19) A Study in Scarlet

By: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Date Finished: 12.27.12

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Many years ago, I read a few Sherlock Holmes stories and enjoyed them, but I had no notion of the larger narrative or the intricacies of the Holmes/Watson relationship.  Off and on, I’ve considered reading further, but nothing ever came of it.  However, given my more recent and passionate love of the Sherlock Holmes movies and the BBC show Sherlock combined with my disdain for CBS’s Elementary, I felt I could no longer put off reading the source material.  Naturally, I had to start at the beginning with A Study in Scarlet.

Oh. My. Goodness.  I can hardly think of a more enjoyable reading experience – it is truly riveting.  Part One is basic enough, explaining how Watson came to share a flat with a perfect stranger and his attempts to reconcile Holmes’ idiosyncrasies resulting in his somewhat accidental tagging along with Holmes on a case.  I spent much of the first part congratulating Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (the creators of BBC’s Sherlock) on a brilliantly rendered adaptation.  Some of the early dialogue was used verbatim in the show and sounded completely normal for present day.  I marveled and appreciated the modernity of Doyle’s prose – both for his time and for ours.  This part was pleasant and interesting, and then ended so abruptly.

At first I was irritated because Part Two introduced a completely different setting, pace, and tone.  I had to set it aside for a while before trusting that Doyle wouldn’t lead me astray.  Boy, was that late-coming faith warranted.  This part gives an incredibly detailed account of how the case began, long before the players were even introduced to one another.  It’s a fascinating tale and extra heart wrenching because I’d had a glimpse of the outcome.  It could have been such a beautiful triumph, but I knew it was going to take a turn for the worse, I just didn’t know how.  I read with my stomach clenched and my heart pounding, yet I couldn’t tear my eyes away.  The whole feeling was marvelous.  I thought I’d been invested in characters before, but never like this.

Part Three returns the reader to London where Holmes and Watson wrap up the case to a satisfying conclusion.  Throughout the book, the suspense builds to just the right moment and there are wonderfully funny moments sprinkled in.  The prose is easy to read, but not watered down in the least.  This story alone is an exquisite masterpiece and worthy of all the attention it has received over the years… even the less successful adaptations.

At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me

2 thoughts on “19) A Study in Scarlet

  1. Rachel says:

    So apparently, I haven’t visited here lately…

    I’ve been reading all the Sherlock Holmes stories on my kindle and that change of pace was jolting! Since all the stories are back-to-back, I checked more than once to be sure I was still in the same story. (Others do that too, but not quite like this one). In the middle, I thought I’d never finish, and at one point didn’t want to finish. As it turned out, the middle made for a much more satisfying ending, which is basically what you said here.

    And I do agree that after having read the stories, Moffatt and Gatiss’s brilliance in their adaptation shines even brighter.

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