on December 31, 2012
I'm late sampling mystery pioneers, thinking old English might be stilted with Shakespeare-like dialogue. Additionally, a 1980s television program portrayed Sherlock Holmes coldly and John Watson as chubby & flustered. General perception should stand corrected that they weren't balding elders like most images show but no more than twenty-five, mistaken as students. John was a soldier, thin from illness and discharged to 9 month of convalescence. Sherlock exuded the warm humour of Hercule Poirot, delighted to meet John at the university and excited about chemistry lab work, to the point of hopping. At my first sample of Arthur Conan Doyle, I'm impressed to numerous degrees.
The mystery portions maintain a keen level of fascination, despite "A Study In Scarlet being written in 1887. Shaking the order of novels, a suspect is suddenly arrested in the middle. My regard lowers on two counts: a room of people treat the death of the landlady's pet nonchalantly. Next, zealots terrorize a family for wanting out of Mormonism but excommunicate themselves, in five years. Their tentative allegiance is mismatched to the cruel hunting of a family who merely sought happiness.
Notably assailing expectations, is a shift from the police case.... to a western saga! Sherlock promises to explain two murders but we turn from London, to a desert in the USA. I admire the imagination of the segue and the depth in weaving it. My critique is inability to focus, until familiar men's names are dropped several pages later. The contrast is so bizarre, I wondered if the detective fable ended and a stray story was mistakenly inserted! I did root for the trapped trio and applaud the London murders. Arthur's writing is beautiful too. I laughed and re-read passages: "that great cesspool into which all the idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained"!
on June 8, 2004
The book tells the story of how Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson came to be partners and details their first murder case. Like every other conscious person in the western world, I have always been aware of Holmes' titanic status in our popular culture, but this is actually the first story about him that I've ever read. It's very entertaining to follow as A. Conan Doyle introduces the various facets of the Holmes legend: we meet Gregson and Lestrade, watch Holmes and Watson take up lodgings at 221B Baker Street, and are introduced to Holmes' violin playing, pipe smoking, snuff addiction, and, of course, his incredible powers of deduction, which are a marvel to all that surround him. Watson's musings on Holmes' nature are often quite humorous as he attempts to figure out this eccentric individual.
The mystery itself is quite good. Many have remarked on how the story derails with its lengthy digression to the back-story of the murder, which occurred in Utah. This part of the story is sure to offend Mormons, who are here portrayed as a cultish fascist state that will resort to officially sanctioned murder to accomplish its ends. Doyle appears to have been reflecting the prejudice of his time, and this is a very unfortunate and disappointing aspect of the novel. However, if you can look past that, perhaps by imagining that they are some fictional cult, this section of the book is quite effective and suspenseful in its own way. However, the major strength of the story is, of course, Holmes himself. I think that Doyle quickly realized this and focused on Holmes much more closely in later stories.
on March 11, 2004
This is the first Sherlock Holmes novel and the perfect place to begin reading his literature. Forget about the movie clichés of Holmes and Watson - here you meet them for the first time. Watson - far from a bumbling fool - is a military doctor just returned from Afghanistan. An old acquaintance reluctantly suggests looking for a room with a school chum of his who is a bit odd. We first meet Sherlock Holmes as a graduate student. He's very brilliant - the only thing is nobody can figure out what he is studying or what he does. The two chums become roommates and the rest is history.
Seeing Sherlock Holmes anew, he is reminiscent of a positive version of Hannibal Lecter. Both of them are able to detect anything about a person at a glance - or a whiff. Each have encyclopedic knowledge of medicine, psychology, and everything else you can think of, and both are intellectually vain. Sherlock likes to show off and is downright childish in taking pleasure in how clever he is.
The book starts off great - introducing the characters and getting right to the heart of the matter. It continues at a nice place until the half-way mark where Conan Doyle (who had not yet mastered the art of the novel) interrupts the dramatic action for a flashback. That aside, it is still a great read and you can probably get done with it in one sitting. I HIGHLY recommend the Vintage Classics edition with an introduction by Ann Perry and footnotes, the latter proved an invaluable addition.
on March 5, 2004
It is 1878 and Doctor John Watson, his health damaged by his experiences with the British Army in Afghanistan during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, is looking for lodgings in the great city of London. It seems fortuitous, when a mutual friend introduces him to another who needs someone to share costs on a suite on Baker Street, but this other man is quite an eccentric. Sherlock Holmes has bent his life and education towards turning himself into the premier detective.
Watson can hardly credit Holmes's claims of what a first-class detective can do. But, when a note arrives from a Scotland Yard detective, inviting Holmes to consult on a particularly mysterious murder, Watson soon finds himself carried along by Holmes, watching his new friend's powers unravel a seemingly inscrutable knot. The game is afoot, and Holmes needs to solve a murder, and bring a murderer to justice.
This fascinating book was first published in 1887, and was the very first Sherlock Holmes story. In it we get to see the first meeting of Holmes and Watson, and hear Holmes explain his methods in detail. If you are a fan of murder mysteries, then this is definitely a book that you should not miss.
