I agree that A Study in Scarlet is not the best of the Holmes stories, but I still think it does a very good job in introducing the worldwide phenomenon that is Sherlock Holmes. Learning from the point of view of Dr. Watson how Holmes' practice began and Watson learning how Holmes worked are all written superbly.
Granted, the inserting of the backstory about what brought the villain to the point he was when he faced off with Holmes is kind of jarring. The first time I read it, I was so confused as to where I'd just been taken. But if you keep going, you'll find that the villain's story is actually rather interesting, and sheds much light on his actions in London.
A great story.
The first introduction to the classic detective, Sherlock Holmes.
It's so strange, this being the first Holmes story, as it is wholly underwhelming. I am glad, however, that it establishes one of the finest literary characters conceived, and introduced the world to the World's Greatest Detective. Yet the book is strange, featuring a very odd structure in its second half, which mars the book, although not perhaps as much as other reviewers would lead you to believe. The first half of the novel, where Holmes undertakes the investigation proper, is enthralling and engaging, but the second half of the novel, which follows three characters who become entwined with Brigham Young (yes, that Brigham Young) and the settling of Utah. It's such a strange turn, and feels like such a swift tonal shift that it seems wrong. Suddenly, we are gone from the streets of London and have turned to the Prairie and the desert. Suddenly our detective novel turns to a western novel, and the change is so peculiar that it might leave you scratching your head. That is, until you see exactly what Doyle is doing. He shifts the narrative from Dr. Watson's account of the case, a subjective telling from his perspective of how Holmes works, to an "objective," historical narrative accounting for the events leading up to the crime. It also reveals how strong of a writer Doyle was, since in his attempt to switch settings he switches genres as well, molding his style to fit the landscape in which he writes.
Is A Study in Scarlet the best of the Holmes' stories which I've read? Not by any chance! But is it a bad novella on its own? By no means. In fact, it's so short and engaging, I wonder why anyone would begrudge it and not wish to read it to completion. It's not bad by any means, it just doesn't quite fit with what we expect a Holmes story to be like. But, to be very fair, The Hound of the Baskervilles is also a very strange novel. Perhaps our perception of what a Holmes story is like is shaped more by movies and TV than we think? Perhaps these stories seem odd to readers because they view Holmes through the lens of how he has been presented, not by his creator, but by his interpreters. Perhaps, just perhaps, the reason we react to these stories and find them so odd, is because we don't exactly know who Sherlock Holmes is because we've never read him. I'm finding that to be the case with me.
Let's just talk about how suddenly the narrative jumps back to follow the Mormons out in Utah and how absolutely buckwild that is as a premise for a murder in the 1880s.
In 1887, a young Arthur Conan Doyle published A Study in Scarlet, creating an international icon in the quick-witted sleuth Sherlock Holmes. In this first Holmes mystery, the detective introduces himself to Dr. John H. Watson with the puzzling line, “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive,” and begins Watson's, and the world's, fascination with this enigmatic character. In A Study in Scarlet, Doyle presents two equally perplexing mysteries for Holmes to solve: one a murder that takes place in the shadowy outskirts of London in a locked room where the haunting word Rache is written upon the wall; the other a kidnapping set in the American West. Picking up the “scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life,” Holmes demonstrates his uncanny knack for finding the truth, tapping into powers of deduction that will captivate readers today. (Description slightly edited from the synopsis on the back cover of this paperback edition, a synopsis presumably provided by the publisher – The Modern Library.)
This first Sherlock Holmes mystery is the first Sherlock Holmes mystery I've read. It's a rather old-fashioned mystery with old-fashioned values. As Anne Perry notes in her introduction to this Modern Library edition, “Conan Doyle's characters are essentially Victorian, with the strengths and weaknesses of their time, and probably of Conan Doyle himself. . . . His convictions and opinions were of his time and place. His values were the admiration of honor, intelligence, reason, loyalty, fortitude, invention, and optimism. He seems to have understood women little. . . . He had instinctive prejudices against certain groups of people. His reference to Jews is pejorative, and his portrayal of Mormons in this story is a gross distortion.
Despite my misgivings of this first Sherlock Holmes mystery, I plan to continue to read the other Sherlock Holmes novels.
I meant to give it a 5/5, however I mis-clicked and accidentally rated it 4.5/5. Now I cannot change it. OPL plz fix.
This is where the Sherlock saga begins....It left me underwhelmed. I much preferred the treatment the BBC "Sherlock" TV series gave this story. As a previous reviewer mentions, the chunk set in Utah is really not that interesting. This being said, if you want a good read of some Sherlock stories, borrow The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes instead. Some well-known cases in there and much more engagingly written.
This is probably the BEST book I have ever read!!! The plot twists and turns and keeps you on the hook, and the characters are delightful and unique! A+++ book!!!!
Somehow, when I read all the Sherlock books in my teens I missed this one. Not sure how but I decided that now was a good time to rectify this.
It’s pretty hard not to have an idea of how this story goes with all the TV adaptations out there. I’m not sure if already knowing what happened and why affected my enjoyment but while the story was good it wasn’t great. I didn’t really like the past part of the tale based in Utah but the Sherlock and Watson half was excellent.
I had never read a Sherlock Holmes story before. I was very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting stuffy Victorian writing, but this is very modern and easy to read. I enjoyed it very much and will be reading the rest of the books.
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