A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Penguin Classics: paperback published 2007: 162 pages

A detective’s duty is to unravel the scarlet thread of murder…

When Dr John Watson takes rooms in Baker Street with amateur detective Sherlock Holmes, he has no idea that he is about to enter a shadowy world of criminality and violence.

Accompanying Holmes to an ill-omened house in south London, Watson is startled to find a dead man whose face is contorted in a rictus of horror. There is no mark of violence on the body yet a single word is written on the wall in blood.

Dr Watson is as baffled as the police, but Holmes’s brilliant analytical skills soon uncover a trail of murder, revenge and lost love…

 

This is, I’m afraid, my first Sherlock Holmes. I have never really got around to reading it, and I will shamelessly admit it’s the Robert Downey Junior and Benedict Cumberbatch performances that intrigued me. I originally set out to just read The Hound of the Baskervilles, but then I saw that this was the first of the series and figured I might as well start from the beginning.

I didn’t find Holmes as eccentric as I thought he was meant to be, but he certainly spoke how I imagined him too. The best part of the book was the discovery of Victorian thinking – from the opinions expressed by Holmes and Watson, to the story itself. I mean, at the heart of the story are the Mormons, and I can tell you now, I’ve never heard of them the way they are described in this! It’s not a damning piece, but it’s certainly out to make them the villains. The mystery and crime itself seemed rather peripheral to introducing Holmes as a character and writing a love story thwarted by Mormons.

I certainly enjoyed the book as a bit of light reading (I did read it in a day after all), and I can see the appeal of the stories, but (dare I say it) I almost prefer the sexed-up Hollywood Holmes. Perhaps it’s the day and age we’re in, and what I’m reading isn’t as scandalous or intriguing as it would have been to Victorian readers. Maybe I’m being dismissive. I certainly think I will read more – I like Holmes and Watson as characters and I think there is a development in that to be seen. Plus, everyone should read The Hound of the Baskervilles at some point in their lives, right!?

Rating: 6/10

Next book: I’m not giving myself a break on this, next on the list really IS The Hound of the Baskervilles.

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