Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A Study in Scarlet || Arthur Conan Doyle

In December when I found out that A Study in Scarlet was to be my Classics Club Spin book, I was a little disappointed. I'm over my Sherlock Holmes phase and although I still love the stories, I feel less of a need to read them all. Regardless of my apathy towards the book I nevertheless sat down to read it with some interest.

A Study in Scarlet is the first Sherlock Holmes story, originally published in 1887. Although they're all very much standalone stories (I think so, anyway), this novel really sets the scene and introduces key characters. I particularly liked finding out how Dr Watson and Holmes actually ending up lodging together in the first place. I've read that there a some inconsistencies between this novel and the rest of the canon - for example, Dr Watson's war wound moves from his shoulder to his leg - but these do not feel obvious and they're generally pretty trifling.

I do wish I'd started with this novel before delving into the Holmes catalogue, It feels like a great place to start and get to know the characters and their quirks. Plus I think I would have recognised and appreciated the evolution of Holmes and his relationship with Dr Watson a little more if I'd started from the beginning.

I'm a big fan of the Robert Downey Jnr movies and the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch, and I realised whilst reading this that my impressions of Holmes and the image of him in my mind has been very much influenced by these adaptations. Mostly I just see Benedict Cumberbatch and his particular Sherlock. I don't see that as a bad thing, but I am also not sure whether this impacted on my enjoyment of the book as I almost pre-empted his actions and was disappointed if he did something different.

Generally the plot was pretty interested and kept me hooked. The oddly tangential middle section cuts the story in two and almost feels like two stories have been pinned together. Although this is wrapped up quite neatly at the end, it was quite strange to be reading about Victorian London and then suddenly zipping over to Utah and the Mormon community.

As with all Holmes stories, this was a quick read and I found myself racing through in my excitement to find out whodunit. To me, Holmes himself is moving at a hundred miles an hour (mentally, if not always physically) so it feels apt to read it quickly.

Ultimately I'm glad the spin finally put this book in my hands. There's still a few stories that I've not read, but I'm sure my flirtation with Sherlock is now over. Not because of this book or any others, but purely because my tastes have changed. It was lovely to have a final foray into his world and it's one I definitely enjoyed.

Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan? Did you finish your Classics Club Spin book?

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