“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”
After finding myself sucked in to The Hound of the Baskervilles recently whilst randomly flicking through channels, I realised that I had never actually read any Sherlock Holmes. Yet, if asked, I’d probably say that I knew the stories well. After reading A Study in Scarlet, it turns out I was wrong on this count (at least for this novel) and the story is very little like the one I had in my head.
I chose A Study in Scarlet because it’s the first of the Sherlock Holmes stories and I like to do things in order. It was a good choice I think because it introduced me to a Dr. Watson that wasn’t the bumbling old man I had in my head, rather a war veteran who, whilst maybe not as good at sleuthing as Holmes, had a lot going for him.
Holmes’ introduction was also very interesting. He doesn’t come across as the most personable of people, which I didn’t expect, but he seems more aware of this than I had thought he would be. Who he is laid out clearly, in his own words (“I get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my mouth for days on end. You must not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I’ll soon be right.” ).
The other main character, Lestrade, was also a bit of a revelation as, again, I think him a bit dull-witted but Holmes himself says he is ” quick and energetic” if conventional. He also doesn’t seem as annoyed by Holmes as sometimes portrayed but happy to ask for help (if not to share the glory).
I felt like I was meeting all the characters with fresh eyes and tried to keep visions of Basil Rathbone and Benedict Cumberbatch to the back of my mind as I read. This is difficult with Holmes been so well known but as the novel progressed I found it easier because I was drawn in to the story.
The story itself is one of revenge and it doesn’t take long for Holmes to find the clues he needs to solve the case. I hadn’t expected him too as the book was short – just over 100 pages – but it only took the first half for him to do so. Then, with the killer identified, Conan Doyle goes on to tell the story of the how and the why. The first half was told through the eyes of Dr. Watson, the second in the third person. Both were good, though I did have a bit of a jolt going from one to the other. Again, though, it wasn’t long before I was drawn in.
This really is an easy story to get sucked into and to read, both in length and writing style. It may be over a 100 years old but it didn’t feel it. With very few changes, it really could have been written today. No wonder the stories are so loved and the subject of TV and film. I liked this a lot and will be reading more.