I wonder what the most typical Sherlock Holmes story is. A few years ago, a documentary - The Agatha Christie Code - showed researchers using Concordance - a word recognition software program that analyzes writing samples for patterns. Research showed that Evil Under The Sun is the most typical Christie mystery. It has all the elements that a fan would expect to find in an Agatha Christie novel. It's not her best, but as a gift idea for the reader who only wants one representative sample of an author's work, it's a pick for the shopping basket. What would I recommend?:
The Labors of Hercules
The Big Four
A Caribbean Mystery
The Murder On The Links
Cards On The Table
Partners In Crime
Mrs. McGinty's Dead
Elephants Can Remember
The Pale Horse
Three Blind Mice and Other Stories
Without Concordance , I'll need to hazard a guess at the most typical Sherlock Holmes story. I'd say "The Adventure of The Six Napoleons" in The Return of Sherlock Holmes. It has a puzzle that's solved in an interesting way, with Holmes and Watson stomping around London. It has Inspector Lestrade. There's a chase of sorts and a battle of wits of sorts. There is also a scene in a morgue and a stakeout and scenes where Holmes gets to show off his powers of deduction. There's also a gimmick - "Who is running around London smashing statues of Napoleon Bonaparte, and why?" - with a solution that is a surprise.
That's not really typical at all - that's actually very good! How about "Silver Blaze"? "The Red-Headed League"? Those two are often the first Sherlock Holmes stories read by children. People who don't care for mystery/detective fiction have read/encountered them because they're reprinted in textbooks...
I was not a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was a kid. The early scenes set in the study that began with "Mr. Sherlock Holmes was often taken aback by the gripping events that occurred in that fretful year of 18-,"zzzzzzzzzzz. With Agatha Christie, I had a habit of checking the first few chapters to see if her detectives were featured front and center and not some drippy dolly bird and her milksop boyfriend, standard Christie stock characters.
I enjoyed the movies - The Great Mouse Detective is a one of my favorite Disney films. Without a Clue, The Seven Per-Cent Solution, Sherlock Holmes In New York, and Sherlock Holmes and The Secret Weapon are fun. I enjoyed the two films with Robert Downey Jr. and their League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-ishness. Watching Jeremy Brett on television made me pick up the books - just to see if this was not some crazy actor hamming it up. No,no, no... it's all there. Brett is closer to how that character is portrayed in the books than anyone else - even Benedict Cumberbatch! In fact, Brett's portrayal is the only one in which all the episodes were based solely on the canon - ish. There was no Fu Manchu story by Doyle, if you know what I mean. If you do, that's great - I don't have to write that up...(episode 2 of Sherlock - series 1, OK).
I'm sure the reaction to Cumberbatch and Downey has fans checking out the books for the first time just to see if this is the same guy. The circle of life. Read "The Six Napoleons".