A Study in Scarlet is a detective mystery novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1887 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. Now famous all over the world, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were first introduced in this narrative. The mystery involves a dead man found in an abandoned house in Brixton, south London. The obvious clues are a woman’s wedding ring, two letters addressed to two different names, and a word scrawled in the wall with blood. I say obvious because they were the easiest to find. This is Sherlock Holmes we are talking about after all.
✓ 10. A mystery or thriller
✓ 15. A popular author’s first book
This book is divided into two parts. Part one involves our beloved characters John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, detailing how they met, and Sherlock’s character and skills. The mysterious death in Lauriston Gardens in Brixton is told here as well, and we are introduced to the ‘pick of the bad lot (of Scotland Yarders)’ Tobias Gregson and Inspector Lestrade. This is where readers will also first read about the Baker Street Irregulars and their leader Wiggins, who all helped with locating the murder culprit. This part ends with capture of the murderer in Baker Street with Gregson and Lestrade also in attendance. Part two confused me when I started reading it, as I wondered, what happened after that climactic scene? It turns out this entire half of the novel is the backstory of the murder, as all premeditated murders have motives (or at least I think so).
Doyle wrote this work of fiction when he was 27 years old. What were you doing at that age, eh? I found that tidbit of information after reading the novel, and immediately wondered if Doyle was a member of the middle class. I admit to having no knowledge of the author prior to writing this post (sacrilege!), but I wasn’t surprised to confirm that he definitely was part of the middle class society. It has got to be the reason why this novel was published, because I found it underwhelming. While I found the exposition of Sherlock’s vast and limited knowledge (depending on what area of knowledge it is, of course) amusing, I actually found the second half or part two of the novel more entertaining than the bit that actually involved Sherlock Holmes. On BBC’s Sherlock, I prefer watching John and Sherlock’s friendship and interaction and how it covers and involves the mysteries in each episode. This was not touched on that much in the book, except in the beginning where it probably took up a third of part one.
I should probably read more of Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries to get a better grasp of how it is all presented. My first Sherlock Holmes book was actually The Hound of Baskervilles, which I read when I was around 10 or 11. All I remember was that I was spectacularly scared reading it, and yet I couldn’t put the book down. In an attempt at recollection, I think I was more taken in by the mystery, and didn’t care much about the characters. Internet wasn’t at all widespread then, so I had no way of finding out that Sherlock Holmes was this super detective with mad observation and deduction skills.
I did read somewhere that A Study in Scarlet isn’t the best Sherlock Holmes book, so I tried to temper my expectations. The book wasn’t bad, but I suppose I should have lowered the expectations a bit more.
“What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence. The question is what can you make people believe you have done.”
– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (A Study in Scarlet)
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Let’s have a chat!
Have you read A Study in Scarlet? What did you think of it? If you’ve read other Sherlock Holmes novels, what was your first?