The center part of this story revolves around the actions of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. Author Arthur Conan Doyle had a tendency to "wing" the details of his story, and his treatment of the Mormons shows a certain carelessness in how he presented them. Therefore, if you are a Mormon, you will most likely find this book offensive.
But, that said, this is a wonderfully entertaining story that is sure to please most every mystery fan. And, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, then you must read this book! It's great.
on April 25, 2003
In this novel, Dr. Watson, a sick, bankrupt doctor returning to homeland from the British-Afghan war, meets a very singular personality.
In his formal way of writing he starts a strange story, accounting his acquaintance with a Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
He starts living with the fellow and then he discovers that he is the world's first and only - at the time of the story - unofficial sleuth.
Later on in the story we are introduce to: a body of an American, a strange ring, twists in the face, 2 stupid Scotlandyarders, and a struggle to prove Sherlock Holmes's strange views about the story.
I have got to tell you that Holmes does not appear in the whole story. He, as a matter of fact, appears in about half of it and the other half is a background of the crime; I hope I am not spoiling the story.
It is obvious through out the story that Doyle was really affected by both Poe and Gabourio. The affection of the former is obvious through Dupin his sleuth who stared in three short stories that might be the first stories ever about unofficial detectives; and the latter through Lecoq the french detective who stared in 5 novels, and it is known that Gabourio was the one to lay the bases of modern mysteries.
I really recommend the novel for those of you who love mysteries, and I have to say that it is not a whodunit; it is more of a deductive account of how Sherlock Holmes found his way to the villain.
on March 12, 2003
This book is a satisfying introduction to Holmes and Watson. The first half of the book is a fast-paced murder mystery, in which Holmes demonstrates his wonderful deductive reasoning.
The second half of the book, however, goes back to explain the incentive behind the crime. This leads us to the Salt Lake Valley and the Mormon pioneers.
I found that this second half lessened my enjoyment of the book. Doyle presents some terrible inaccuracies about Mormon culture and their way of life; inaccuracies that grate painfully to an LDS reader such as myself. Doyle seems to have known just enough about the Mormon trek west to feel comfortable writing about it. He doesn't even spell some of the names (the ones he borrowed from real people) correctly.
When reading this book I had to suspend my disbelief and treat this second half for exactly what it is: an entirely fictional account of Mormon life. I found that when I stopped equating Doyle's work to history, that this part of the book was rather interesting.
This aside, the book is a delight to read. The account of how Holmes and Watson met is wonderful.
on April 26, 2002
A Study in Scarlet is a good detective story, but certainly not Doyleï¿½s greatest. But it bears the distinction of being the novel which introduced the world to the legendary Sherlock Holmes. First appearing in 1887, it was not to be the greatest story about Sherlock Holmes, but it was the first. Doyle first introduces us to John H. Watson, a medical doctor recovering from duty in Afghanistan. Watson needs a room-mate, and a mutual acquaintance introduces both him and us to Holmes. So we come to know both Holmes, Watson, and the memorable 221B Baker Street.
Watsonï¿½s first impressions of Holmes are merely that he is a man enshrouded in mystery and eccentricity, and Watson politely restrains his curiosity by avoiding asking too many intrusive questions, despite the parade of strange individuals that come to their apartment to consult Holmes, and despite his bemusement at Holmesï¿½ passion for playing the violin and his egotism. Watsonï¿½s perplexation at Holmesï¿½ character and profession is slowly unravelled in the second chapter which Doyle appropriately titles ï¿½The Science of Deductionï¿½. Watson observes that ï¿½his zeal for certain studies was remarkable, and within eccentric limits his knowledge was so extraordinarily ample and minute that his observations have fairly astounded me ï¿½His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing ï¿½ That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to me to be such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.ï¿½(p11). Holmes apparently is brilliant at identifying a stain on your trousers, but completely ignorant about the most elementary contemporary political events.
Ironically, Watsonï¿½s inability to deduce Holmesï¿½ profession proves that he lacks the very ability that he is seeking to uncover in Holmes: deduction. For Holmes doesnï¿½t just excel in specialized knowledge, but especially in the science of deduction and logic. By utilizing the skills of observation and analysis Holmes asserts that logic could solve all virtually all problems. In his words: ï¿½From a drop of water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other. So all life is a great chain, the nature of which is known whenever we are shown a single link of it. Like all other arts, the Science of Deduction and Analysis is one which can only be acquired by long and patient study, nor is life long enough to allow any mortal to attain the highest possible perfection in it. Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties, let the inquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems. Let him, on meeting a fellow-mortal, learn at a glance to distinguish the history of the man, and the trade or profession to which he belongs. Puerile as such an exercise may seem, it sharpens the faculties of observation, and teaches on where to look and what to look for. By a mansï¿½ finger-nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boots, by his trouser-knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirtcuffs ï¿½ by each of these things a manï¿½s calling is plainly revealed. That all united should fail to enlighten the competent inquirer in any case is almost inconceivable.ï¿½ (p14-15). Watson calls this science of deduction ï¿½ineffable twaddleï¿½, but as we know, this is the vintage Holmes we love and the very core of his being. Not only does he prove it to Watson by remarkably deducing that Watson had served duty in Afghanistan, but by collaring the criminal in a murder case.
