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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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  1. ConfusedHead says:

    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. poeturja says:

    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.


  4. abhibishnu says:

    Reblogged this on World beneath the feet and commented:
    Book review, ” A study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was the beginning of the Sherlock Holmes series, and incidentally, this was the novel where Sherlock Holmes met his trusted lietuenant, Dr. Watson. Read on toenjoy.


  5. I have learned something new reading this post. I never dreamed that Sherlock Holmes ever had any investigations in Utah, being so far from London!


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