A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle is the very first novel featuring English detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson. The story was written in 1886 and published in 1887 and marks the first appearance of the famous sleuth.
Dr. Watson, coming back from military service in India and Afghanistan, needs a place to live. A friend introduces him to Sherlock Holmes and they ende up rooming together in an apartment in Baker Street, London.
Holmes, a “consulting detective” and an opium addict, is soon on his first case, a murder, and taking his new friend with him. Watson is constantly amazed by Holmes’ brilliance, arrogance, immense knowledge in some areas, and yet very little in others. Holmes explains that he only needs to know certain subjects for his occupation and not let the rest clutter up his mind.
A Study in Scarlet is a strange book with a strange structure which is actually two stories thinly connected. The first part is the more interesting, with the legendary meeting between the detective and the doctor, and an introduction to the characters as well as to the murder mystery. The second part shifts from London to Utah where we get a somewhat sympathetic back-story to the murder and his deed.
This, I feel, is one of those books in which it is better to know not so much the plot, but what will happen in the future in the context of the Sherlock Holmes universe and stories. The story gives Holmes his ability to show off his analytical powers as well as his attitude, which makes him a great detective but a lousy human being.
The book is awkward in its construction and I kept re-reading some parts thinking I totally missed something. This is the first Holmes story I’ve read since I was 12 or so; I remembered them all being short and thought that maybe A Study in Scarlet is constructed of two short stories, one a detective novel and the other not. However, that wasn’t so and everything was resolved for me at the end.
One can certainly tell the immense talent the author has as the mystery unfolds. The dialogue is witty, filled with dry humor, and entertaining. The characters are engaging and interesting and it’s a nice touch that the protagonist’s roommate tells the story.
While A Study in Scarlet makes for a weird reading experience, I did enjoy the book and the introduction to the great detective. I must admit, however, that if I wasn’t already familiar with Holmes I probably would not have read the other books in the series (but I did).
- 106 pages
- Publisher: Aziloth Books
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1907523324