Review: A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

sherlock1“There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

I have only read one Sherlock Holmes book, a few years ago, but I have seen so many adaptations of it that I feel like I know the characters very well.

The first version I grew up with was with Basil Rathbone who I automatically pictured in my head when I went to read the Hound of the Baskervilles. I’ve seen bits of the version with Jeremy Brett and the action thriller version by Guy Ritchie. Sherlock, the modern-day adaptation, by Moffat and Gatiss is my favourite. I like the way they’ve basically made it with the same attitude behind the Rathbone version but for our time.

A Study in Scarlet is the first Sherlock adventure and begins with Doctor John Watson returning from Afghanistan and meeting his soon to be best friend Sherlock Holmes. Through Watson’s eyes the reader learns more about the man, his profession and the criminal world of London. The story revolves around Holmes but because we never see things from his perspective we are constantly guessing at his motives and thoughts just as Watson is.

It is written in first person and although I am normally not a fan of this I can’t imagine the book written any other way. The immediacy we get to the characters is such that can only be achieved with this technique. The story distances itself in the second half as we go into a character’s back story which involves Mormans, survival, love and America. For a second I thought the novel had ended and this was a separate short story; I had to flick through to make sure. Despite this abruptness Doyle still drew me into the narrative and I did come to be interested in the story of these temporary characters.

Overall the Sherlock Holmes history is fascinating. I can see how this would inspire countless adaptations like Rathbone’s and Jeremy Brett’s and now with Sherlock all building on each other a delving deeper and deeper into the psychology of the characters and illustrating them for a modern audience. Despite my love for these I still want to read the originals not just because I feel I should but because I genuinely do enjoy reading about the adventures in the original world of Sherlock Holmes.


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