A Study in Scarlet (review)

“Arthur Conan Doyle.”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Conan_Doyle “A Study in Scarlet.”:http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/9556 1887. Project Gutenberg. Audiobook.

There’s a pattern in my media consumption habits: get very close to the end of something, then put it aside for months, only to finish it off when I’ve got some spare time. I downloaded this audiobook when I was working non-stop on my thesis to get it ready for 2.5 year review (about 6 months ago, now), and looking at the tiny 12″ screen of my old iBook all day was giving me headaches. At night, it was nice just to close my eyes and listen. But I gave up right before the final chapter, which I only listened to today while rearranging my furniture.

There’s not a great deal to reflect on in a story like this: it’s a plot-driven adventure story for the most part, but there were a few points that I found noteworthy, especially since this is the first Sherlock Holmes story written, and the first one I’ve taken in:

* Holmes is introduced to us as an obsessed medical researcher, who is ecstatic about having just discovered a chemical test for the presence of blood on an object. The narrator, Watson, is introduced to him in the process of looking for share accomodation, and takes up a place in Holmes’ apartments.
* Holmes is represented as being relatively unique in his use of scientific and logical reasoning in the process of solving a crime.
* The policemen in the story, Gregson and Lestrade, are totally incompetent and would never have solved their case without help from Sherlock Holmes. They even convince themselves that an innocent man committed the murder, and throw him in the lock-up. My personal interactions with police have convinced me that most are ignorant brutes who don’t know the law and think their job is just to charge anyone they can, with any offence they can (including offences that don’t exist, which is a story for another time). Evidently, this was also the case in the late 19th century.
* The villains of the piece are the Mormons, including the successor to Joseph Smith, Prophet Brigham Young, who led the Mormons to Utah, where they built Salt Lake city. And the ones I’ve met have all been so nice! I guess inside, they’re just boiling cauldrons of evil. Or maybe things have changed since 1887.

Despite my general opinion that 19th century English novels are insular and dry (gathered from reading such compulsory classics as _Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, Mary Barton,_ and _Emma_ at university), this was actually quite exciting. Many of the protagonists had even travelled and lived outside of England, and part of the story was set in America. I could even be motivated, in future, to read some more Sherlock Holmes stories. But right now, there are about 300 other books on my shelves that I haven’t read yet, and that’s no exaggeration.


Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.