Baker Street Wiki
Baker Street Wiki

Ian McKellen as Holmes writing in retirement. From the film "Mr. Holmes."

"The Whole Art of Detection" is the name given to a treatise written by Sherlock Holmes concerning his method of reasoning. The one-volume work is held to have been written by Holmes in his retirement alongside his other work: "The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture."

Basis in Canon[]

In the canon, Holmes himself alludes to his plan to write such a work. In the short story: "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange", There is a scene where Holmes criticizes John Watson's accounts of his cases. When Watson suggests that Holmes write them himself, Holmes answers: 

“I will, my dear Watson, I will. At 'present' I am, as you know, fairly busy, but I propose to devote my declining years to the composition of a text-book which shall focus the whole art of detection into one volume."

It is this volume which is said to be Holmes' other magnum opus which summarizes his method of detection.

Development in Pastiche[]

The Whole Art of Detection Lindsey Faye Cover

The cover of Lindsey Faye's short story anthology of the same name.

The Whole Art of Detection features in several works of Holmes pastiche and scholarship.

William S. Baring-Gould writes about it in, "Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street," his well-known novel/biography of Holmes life. He has Holmes write it in his old age, eventually expanding it into four volumes to give the detective's own accounts of cases which Dr. Watson never chronicled.

Lyndsay Faye uses it as the title of her own collection of Holmes short stories, giving it the extended title of The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. The stories cover some of the "lost cases" spanning from Holme's pre-Baker Street days through to his great hiatus and retirement.