Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Review: A Study in Scarlet

Title: A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: July 1888
Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Dr. John Watson has just left the second war in Afghanistan and is struggling to find an inexpensive place to live in London. By chance, he runs into his old friend Stamford and is introduced to Sherlock Holmes, who happens to also be looking for a flatmate. Holmes is a peculiar sort who seems to know things about Watson right away, but together they rent rooms at 221B Baker Street. At first, Watson is fascinated by his new acquaintance and his strange habits. Soon he learns that Holmes is a consulting detective and an expert in the science of deduction. When an American named Enoch Drebber is found murdered, Watson accompanies Holmes to investigate. The word “Rache” is written on the wall in blood although the victim had no external injuries. When the case is finished, it’s just the beginning of Watson and Holmes’ adventures.

This is Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel and the third I have read. I don’t think that you have to read them in sequence; I’ve been picking up whichever book I feel like and have had no problems. I recently watched the first episode of Sherlock, which is based on this book. I wish I held off and read the book first, since I knew what was going to happen while reading. The show is set in modern England, so there are many differences between the two versions. The murders, the details and the motifs were different, but the story was similar enough that you could guess what was going to happen. Still, Sherlock is an amazing adaptation and I will definitely continue with the series.

As the story begins and we are introduced to Watson and Sherlock, any modern reader is likely already familiar with the characters. It was interesting to see the two as they first meet, before Watson even knew what Holmes’ occupation was. I enjoyed Watson’s early observations about Holmes (including cataloguing his knowledge and expertise) and Holmes’ explanation of how his mind works. You could tell that this was Doyle’s first novel, and it wasn’t as exciting as the others I’ve read. The majority of the novel is told in first person with Watson as the narrator, but the beginning of the second part is told in third person, recounting the history of those involved in the case. This section didn’t read as smoothly and you could tell that Doyle was still learning his craft. Although I did enjoy A Study in Scarlet, it wasn’t as well written as later books in the series. For that reason, if these are not the types of books you usually like, I’d recommend starting with The Hound of the Baskervilles, as it’s my favourite. However, there is something to be gained from reading the books in the correct order, and A Study in Scarlet is clever and entertaining. The more I read, the more often I find books easy to figure out. I love having the Sherlock Holmes books to read when I want to be puzzled and outsmarted.

4/5

“To a great mind, nothing is little.”

2 comments:

  1. I just finished this one. I love Holmes so much and it was great to read the first novel. I did think the detour into the Utah scene was odd, but overall I loved it.

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