A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle

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!


Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Oxford University Press, Penguin Books, Penguin Classics, Review

21 responses to “A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle

  1. I read A Study in Scarlet immediately after watching the new Sherlock Holmes film with Robert Downey Jnr and I thought it was exceptionally good fun. The interaction between Holmes and Watson is handled so well. I also was puzzled by the abrupt switch in tone midway through the book, but thoroughly enjoyed the way everything was resolved. I am keen to read more of Doyle’s work!

  2. Oh you don’t want to know what my “nostalgic” reads would be. I read alot of trash when I was younger. Nothing as sophisticated as Doyle for me! In fact, believe it or not, but I’ve never read a single one of his books. I love the story about your walking holidays – what memories! This explains quite a bit about your love of the author.

  3. I didn’t realise that was the first one – I would have assumed it was the Hound! I have so many nostaglic reads, primarily I turn to the Chalet School for comfort, but also Enid Blyton and Antomia Forest – childrens books always do it for me. Otherwise favourite autobiographies that I read in my formative years – Monica Dickens, Christopher Milne…

    • I think that Hound has become the most famous of the independent books which arent a collection. I actually can understand that as its probably the best though I have yet to read The Sign of Four which is next on my Sherlock hit list.

  4. I am a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, I haven’t quite read them all yet. I was impressed when Stephen Fry chose the Holmes books as his specialist subject in Mastermind, and admitted afterwards it had been a few years since he had read them, what a memory!

    Nostalgic reads for me would have to be the What Katie didi Next books and the Mallory Towers series by Enid Blyton ( I think) read when very young

    • I have never seen that mastermind would loved to have seen Stephen Fry with that subject. Anyone who likes Sherlock Holmes instantly endears themselves to me, or futher endears themselves lol. I never read either of the series of your nostaligic reads, I feel have missed out!

  5. Deb

    A few months ago, my husband and I had to drive a (relatively) long way for an appointment. On the way there and back, we listened to an audiobook of A STUDY IN SCARLET. Although we’re both fans of the Sherlock Holmes movies & tv shows (especially the ones with Jeremy Brett) and my husband read many of the stories to our children when they were younger, neither of us had ever read ASIS. I have to say that the first half was excellent: We learn how Watson met Holmes and how Holmes conducted some of his early experiments. I was less than enthralled with the long second section set in Utah and involving the Mormon (Latter-Day Saints) Church. I found that tedious in the extreme. I’m glad Doyle apparently realized the popularity of the story was based on the Holmes-Watson interaction and the solving of the puzzle, and he focused on those elements in subsequent Holmes stories.

    • I think Sherlcok can work really well in audio if its the right narrator or if the vboices are right. I have a very specific idea of Holmes in my head and its got to be just so.

      Having said that I thought the movie version was utterly brilliant!

  6. It’s great to have such nostalgic books. Those for me would be Gone with the Wind and it’s sequel, Scarlett, which I’ve read too many times to count, and The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit which I’ve also read numerous times. They are always what I go back to.

    I’ve only read one Holmes book but I do think I will have to try some more.

  7. Linda P

    It must have been great to have relatives who gave you a head start by introducing you to a classic like Sherlock Holmes, firstly through story telling whilst out walking and then discovering the books for yourself. I’m only beginning to appreciate Conan Doyle myself as I read more of the detective genre. Also the acting of Jeremy Brett in the TV series!
    Although I caught the love of reading from my own family, I was a solitary only child (no TV then)! I read fairy tales, Dickens and the Brontes and anything gothic or historical when quite young and impressionable. Also, Anne of Green Gables series (more cheerful) which, if I had time, I would go back to for a comfort read.

    • The walking and stories I think made Holmes, and indeed Conan Doyle, have a specialm place in my heart. Its been great to see I still (so far) think they are as marvellous as I ever did to be honest. It would have been horrid if I went back and didnt enjoy them.

  8. I have been slowly working my way through all of the Holmes stories (just finished “Return”) but I was also shocked at the abrupt change between the two halves. It through me off at first, but I adjusted.

  9. This is one of my favorite Holmes books. But my sentimental favorites will always be Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, and The Lord of the Flies.

    They all appealed to the tomboy in me when I was a kid, and I have great memories of reading and re-reading them many, many times

  10. I love all of the Holmes stories and I am planning on reading the Brigadier Gerard stories for the first time this summer. I’m sure it will lead to a Holmes re-read too!

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