A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet

Book - 2006
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9
Grand Central Pub

'There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it'.

Arriving in the wilderness of London and in need of lodgings, Dr John Watson finds himself living at 221b Baker Street with one Sherlock Holmes. When a corpse is discovered in a derelict house Watston, fascinated by his brilliant, eccentric companion, is soon drawn into Holmes' investigations. There's no sign of a struggle, no wounds on the body, yet scrawled in blood across the walls is the word RACHE - revenge. Watson is baffled but for Holmes the game is afoot...



Publisher: London : Headline Review, 2006
ISBN: 9780755334483
0755334485
9780755334476
0755334477
Characteristics: 164 p. : 20 cm

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Andrew Kyle Bacon
May 07, 2018

It's so strange, this being the first Holmes story, as it is wholly underwhelming. I am glad, however, that it establishes one of the finest literary characters conceived, and introduced the world to the World's Greatest Detective. Yet the book is strange, featuring a very odd structure in its second half, which mars the book, although not perhaps as much as other reviewers would lead you to believe. The first half of the novel, where Holmes undertakes the investigation proper, is enthralling and engaging, but the second half of the novel, which follows three characters who become entwined with Brigham Young (yes, that Brigham Young) and the settling of Utah. It's such a strange turn, and feels like such a swift tonal shift that it seems wrong. Suddenly, we are gone from the streets of London and have turned to the Prairie and the desert. Suddenly our detective novel turns to a western novel, and the change is so peculiar that it might leave you scratching your head. That is, until you see exactly what Doyle is doing. He shifts the narrative from Dr. Watson's account of the case, a subjective telling from his perspective of how Holmes works, to an "objective," historical narrative accounting for the events leading up to the crime. It also reveals how strong of a writer Doyle was, since in his attempt to switch settings he switches genres as well, molding his style to fit the landscape in which he writes.

Is A Study in Scarlet the best of the Holmes' stories which I've read? Not by any chance! But is it a bad novella on its own? By no means. In fact, it's so short and engaging, I wonder why anyone would begrudge it and not wish to read it to completion. It's not bad by any means, it just doesn't quite fit with what we expect a Holmes story to be like. But, to be very fair, The Hound of the Baskervilles is also a very strange novel. Perhaps our perception of what a Holmes story is like is shaped more by movies and TV than we think? Perhaps these stories seem odd to readers because they view Holmes through the lens of how he has been presented, not by his creator, but by his interpreters. Perhaps, just perhaps, the reason we react to these stories and find them so odd, is because we don't exactly know who Sherlock Holmes is because we've never read him. I'm finding that to be the case with me.

SPPL_Anna Mar 19, 2018

Let's just talk about how suddenly the narrative jumps back to follow the Mormons out in Utah and how absolutely buckwild that is as a premise for a murder in the 1880s.

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gogo12127
Dec 17, 2017

In 1887, a young Arthur Conan Doyle published A Study in Scarlet, creating an international icon in the quick-witted sleuth Sherlock Holmes. In this first Holmes mystery, the detective introduces himself to Dr. John H. Watson with the puzzling line, “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive,” and begins Watson's, and the world's, fascination with this enigmatic character. In A Study in Scarlet, Doyle presents two equally perplexing mysteries for Holmes to solve: one a murder that takes place in the shadowy outskirts of London in a locked room where the haunting word Rache is written upon the wall; the other a kidnapping set in the American West. Picking up the “scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life,” Holmes demonstrates his uncanny knack for finding the truth, tapping into powers of deduction that will captivate readers today. (Description slightly edited from the synopsis on the back cover of this paperback edition, a synopsis presumably provided by the publisher – The Modern Library.)

This first Sherlock Holmes mystery is the first Sherlock Holmes mystery I've read. It's a rather old-fashioned mystery with old-fashioned values. As Anne Perry notes in her introduction to this Modern Library edition, “Conan Doyle's characters are essentially Victorian, with the strengths and weaknesses of their time, and probably of Conan Doyle himself. . . . His convictions and opinions were of his time and place. His values were the admiration of honor, intelligence, reason, loyalty, fortitude, invention, and optimism. He seems to have understood women little. . . . He had instinctive prejudices against certain groups of people. His reference to Jews is pejorative, and his portrayal of Mormons in this story is a gross distortion.

Despite my misgivings of this first Sherlock Holmes mystery, I plan to continue to read the other Sherlock Holmes novels.

i
im_not_a_nerd
Jun 24, 2016

I meant to give it a 5/5, however I mis-clicked and accidentally rated it 4.5/5. Now I cannot change it. OPL plz fix.

m
modestgoddess
Oct 10, 2015

This is where the Sherlock saga begins....It left me underwhelmed. I much preferred the treatment the BBC "Sherlock" TV series gave this story. As a previous reviewer mentions, the chunk set in Utah is really not that interesting. This being said, if you want a good read of some Sherlock stories, borrow The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes instead. Some well-known cases in there and much more engagingly written.

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Gobookworm
Sep 02, 2015

This is probably the BEST book I have ever read!!! The plot twists and turns and keeps you on the hook, and the characters are delightful and unique! A+++ book!!!!

e
Eosos
May 12, 2015

Somehow, when I read all the Sherlock books in my teens I missed this one. Not sure how but I decided that now was a good time to rectify this.

It’s pretty hard not to have an idea of how this story goes with all the TV adaptations out there. I’m not sure if already knowing what happened and why affected my enjoyment but while the story was good it wasn’t great. I didn’t really like the past part of the tale based in Utah but the Sherlock and Watson half was excellent.

l
librarianatlarge
Sep 11, 2013

I had never read a Sherlock Holmes story before. I was very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting stuffy Victorian writing, but this is very modern and easy to read. I enjoyed it very much and will be reading the rest of the books.

voisjoe1 May 19, 2013

I’ve been reading a book entitled “Mastermind,” which is a non-fiction book that tries to help one observe the world better through improved deductive thinking patterns used by Sherlock Holmes. Since “Mastermind’ uses multiple examples from Sherlock Holmes own words on deductive thinking, I thought I would broaden my understanding of “Mastermind” by reading a few Holmes novellas. The first work ever written with Holmes and Watson is a novella (121 pages) entitled “A Study in Scarlet.” Much of the novella is supposedly from a diary compiled by Holmes’ associate, the famous Doctor Watson. Part II is partially written by Arthur Conan Doyle, with a few chapters from the diary of Watson. Good examples of the deductive method of thinking are given in this first appearance of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle, by the way, tried to stop writing about Holmes by charging too much for his efforts and then by possibly getting Holmes killed in one of the stories, but people kept demanding more so Doyle relented and now fiction fans have a huge archive of Holmes to enjoy.

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