BOOK REVIEW: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This is the first book of the Sherlock Holmes canon, and is also the first Holmes novel (most of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are short stories published in collections.) The book was first published in 1887.

There are actually two stories told in the novel. The first part of the novel describes a mysterious murder that happens in London and whose victim displays a gruesome death mask. Later a second murder is discovered. It’s not clear whether the two killings are connected but the two men were associates and so it’s a likely conclusion—though the victims’ manner of death is quite different. Because, it’s the first story, there’s also the meeting of Holmes and Dr. Watson–who becomes Holmes’s roommate and who soon becomes fascinated by the work of the world’s first consulting detective.

Part I is as one would expect of a Holmes’ story in setting and characters, the second part is out of the ordinary but none-the-less fascinating. Part II begins with a man and a little girl being rescued by a caravan of Mormons. The two are the sole survivors of a Donner Party-style ill-fated wagon train through the Rockies. The man and the girl go on to live with the Mormons, if uneasily. Eventually, the girl reaches age. While she falls for a non-Mormon hunter, the polygamous Mormon’s face a situation in which the demand for wives far outstrips supply. This sets up the intrigue of the story. That intrigue is eventually tied up by Holmes at the end of the second part.

It seems like it would be an odd way to tell such a story, in two disparate parts, but both parts of the story are well-told and gripping. Though, I found the adventure in Utah to be particularly edge-of-the-seat. There’s a reason Holmes was such a popular character. Arthur Conan Doyle wove fascinating tales.

I’d recommend this book for all fiction readers—unless you’re a Mormon with anger issues, then you might want to just pass.

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23 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  1. The discovery of “RACHE” written in blood on a wall, the first meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Watson where Holmes deduces every bit of Watson and of course the Utah piece – my favorites. I read this book almost 13 years ago, the desceiption of Mormons had made me shudder.


  2. First read this at age 10 and wanted to be a mystery writer. Well, poetry is its own mystery, I guess. I do read all the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories every decade (there are lots of those now) and never tire of them!


  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Holmes is another of my literary obsessions, and I’m glad you enjoyed ‘A Study’. I agree with you: it takes a great storyteller to combine such disparate elements and get away with it. Nowadays, we’re very used to ‘cold-cases’ and elements from the past being intimately connected with the present. Given the relative youth of the detective genre when SACD was writing, he was a bit of a trailblazer in this respect.


    • So this is his first novel, which isn’t a bad place to start. I’d start with either it or “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” which is the first short story collection. I’d slightly recommend the latter because I’m pretty sure it came first, but also gives one some insight into the Watson relationship and a greater overview of the Holmes universe.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good review. I’ve always enjoyed the plots concocted by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So much so that I entered a competition to write a Holmes story about the Great Rat of Sumatra. You can find it in my blog post from February this year, entitled ‘New Holmes’.


  5. I really enjoy watching the BBC ‘Sherlock’ and relating them to the original stories. The ‘Sherlock’ episode is called A Study in Pink I think

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Intriguing. You render valuable service in dusting off these books and saying to us, Look again. I am currently reading Chesterton’s Father Brown stories and find them fascinating time capsules written in a style no longer fashionable. The crime story is ancient and still holds great attention, if one views the crime series on television. In this regard (my opinion), the Americans are doing the best work, though the French are sneaking up. Thank you. – will

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: BOOK REVIEW: The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle | the !n(tro)verted yogi

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