Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Review: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: A Study in Scarlet
Series: Sherlock Holmes #1
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
First Published: 1887 in Beeton's Christmas Annual (As a book in 1888)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In the debut of literature's most famous sleuth, 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.

As you probably know, here on My Thoughts Literally I do theme months where I pick a specific genre and topic and read a handful of books that fit that theme. This month's theme is Mystery/Thrillers. I've wanted to read more classics and I felt like this was the perfect month to read a classic mystery. And what could be more classic than the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes? Answer, nothing!

A Study in Scarlet is novella written by Arthur Conan Doyle and is broken into two parts. The first part, The Reminiscence of Watson, features the first appearance of the most famous detective in history, Sherlock Holmes. The story on the whole was a more traditional mystery story, as Holmes is called on to solve a murder with very little clues. But before they can get to the meat of the story, our heroes have to meet. As much as I love mysteries this is my first Sherlock Holmes experience. I haven't seen to show, though I do want to, so I have nothing to go off of, but I do know about Holmes and Watson. I did enjoy reading their original origin story and getting to know the characters. They were interesting and intelligent though I'm not sure if it was me or them, but they were sort of at arms length when it came to the connection. I felt like a fly on the wall rather than a part of the story, and for mysteries I like to be more involved than that.

As as the plot of this first novella, it wasn't as compelling as I expected it to be. As a fan of mysteries I really like the ability to solve the crime along with the detective and I didn't quite get that here. Sherlock's ability to solve mysteries is based on his innate skills in putting together the clues the average person, like me, wouldn't be able to see. He is smart, very smart, and it is impressive to see him solve what feels unsolvable but it's one of the reasons that I never fully connected with the story. I'm not sure if this is just the "Sherlock way" or if it was because we experience the book through Watson who isn't the detective of the story. But I did like the ending and the logic that Holmes used to figure out what had happened. I just wish there was more opportunity for me to also solve the mystery. But what I liked most was how the two stories tied together in the end.

And maybe that connection was why I liked the second part, The Country of the Saints better. The first part was the set up and the second part was the payoff. At first I didn't see the connection between the two parts but I was still enjoying the second half more. The second part takes us to the American West as we follow a man and his daughter who are traveling through the desert and just when they think all hope is lost, meet a group of Mormons. His daughter is sought after to marry one of the Mormons but she is engaged to marry a man who hasn't converted like he was supposed to and hijinxs or should I say havoc ensues. This part of the book had much more suspense and it was the one that I was entertained by more.

Or maybe this just wasn't enough Holmes for me to connect with. I'm not usually a fan of novellas and short stories for that particular reason. I like being able to spend 3-400 pages with a character and see them develop for me to truly become invested in them. Or maybe it's because this was my first Sherlock experience (well unless you count that episode of Wishbone I saw as a kid). Maybe those who are already a fan of the detective will enjoy the book because they are connected. But on the whole, the book was a good and interesting mystery and I liked being along for the ride with Holmes and Watson in their first mystery.

I give A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a 7.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. Fans of Mysteries should check out this classic. I mean it is the most famous detective in literature after all. But I would definitely suggest this book to fans of the Sherlock TV show. I can't say how similar the two are but getting to know the origins of the detective and his partner I'm sure would be fun.

Have you read A Study in Scarlet? What were your thoughts? Are you a fan of the Sherlock TV show? I'm sorry I haven't watched the show yet, I will, I promise! Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. Haha live the Buy Borrow Bypass designation. Personally I'm not a huge mystery fan...I mean I love mystery in my fantasy and science fiction but "mystery" novels don't normally do it for me. I'll stick to the film adaptations for this.

    1. Thanks! I love the Buy/Borrow/Bypass too. It's a great way to end the review and recommend or not recommend the book. I love mystery in my Fantasy and SciFi as well. I used to be really obsessed with "Cozy Mysteries" too. I feel like I should check out these adaptations. I just didn't get enough Sherlock in this book!