The Sherlock Holmes stories have been with me for over 10 years and I always enjoy delving back into them. I have never actually read all of them. I did listen to the whole audio book collection, but I do have to admit, that audio books make me so cosy that I tend to drop off at some point… So I have now resolved to finally read all novels and story collections. I can finally properly read my trusty complete collection copy that I bought with one of my best friends on my second visit to London. I’ve read many a story in it, but not all of them – so now is the time!
A Study in Scarlet is the very first Sherlock Holmes story and it is one of the four novels that the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote with Holmes and Watson as protagonists. It is also the origin story so to speak, as it shows us the first meeting between the two and how it comes to be that they are living together at 221B Baker Street.
Dr John Watson has come back injured from war abroad and is trying to recover his health. He is leading an aimless life and knows he must find cheaper lodgings if he is to stay on top of his finances. Luckily he meets an old aquaintance, who knows another person looking for a fellow lodger to share the rent. They decide to move in together into a pleasant flat in Baker Street. Watson soon discovers the singular habits of his roommate and his on the one hand limited, on the other hand vast and random knowledge. One day Holmes lets Watson in on the secret – he is the only unofficial consulting detective. When the police asks Holmes for help in a case, he takes Watson with him to show him his deductive powers in action. And thus Watson is drawn in the circle of Holmes’ world of crime investigation and adventure…
I really enjoyed this first book. I am probably going to say that about every single one 🙂 Holmes is such an intriguing character. He ranges from vain artist to someone applying cold-hearted reason and logic. He likes to put on a show and outperform the police – yet he does not take credit in the papers, but lets Lestrade and Gregson get all the publicity. He has some mischievous moments, but ultimately he is very likable, because he is so sure of himself and his deductions and he is usually right. He is not modest, but that’s because he has all reason to be proud of his craft and skill. Watson on the other hand is very naive in his observation of the case and his new companion. His sense of wonder, surprise and sometimes disbelief work well with Holmes’ wish to impress. The character dynamics are great and that carries through most of the stories and that is what makes this series work so well in my opinion.
A Study in Scarlet has two parts – one is the investigation in London and one is set in the Wild West. It comes as a bit of a rupture, especially as nothing prepares the reader for the sudden change of scenery. When I first read the story I thought it was a new story and didn’t quite know what was going on. But soon you discover familiar names and you know you are reading about some backstory. In the end all comes well together and it is a great first case.
The first novel A Study in Scarlet sets the tone for all the following Holmes stories. Holmes needs a crime to solve to occupy his mind and he likes to impress with his deductions. Watson, dependable and attentive, is always a little behind and finds it hard to follow Sherlock’s train of thought, unless clearly spelled out for him (and the reader). And yet they form a perfect combination, a dynamic team that has captured the imagination of many a generation.