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A Study in Scarlet ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

October 28, 2009

Genre:  Adult Mystery

Publisher: Modern Library

160 pages

ISBN: 9780812968545

A young doctor, a Watson, if I’m not mistaken, is returning from Afghanistan, war weary and a bit ill. He finds himself in London at the end of the 19th century, looking for cheap lodgings and possibly a friend. By word of mouth, he finds himself rooming with the strangest variety of renaissance man. A young guy, as well, Mr. Holmes, I believe it is, who has a collection of habits to make Watson’s head spin. Ever the doctor, Watson sets out to come to the bottom of the bizarre goings-on of Holmes’ livelihood and a friendship is born. They embark, almost immediately, on a whirlwind murder investigation involving Scotland yard and perhaps an American Mormon or two.

Even if a reader has never ventured down the shadowy and shenanigan filled road of Dolye’s best known duo, it is, by pure social lore sake, impossible to comprehend a world before Holmes and Watson. Here, we begin, however, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s very first story of the pair. If you’ve read the Holmes stories out of order, as I have, it’s incredible to read the first few chapters in which the two are just getting to know each other. Throughout Doyle’s later short stories, Watson continues his running commentary of Holmes and his strange habits but his initial impressions are great.

Doyle’s writing is, as always, perfect. My favorite characteristic of Doyle’s novels is Holmes’ florid, albeit scientific prose, coupled with Watson’s more pragmatic thoughts. As for the characters themselves, I think the regular reader would abhor Holmes and his apparent arrogance if he weren’t always so right. Watson begins to, at times, but is always caught off guard when Holmes and his deductive reason get the better of the situation.

A bit of warning about the middle of the book. Keep reading. The book appears to end one story and begin another but they are exactly related in the end, in true crime fashion, so don’t put it down, believing you have come to the end of one story.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2009 11:07 am

    I love love love this story. Seriously, Holmes is so strange, but so intriguing and I love Watson’s commentary.

    I really need to read more of the Holmes stories…

    Also, if you like this story, immediately go read Neil Gaiman’s A Study In Emerald. Because, well, it’s like Doyle and Lovecraft had a baby and it’s just freaking awesome. I’m on a big Gaiman kick right now. Maybe I’ll finish reading Fragile Things next. I’ve read about half the pieces and just never finished them. BTW, I just read Neverwhere as my last book and, though it was his first, it was incredible.

    P.S. Book swap? I have so many and I need to get rid of some. Let me know.

  2. October 28, 2009 1:46 pm

    You know, I’m not a huge fan of Doyle, which is probably why I love Laurie King’s series w/ Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. I agree the Gaiman story is really fun. 🙂

  3. Randall permalink
    October 28, 2009 2:51 pm

    The best part of A Study in Scarlet is the beginning with Watson meeting Holmes. As noted above, the transition between part 1 and 2 of the story is jarring so keep reading.

    But overall this is clearly an early Doyle work – the Holmes short stories are generally much better. You can see this list of the best Sherlock Holmes stories and books. For the first timer I recommend getting The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which has 5 of the best Holmes short stories and is the first set that Doyle wrote.

    Before reading the Gaiman story you really need to read at least a couple Holmes short stories, including The Final Problem. You’ll enjoy Gaiman’s story more with that background.

  4. October 29, 2009 6:17 pm

    I keep saying I’m going to read this story but I haven’t done it yet! What a great review!

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