When I was compiling my three/four books for my Triple Choice Tuesday for Reading Matters a few weeks ago I knew in some shape or form I would have to include a Sherlock Holmes mystery by the marvellous Arthur Conan Doyle. These books, this author and indeed the character have been a big push in my reading life three times, more on that later, and I also realised I rarely do any re-reading. So, along with the vague memory of me saying I would have a Sherlock Holmes-a-thon back when I saw the film, I decided to return to the very first Sherlock Holmes mystery and see if we could get reacquainted.
If you are like me and like to read a series from the start then with Sherlock Holmes you have to start with ‘A Study in Scarlet’. It is actually the book in which Dr Watson, just back from the army after being injured, becomes introduced to the mysterious and slightly odd Sherlock Holmes via a mutual acquaintance as they are both looking for shared digs. You guessed it; this is of course the now infamous address 221B Baker Street.
As the two slowly get to learn more about each others habits Dr Watson soon discovers that Sherlock Holmes is indeed an amateur detective, though only in terms that it is not under an official capacity as the police come to him for help. It is then little time before Watson ends up on the trail with Sherlock for a murderer in on of the most baffling mysteries London has seen in some time. That of the unscathed dead man, found in a derelict house in Brixton, who is surrounded by blood that is not his own and the word ‘Rache’ written in blood on the wall!
Naturally being a Sherlock Holmes mystery you can expect the unexpected and an impossible sounding case that by the end Sherlock Holmes will have made seem easier than playing chess against a five year old. You can also expect horse cab chases, a sight into the Victorian underbelly, dead ends and twists through the London streets. If you love a good mystery or a great Victorian book then this is definitely for you. I still think there is yet to be a detective or a series that betters Sherlock Holmes.
The one thing I had forgotten about ‘A Study in Scarlet’ since reading it many, many moons ago was that it’s a book of two halves. The first is working out who the murderer is, the second takes us to foreign shores and looks at how the case ended up where it did and the aftermath. This half has a very different tone, the first being told by Watson and has the gloom of London, the second being set in sunnier climates told like an adventure story (which Conan Doyle was also very famous for) involving love that cannot be and the Latter Day Saints. (That is all I will say on the plot.) Initially I was a little cross as I wanted more Holmes and he features little in the second half, but then as a whole book it has more impact, you only realise just how much cleverer Sherlock is than you could even think. I thoroughly enjoyed this and read it in two sittings. 7.5/10
I mentioned that Arthur Conan Doyle, his tales and his characters have had a very big impact on me as a reader. When I used to go on walking holidays with Granny Savidge, my Grandad plus her brother, my Great Uncle Derek, and his wife Pat we could walk up to and sometimes over ten miles a day. Uncle Derek would memorise Conan Doyle stories, not all Sherlock, to tell me as we went. I then learnt there were books and became addicted. After I stopped reading from about the age of 17 – 23 (I know shocking) what was the very first book I bought? A delightful 70’s edition of The Hound of The Baskervilles of course. When my Granddad died and I feared I could never read again, sounds dramatic but I honestly though it was the case, which series managed to hold my attention? Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Tales of Adventure’ and ‘Tales of the Supernatural’ of course! So in many ways these books go past a comfort read (not that they are by any means cosy) and are a nostalgic read and mean a lot to me.
Do you have any nostalgic reads? Have you ever read any Sherlock Holmes, and if you have which have you loved the most (no plot spoilers)? Have you yet to read a word of Conan Doyle, and if not why not? Which other of his non-Sherlock works have any of you tried?
Oh and I have included the covers of both Penguin’s edition and Oxford University Press as I have both… and about three different editions from the 60’s – 80’s at my Mums!!! Oops!