The book is a collection of 17 short stories, all of which center on physicians. "His First Operation" is about a student’s first view of surgery. He promptly faints. "A False Start" is about a doctor trying to establish a practice. He only succeeds by giving up the opportunity to treat the richest man in town, as he is the patient of another doctor. He and the doctor he thus honors become partners.

"The Doctors of Hoyland" deals with the issue of female doctors. Dr. Ripley has an established practice in Hoyland and when a famous doctor moves into the neighborhood he is secure enough to go visit him and offer him welcome. "He" turns out to be a woman, Dr. Smith.

Dr. Ripley is outraged; he thinks female doctors are a biological impossibility. Any woman who becomes a doctor must be unwomanly, otherwise how could she stand the sight of blood or inflict necessary pain? The woman doctor is courteous, but shows him the flaws in his thinking. The two are only reconciled when she is forced to treat his broken leg. He discovers how graceful, womanly, and skilled she is and asks for her hand, but she turns him down.


Conan Doyle’s detective stories often turn on medical principles. Their plots often seem like extended medical analyses, moving from hypothesis to diagnosis through the accumulation of facts and Holmes’ characteristic deductive reasoning.

Conan Doyle’s connection with medicine is made most explicit in these stories, in which he fully explores his love for his profession. Indeed one story, "The Surgeon Talks," shows a young author taking notes as a group of doctors talk over drinks late one night. They think their stories would have no interest to a non-medical public, but the author thinks their stories are full of universal drama and pathos.



Place Published

New York