had a biracial daughter from a previous marriage.
    • "The Crooked Man": The victim died of natural causes after being confronted by the victim of a crime he committed thirty years before.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" and "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" have Holmes recounting cases from before he met Watson.
  • The Wicked Stage: In the story A Scandal in Bohemia, the titular detective is hired by a foreign king to find and steal the evidence of the king's scandalous love affair in case it gets used for blackmail. What makes the affair scandalous is, of course, that it was with an opera singer - a profession only one step at most above actress (Watson's first line calls her "of questionable repute"). Amusingly, in order to retain the scandalous feel of the affair in a more modern setting, the modernised adaptation in Sherlock had to change her from an opera singer to a lesbian dominatrix.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: The true killer in The Abbey Grange, which leads Holmes to let him go after he confesses privately and offers to face arrest if it would protect the woman he had been defending.
  • Wistful Smile: in "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box", is able to break in on Watson's thoughts, in part because of Watson's own wistful smile.
    Holmes: Your hand stole towards your own old wound and a smile quivered on your lips, which showed me that the ridiculous side of this method of settling international questions had forced itself upon your mind.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: John Watson noted this of Holmes:
    "So silent and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained bloodhound picking out a scent, that I could not but think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his energy and sagacity against the law instead of exerting them in its defence."
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • In The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, we have John Clay in The Red-Headed League, who is so hard to catch that he and Holmes never see each other until the story. This trope kicks in near the end — Clay outright praises Holmes for his arrangements and quick thinking, while Holmes compliments Clay for his excellent scheme and how close it came to succeeding. Furthermore, although Clay is outright rude to Inspector Jones, he bows to Holmes and Watson as he heads off to jail.
    • Irene Adler, the only woman to pwn Holmes to date. He always refers to her as "The Woman."
    • Also, Professor Moriarty: at their fateful last encounter, gentleman Moriarty lets Holmes write a farewell letter to Watson before starting their fight to the death, and Holmes knows he can trust Moriarty to wait patiently until the letter is finished and not to push him into the nearby falls while his attention is on the paper.
  • Woman Scorned: Several cases depend on this.
    • "A Scandal in Bohemia": The king of Bohemia alleges that he fears Irene Adler will use the evidence of their affair to ruin his wedding because she doesn't want him married to another woman.
    • "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box": James Browner's sister-in-law Sarah was in love with him. Browner, being passionately in love with his wife, gently turned her down, and she turned her sister against him and got her involved with another man to get revenge on him.
  • Year Zero: Holmes is revealed to be 60 years old during 1914 which effectively gave him a birth year (1854) and an age (27) during A Study in Scarlet (March 4, 1881).
    • Similarly, Watson's date of graduation from medical school (1878) gives him a birth year of either 1852 or 1853 and an age (probably 28, possibly 29) in A Study In Scarlet, assuming he did not take time off during his education.
  • You Do Not Have to Say Anything: In "The Norwood Builder" Lestrade tells a suspect that “I am bound to warn him that anything he may say will appear in evidence against him.” In "The Dancing Men" another policeman reads the same warning to a suspect.
  • You Have Waited Long Enough: In "The Adventure Of the Noble Bachelor", a woman vanished immediately after her wedding. Holmes speaks of recognizing it from comparison with past cases, and tracks down the bride and her first husband, whom she had just learned was still alive.
  • You Make Me Sick: Oddly, in Holmes' brief Take That! review of Monsieur Lecoq, the 1868 detective novel by Émile Gaboriau: "That book made me positively ill."