A Study in Scarlet
Tuesday, December 13, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
A Study in Scarlet
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Years ago I was on a Sherlock Holmes kick and I think I might have read this, but it's been so long I just wasn’t sure. The cases all sort of jumble together in my head, so it was time to read it again.
This is the very first Sherlock Holmes adventure. Watson, a doctor who served in India and Afghanistan, is in need of a roommate. A mutual friend introduces him to Holmes and soon they are renting a flat on Baker Street and the fun begins. Sherlock is called in to consult on a murder and takes Watson with him. Soon the clues are piling up and Sherlock’s keen eye is catching things that every other detective seems to miss.
The book is written from Watson’s point-of-view and I love the descriptions he gives of Sherlock. He's surprised by how much he knows, but also by how little he knows on certain subjects (like literature and astronomy). Sherlock explains that he can't clutter up his mind with hundreds of details; instead he must fill it only with that which he believes will be useful to him. I also thought it was interesting that even early-on Watson that Sherlock might be addicted to a narcotic (in later books we learn he smokes opium).
Watson also notes that Sherlock's method of deduction reminds him of Edgar Allen Poe's fictional detective, Dupin. To which Sherlock, in his classic condescending style, says he thinks Dupin was a very inferior fellow.
The book takes a really strange turn in the second half. The first half follows Sherlock and Watson as they try to solve the mystery. At the end of part one Sherlock catches the killer, but then part two starts and we are in Utah years earlier. The story introduces brand new characters, including crazy Mormons who kidnap women settlers and force them into marriage. It’s an odd way to plot the story. It all makes sense in the end, but it took me a minute to figure out what was going on.
I would say this isn’t my favorite of the Sherlock books. That’s mainly because of the huge section in Part 2 that he is completely absent from. I still really enjoyed it, but that part just threw me for a loop.
I loved reading this after seeing the BBC version of Sherlock, which begins with the episode "A Study in Pink." The showed stayed remarkably close to the original story (minus the Mormons), mainly changing the time period and a few case details. If you haven’t already watched that series (seen above) you should! It's so good.
p.s. This was my 15th and final book for the Victorian Literature Challenge hosted by Subtle Melodrama. I reached the top level, Desperate Remedies, yay!
Bottom image from here.