Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Originally Published in 1887
Source: bought this one for my Nook for book club

A dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio's Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes. 

My Thoughts: 
It was suggested, some months ago, that my book club read some Sherlock Holmes. This is so far out of our norm and, since there were only four novellas and 56 short stories, I knew we'd need to do something a little different this time around. First up was picking what we'd read. I chose to go with two of the novellas, A Study In Scarlet, the first novella, and The Hound of The Baskervilles (which I read a couple of years ago - my review), the most famous of the novellas.

A Study In Scarlet introduces Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes, the two come together as total strangers who need each other for practical housing reasons. Watson quickly falls under Holmes' spell as he is, time and again, astounded by what Holmes can deduce accurately by simple observation and prior research. Holmes, we learn, is not, strictly speaking, the genius those of us who only know him from movies and television believe him to be. Instead he's a man whose genius lies in knowing what he needs to learn in order to do what he wants to do better. His studies all revolve around what will come to be known as forensic science.
"...his zeal for certain studies was remarkable, and within eccentric limits his knowledge was so extraordinarily ample and minute that his observations have fairly astounded me. Surely no man would work so hard or attain such precise information unless he had some definite end in view.  
His ignorance was a remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing...My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly believe it."
Holmes has not yet become a consultant for the police and has very little interest in most of their cases, they being below his intellect. But when a body is found dead without a trace, Holmes can't resist. And he's going, doing his thing, just about to solve the crime when all of sudden...bam! Conan Doyle takes readers into what appears to be an entirely different storyline. Suddenly we're in Utah, among the Mormans. Eventually, we'll get back to the original story but not until we've spent several years, and half the novella, learning the background of the murder suspect.

The back and forth was more than a little jarring and it felt like I was reading two different stories. Conan Doyle certainly had gotten a better grasp on how to tell his stories by the time he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles.

What was most interesting to me, in doing research for our discussion of the novellas, was how much these stories changed police work. I'm not sure there have ever been fiction works that had a greater impact on real life. Knowing that made the book much more interesting for me that it might otherwise have been. Between the stories themselves, some research, a quiz and a prize, Sherlock Holmes turned out to be a fun book club choice.


  1. I bet it was. We haven't used Sherlock Holmes in my mystery book group as yet and it's only been 8 years. LOL

    I like what you said here though, so I might consider it for a month next year. Perhaps October. I try to do 'dark and stormy' in October.

    1. I put together a quiz about the Sherlock Holmes books and we talked a lot about what how Holmes changed policing. It was actually quite a good discussion considering these stories where well out of our usual milieu.

  2. I haven't read Study in Scarlet - or really much Sherlock Holmes in general - but I want too. The sudden jump into background info would definitely be startling but I can see how this would be a great book club read!

    1. The Hound of The Baskervilles is much more in line with what you'd imagine a Sherlock Holmes book would be.