In the debut of literature's most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio's Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes.
A Study in Scarlet
Conan Doyle, Arthur (1887). [Genre: Mystery]
Is it weird that I can no longer read Sherlock Holmes without imagining Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? Anyway . . .
A Study in Scarlet was an enjoyable read, if a little odd. Being the first appearance of the famous characters, much is made of initial introductions – we are introduced to Watson, and are introduced to Holmes through him as they meet each other for the first time and subsequently move into rooms on Baker Street together. It takes a little while to rev up into the actual mystery, which involves a man found dead in the middle of a room, with the German word for ‘revenge’ painted in blood on the walls (lovely).
It all connects together in the end and as it turns out, the interlude does have relevance to the overall story (just, not enough perhaps to justify literally half the novel). Here came my second point of contention, although it is admittedly more due to the newness of the genre at the time Conan Doyle was writing - the reader cannot predict 'whodunnit.' There is literally no way in which the reader could possibly guess until Holmes reveals his conclusion . . . there is no foreshadowing, no hints. Indeed we don't even meet the culprit until the moment Holmes reveals him as such.
I enjoy Conan Doyle's writing greatly and will return to Sherlock Holmes without a doubt. But A Study in Scarlet certainly felt like a literary debut (as indeed, it is) - it just doesn't have the polish of the mysteries that follow it.
A Study in Scarlet counts both towards my Classics Club list and the 'A Classic Mystery' category of the Back to the Classics Challenge.