Synopsis: 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.
Title: A Study in Scarlet
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Pub Date: First published in 1887
This is it …This is the novel in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduces us to the world’s best detective. After becoming completely addicted to the TV series (who wouldn’t with Cumberbatch as the lead!) I begged, pleaded, and eventually received the complete works of Sherlock Holmes for Christmas.
Holmes, as we all imagined, is an inexcusably awful character – you could make a list about how bad he is. That list would go a little like this:
- Unlikeable to the very extreme.
- Self-absorbed to the point of being sociopathic.
- Has zero empathy for the victims of the crimes he investigates.
- Likely to be a severe manic-depressive.
- Inconsiderate, callous, cold and socially inept.
And I love him.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first depiction of Sherlock sucks you straight into his world and refuses to spit you back out until the very end. You may exhausted, lost as to how he figured it out, and you might hate him a little – but you can’t help but wonder at the genius mind behind the beautiful man (I still imagine him as Cumberbatch!).
“His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination. His hands were invariably blotted with ink and stained with chemicals, yet he was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch, as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched him manipulating his fragile philosophical instruments.”
Holmes is an addictive and compelling character; no matter whether you love him or hate him (love, love, love!), you can’t help but admire his skill and his ability to retain a huge database of knowledge to help him solve each mystery. He is strange, socially inept, and woefully short on common knowledge (he doesn’t know that the Earth revolves around the sun!). But, what he is, is brilliant:
“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
If this first novel is anything to go by, then I think I’m going to love reading the rest of the books. The writing is addictive and fast-paced; and the plot – unpredictable. I wasn’t able to guess whodunit or even how-he-done-it.
A brilliant thumbs up and a promise to read the next instalment soon.