Wednesday 6 January 2010

A Study in Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet is the first story concerning that most famous detective Sherlock Holmes and the doctor Watson. It concerns the first meeting of Holmes and Watson, the the case which cements Watson's desire to record Holmes' doings.

I really enjoyed this rather pulpy detective story. It is fast-paced with very little deviation from the telling of the crime and the resolution.

The main delight comes from the characters. Everyone knows of Sherlock Holmes, such as his deerstalker hat and pipe, and his ability to solve crimes. Now that I have read this story, I can appreciate his dry wit, towering arrogance and slight wistfulness that he never seems to garner the credit for solving mysteries.

Watson is often represented as being rather stupid, but I infer from this story that he is merely naive about what human beings are capable of and doesn't have Holmes' expert knowledge of criminology. I loved the way that Holmes was patient and exasperated by turns when explaining his deductions to Watson. You also get a sense of the fact that Holmes is just dying to show off his abilities, and Watson's faithful recording of the case fits this neatly.

The story loses half a star for two reasons, both of which are probably attributable to the time and manner of when it was released.

The first is the abrupt switch from the location in London to the detailed story of Jefferson Hope, who hails from America. At first I was not at all clear why this had been introduced. I believe it may have been done because of the serialised nature of many Sherlock Holmes stories, enabling both new and existing readers to enjoy the tale, but it did jar somewhat.

The second is the way that Mormons and Native Americans are dealt with, although I freely admit that this is due to modern sensibilities and an environment that now decries anything deemed not politically correct. I was a little shocked to see it, but accept that this is the peril of reading anything set in this era.

Altogether, a pacy read with lovely dialogue and an instantly unforgettable character in the form of Sherlock Holmes.

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