Solve Your Problems With Sherlock Holmes (And Overcome Workaholism with Watson)

My Penguin English Library edition of “The
Five Orange Pips and Other Cases”

The BBC Sherlock Holmes series has been a big thing in my house. Our sheepdogs are compared – and contrasted – with Sherlock and Mycroft, and the end of Series 2 cliffhanger provided lots of ground for healthy debate.

I knew that I’d love the Arthur Conan Doyle original stories, and The Five Orange Pips and Other Cases has been one of my best literary purchases of the year. The writing is top-quality, the plots tend to be impeccable, and the art of deduction has given me so much to apply to my own life and problem solving.

The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot

My favourite story from my Penguin English Library edition of The Five Orange Pips and Other Cases must be “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”.

It’s 1897. Sherlock’s nerves have had too much and his doctor has told him he’s in desperate need of a time out. So, Holmes and Watson head for Cornwall for the former’s health, but, as can be imagined, they run into a crime before too long.

Mr. Mortimer Tregennis, a local gentleman, and Mr. Roundhay, the local vicar, come to Holmes to report that Tregennis’s two brothers have gone insane, and his sister has died. Tregennis had gone to visit them in their village (Tredannick Wollas), played whist with them, and then left. When he came back in the morning, he found them still sitting in their places at the table, the brothers, George and Owen, laughing and singing, and the sister, Brenda, dead. Over to you, Sherlock Holmes.

Solve your own problems with Sherlock

Reading – and watching – Sherlock Holmes’s adventures has ended up being more than just relaxing. Seeing the famous detective at work has helped me approach some tricky situations in my own life in a much more precise and mindful way than I normally would, and seeing Watson’s own pitfalls in my own thinking has stopped me once or twice (for reading on the side, try Maria Konnikova’s Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes).

The difficulty is to detach the framework of fact — of absolute undeniable fact — from the embellishments of theorists and reporters. Then, having established ourselves upon this sound basis, it is our duty to see what inferences may be drawn and what are the special points upon which the whole mystery turns.
― Arthur Conan Doyle, Silver Blaze 

I knew that seclusion and solitude were very necessary for my friend in those hours of intense mental concentration during which he weighed every particle of evidence, constructed alternative theories, balanced one against the other, and made up his mind as to which points were essential and which immaterial.
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Recover from workaholism with Watson’s help

In “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”, we realise that Sherlock isn’t superhuman. He’s very intelligent, but he can’t keep up his extraordinary high level of thinking all the time. Exhausted, he’s forced to get some rest in the countryside “if he wished to avert an absolute breakdown”. 
Reading and walking dictate his routine, and in a way it’s a success.

The glamour and mystery of the place, with its sinister atmosphere of forgotten nations, appealed to the imagination of my friend, and he spent much of his time in long walks and solitary meditations upon the moor. The ancient Cornish language had also arrested his attention, and he had, I remember, conceived the idea that it was akin to the Chaldean […]― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot


Poldhu Bay, close to where Holmes and Watson recuperate in “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”. Image source.

Holmes is very much human, after all. It becomes Watson’s mission to nurse him back to health once more, and at the first signs of a case, he is forced to hold up a ‘warning finger’. Couldn’t we all do with our own Watson?

“I held up a warning finger” – Watson acting against Sherlock Holmes’s workaholic tendencies. 

Also, Sherlock Holmes can teach us to never stop learning

“Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons, with the greatest for the last.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, His Last Bow


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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at

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