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Cannonball Read V: A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

By Beletseri | Book Reviews | January 21, 2013 | Comments ()


A Study in Scarlet is the first Sherlock Holmes novel. It introduces the famous detective and his roommate Watson. I'm completely obsessed with the BBC's "Sherlock" starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and my dad is a big Holmes fan. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I never read Little Women despite my mom's repeated pleading, so I'm trying to share more things with my dad.

The book is good. It starts out with introducing Watson, he's a war doctor who was injured. He has a meager army stipend and can't really work because of his injuries so he needs a roommate. And old colleague of his introduces him to Sherlock Holmes. The book is written in first person and is set up as if Watson has just transcribed parts of his personal journal into this short novel. It's a very good format and allows the reader to watch Sherlock along with Watson. That is the most enjoyable part and what makes Sherlock a timeless character. This genius man who is a bit mad but terribly clever. Doyle is careful to keep Sherlock a bit of mystery, he's always one step ahead of everyone else, but at the same time Sherlock will explain what has happened to you. It means that the reader can feel clever alongside Sherlock. It's really a marvelous format.

The television show actually follows the book well. It's not a faithful adaptation, by any means. There are blatant deviations, the murder has extremely different motives from each version. But they really capture the character Sherlock and they do use big plot pieces from the book. If you've watched the show or the Robert Downey Jr. movies you won't be spoiled for books. It's really interesting to see the choices the adaptation made.

Speaking of what they took from the book, the second half of the book is the whole long story of why the murderer wanted to kill these two men. It is totally different than the show and really there was no way that it could ever be adapted. Now I guess this is a touch spoilery but it has to do with Mormons and makes the Mormons out to be these terrible bad guys. It's actually pretty inflammatory. Doyle really depicts the Mormons as a manipulative cult and just harps on polygamy. (Brigham Young himself makes an appearance!) It's like all Mormon stereotypes rolled together. I just never knew that happened in the Sherlock Holmes books. I thought it was all London and pipes and whatever but yeah there is this whole other story in the book and it takes place in Utah. It's not a bad story, it's actually quite action packed. I just could help but be amazed at how badly it portrayed Mormons.

Anyway, I enjoyed it. It was well written, super fun and I will be reading some more Sherlock Holmes this year.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it and for more of Beletseri's reviews, check out her blog, My Life in the Bush of Books.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Thanks for reminding me! You've whet my appetite so I cracked open Volume 1 of The Complete Sherlock Holmes for the first time in years.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I love all these classic mysteries. I've got a bunch of Conan Doyle in my reading queue.

  • HMDK

    So is it just about impossible to guess the killer if you read it? And is the method of murder esoteric and implausible? And are motives incromprehensible?

    Because that is a terrible virus infecting most crime writers. Agatha Christie especially, but Doyle also.

  • Cara

    Terrible virus - present tense? Has someone been practising necromancy whilst I wasn't looking again?

    From the facts you are presented with as a reader it is impossible to devise the solution to the problem - but seeing as Sherlock Holmes worked via specialised knowledge and sight based deduction, it's was always going to have that issue, and it was probably inevitable the stories were written the way they were. I think the Speckled Band had the most mindbending solution - leastways it stuck in my mind.

    I haven't read much Christie, but I surmise it has the same foible. I still enjoy the stories though.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I had no idea about the Utah connection, that sounds fascinating.

  • BlackRabbit

    America comes up in a couple of other Sherlock stories, I think. Part of it was that to many in England, America was a mysterious and far-off place, the same was India and Asia were presented. That's my half-baked idea, anyway.

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