Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“There’s the scarlet threat of murder running through the colorless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

“A Study in Scarlet” was the world’s first introduction to Sherlock Holmes. In fact, it was also the first story where Dr. Watson and Sherlock meet. Watson was injured and has had to retire from military life. Fortunately Sherlock Holmes is looking for someone to share the rent in his flat. Thrown together Sherlock and Watson make an effective team when called to the scene of a murder in a deserted house where a mysterious message “RACHE” is drawn in blood on the wall. This is a case that spans the globe and introduces us to one of the greatest fictional detectives ever created.

I was excited but apprehensive to start this book as it was published so long ago (1887) and my experience with older books has been dry dialogue accompanied by a dry plot. They end up making me want to tear my hair out and I didn’t want the book to ruin my appreciation for Sherlock Holmes. But I actually found the book interesting. I liked seeing his process, how he deduced solutions and then had to explain himself. Some of the references were archaic, interrupting the flow of the plot but this wasn’t a major concern.

My main problem with this story is Part II. Right before Sherlock explains how deduced who the murder was, Part I ends. Part II starts in the desert in Utah with an entirely different cast of characters and there’s Mormons. This completely jarring break brought me right out of the story. I assumed it was a misprint the first time I read it. In fact, I read the opening four times to try and see how the parts connected but alas. This frustration I think would be enough to turn some readers off the book. I don’t think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had settled into a rhythm yet as Sherlock only appears again near the end to explain how he deduced the identity of the murderer.

This is a difficult introduction to Sherlock Holmes but it lays the groundwork for the friendship and partnership between him and Watson. If you want to start at the beginning of the series I suggest you start here.

Rated: 3/5

As a sidenote the BBC, who honestly have some of the best programming on the planet have produced an updated version of Sherlock Holmes simply called “Sherlock” and honestly the leads couldn’t be more perfect. The first season (or series as they call it across the pond) had three episodes and they’ve already issued a second season. I originally did a post on the new series but I’ve put the trailer here for your viewing pleasure.

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