Book Review: A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887)

Release: 1887
Release: 1887

I am a little ashamed to admit that up until this point my experiences of Sherlock Holmes have been limited to Sherlock, Elementary, the Guy Ritchie films and The Great Mouse Detective. There are bits that have been accumulated, through word of mouth and references in other media sources, that had allowed me to develop a particular picture of the great detective. A view that I think a countless number of other people share, and a view that has allowed the detective to become a well known figure throughout today’s society. It is amazing how Holmes has developed into an entity that exists in the minds of so many people, so many people who maybe haven’t seen a Sherlock Holmes film or read a Sherlock Holmes book; but still he exists, often clear as day. Everyone has an image of the man, an image that is quite often drastically different from his books’ persona. Which Sherlock is most accurate? Some might argue that it is the original source material that “is” Sherlock, but that might not be the case anymore. He has grown so far beyond the bounds of literature. He has broken the chains of characterization and now exists in many forms, none completely wrong. I would say, that other characterizations are just as intriguing and often just as much Sherlock, but the novelization of Sherlock is the most pure. It was this origin that has inspired generations. It was this source that I have finally had the chance to glimpse.

A Study In Scarlet is the first Sherlock Holmes story published by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so naturally it is an ideal place to begin. The story is surprisingly simple and lacking tension, but somehow the simplicity and quickness of the story’s flow is captivating. It is an easy book to read in one, or a few sittings, and I would argue that this may be the best way to enjoy it. However I read it over the course of four sittings, and by the end I was well satisfied. My first taste of the literary Sherlock was just that, a taste. For me to really understand Sherlock, I’m sure a lot more reading is necessary. I think for a first taste A Study In Scarlet is perfect; it is short, interesting, and does a good job of establishing the classic characters.

The story really only had one flaw and that was its division into two parts. By the end of the first part the story is pretty much over and this kills the readers desire to continue on through part 2, especially since part 2 begins in a drastically different setting with completely different characters. Part 2 works mostly as an explanation of the criminals motives and life up until the point when he is apprehended by Sherlock and company. I feel this divide would benefit from clarity of its role in the story. However, I can also see the appeal of keeping it a mystery. Perhaps if the reader is not aware of how the characters relate to crime in Part 1, there can be more suspense as any character could meet their demise at any point. While I found this split in the story a bit irksome at first, I thoroughly enjoyed both halves.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the story, but for any Sherlock fans out there I highly recommend taking a gander at his source. It is a quick and entertaining tale the provides an interesting first perspective of one of history’s greatest characters. At my finish of the book I was shocked to discover that A Study In Scarlet was published when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was only 27 years old for Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1887 and Doyle only received £25. For £25 the character would be forever ingrained in our society and after this first glimpse I’d give it 4 out 5 stars.

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