A Review: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I initially picked up A Study in Scarlet to work towards my 50 titles pledge for Classics Club, but also used it to help me complete my goal of Peril the First for the RIP VII Challenge. I was ashamed to admit that I had never experienced Sherlock in literary form and thought it had been long enough.
Sherlock Holmes is called to the scene when I man is found dead in an abandoned home. His body, left without wounds that imply violence, is sprawled beneath the word rache (or revenge in German) painted in blood on the wall. Watson, Holmes's new roommate, is along for the ride and relates the situation as it unfolds.
I had mixed feelings about this one. While I can definitely say that Doyle is a talented writer and certainly had the smarts to invent such a character, I found the sudden change in narrative and the long, detailed excerpts a bit taxing.
We first encounter Holmes when he's introduced to Watson through a friend. Despite repeated attempts from said friend to warn Watson of the peculiarities of his new acquaintance, Watson decides that the financial benefits outweigh any weirdness on Holmes's part, and in he moves. Friend disappears. Watson is then swept into the whirlwind that is Holmes's life. He indicates the numerous visitors of all different backgrounds, the fact that Holmes practically never takes a moment to relax (except for the moments when he lounges on the couch and stares at the wall for hours), and that Holmes can literally deduce practically anything about an individual within the first 60 seconds of interaction. When Watson, a wounded ex-soldier and doctor, decides to accompany Holmes on his newest case, he's blown away by his ability to pull together the events of the case faster than any member of Scotland Yard.
The crime was put together pretty well. Motive and details were consistent and plausible in the crime-novel sense. However, I can't note particular inconsistencies or flaws at the moment; although, I did notice them while reading. I would have to say that my biggest issue with the novel was the sudden jump from the then present situation with the case to the back story of the murderer. The move from Victorian London to the unruly expanse of the Wild West atmosphere of Utah is completely unexpected and clumsily included. Moreover, it's clear that Doyle opposed the Mormons because he certainly doesn't portray them in a positive light once we do finally understand where he's going. While I won't divulge what does occur in the scenes that build the murderer's motive, I will admit that this section was far more interesting than reading Watson's internal dialogue and watching Holmes flit around like a school boy.
I won't say I was incredibly impressed with this one. I've heard that this isn't the best of the series, so I won't swear them off forever. It was clever, but I just never felt really engaged. It took my nearly two weeks to complete despite the fact that it's a mere 150 pages (with illustrations)! If you enjoy smart crime novels that just happen to be classics, I'd say give it a go. I'd also encourage you to do so if you enjoyed the recent BBC series, because I thought it was a great adaptation and enjoyed comparing the two.
3 of 50 completed for the Classics Club