This book was published first in 1895, and the setting is in various small cities in England of that time. The author believed that the public gave too much attention to the character he created, Sherlock Holmes, and neglected his other works. He undoubtedly was justified in this opinion. This novel is an important work because Doyle has been quoted as saying much of the book is based on his relations with an earlier acquaintance. It is therefore possible that the book is at least semi-autobiographical and may be an indicator of some of Doyle's beliefs and attitudes toward his times. It is an epistolary novel, written in the form of letters, "edited and arranged" by Doyle, according to the title page. An introductory note, ostensibly by the fictional Herbert Swanborough, to whom the letters have been sent, claims the letters are herewith published with the thought that some other young man might benefit from the story, and the views, of John Stark Munro. Each letter contains two elements: one part is the narrative of events in the life of a young medical graduate in his efforts to set up a practice, as his own man, with a very little assistance from anyone else; the other part of each letter is didactic, presented as his friendly arguments with his close friend Swanborough. The didactic portions may be genuine expressions of Doyle's belief about religion, politics, ethics, and society. Munro nevertheless is presented as an interesting character, as well as a person who would have been a benefit to society and the world he lived in. Doyle deserves respect as a serious writer of the turn of the century, and not alone for the "entertainments" of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Lloyd Beldon Lacy