The story itself consists in two parts: the first part introduces us to Holmes and Watson, and describes the murder of Enoch Drebber and his secretary Joseph Stangerson, and several failed attempts of Scotland Yard detectives to solve it, concluding with Holmes unmasking the real perpetrator, to the complete astonishment of all present. The second part is a flashback, explaining the background and motives for the murder, as finally Holmes relates the observations and deductions that led him to solving it. In short, ï¿½the crime was the result of an old-standing and romantic feud, in which love and Mormonism bore a part.ï¿½ (p103)
But what is fascinating about ï¿½A Study in Scarletï¿½ is not so much the mystery, but the man: Holmes himself. Doyle would later learn to eliminate some of the excess baggage present in this story (such as the extended flashback) and focus on Holmes and his deductions. The characterization of Holmes as an eccentric man driven by logic is wonderfully created for the first time in this novel. Already here is the foundation of the Sherlock Holmes that would become so successful in all of Doyleï¿½s later stories. A few quotes illustrate how the tone of the deductive Holmes is set: ï¿½In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practise it much.ï¿½ (p99-100) ï¿½There is no branch of detective science which is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps.ï¿½ (p100) ï¿½You see, the whole thing is a chain of logical sequences without a break or flaw.ï¿½ (p102)
Here the successful formula is already established: Scotland Yard is baffled, so is his foil the bumbling doctor Watson, and so are we the readers. Holmes has long solved the mystery before we have even begun identifying red herrings, and it is when he sits by the fire and explains to Watson the process of deduction that we curl up in delight. The partnership between the super-sleuth Holmes and his beloved side-kick Watson all starts here, and if you love Sherlock Holmes, you wonï¿½t want to miss it!
on December 15, 2001
how can you not love anything about sherlock holmes? i'm pretty new to reading doyle's work, myself, and read one of his later works first and became an instant fan. now i've got his unabridged works and just read these first two books.
they are obviously both vintage doyle, and well worth the reading...but like i said, he's a little long-winded here. it struck me that he learned to rein in his style better in his later works, and just get to the point. i suppose doyle is like sherlock holmes in that way - took him a little while to get up to speed and hone his talent. practice makes perfect!
that said, however, even when he goes off on his more abstract tangents he still is pretty darn interesting - such as the whole short story in itself about the mormon colonization of utah. though i've been to utah several times, i really don't know much about the history of the mormons. i remember growing up around some mormon families when i was a kid, and they were pretty cold and strict, but were their early leaders really such slimy scoundrels?
on November 21, 2001
I seriously raced thru this book as it was highly addictive. Holmes is brilliantly introduced to us and to Watson. Once Holmes lets a room out in his house to Watson the intrique starts. Doc is suspicous of what Holmes does and is keen to join him on his cases. When a man is found dead in a seedy house in suburban London the mystery kicks in.
Holmes uses his awesome methods of deduction to bring the killer straight into his hands. But then the story takes an unexpected and mostly inappropriate turn. We go back a few decades to the Salt Flats of Utah and follow the story of 2 lost travellers and how they are saved by fachist Mormons. It's all to unfamiliar and un-Holmes and I was glad to get it over with and back to Holmes mysteries and case-solving.
I guess that Conan-Doyle never knew where the character of Holmes would go after this. The short stories and novels that followed were much better and developed some of the minors characters. But every "franchise" has to start somewhere. I assume Conan-Doyle never imagined that Holmes would have lasted so long and parodied and imitated to much, even to this day. But this is where it all started. And it got better and better from here on.
on February 14, 2001
BBC is stellar! It took me a while to search for these fantastic audio titles - and there aren't enough reviews about them. They aren't just books on tape -they are books come to life. Sound effects galore, a FULL cast (make sure you get the ones that are), rousing, stirring music. I can't get enough of them.
Start with Sherlock Holmes. The tales are short and gripping. The "Study in Scarlett" was great and it really follows the storyline well - with the dramatization you get everything, not just bad abridgements.
Try also: The Hound of the Baskervilles -and- Agatha Cristie classics like, Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile
Then, when you've had your fill of the mysteries, move on to the classics: Wuthering Heights, War and Peace, Pickwick Papers, Tale of Two Cities, Emma, Peter Pan, The Lion, the Witch , and the Wardrobe, David Copperfield, The Hobbit (this one is my favorite. the sounds effects are great), AND Lord of the Rings (13 tapes but way worth the listen to)
BBC does them all! Look also for BBD. They're all in those coppery brown boxes.