Book Review: A Study in Scarlet

Nina Russell, Staff Writer

Murder. Refined, cold-blooded murder.

Considering the obvious incapability of the officers at Scotland Yard in 1880s London, only two men stand between notorious criminals and the general population—Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson.

With fresh injuries and shattered nerves, Doctor John Watson returns to London from his military service in Afghanistan. Unable to pay rent to live on his own, John meets an ambitious young Sherlock Holmes and rooms with him for a while without quite discovering what it is that Holmes does. Upon finding a newspaper article that Holmes wrote, “The Science of Deduction,” Watson is skeptical of Holmes’ deductive powers. Sherlock takes John along on a case to prove his deductive prowess, and needless to say, Watson is very impressed, and promises to keep a record of all of Holmes’ cases from that point on. John wants to make sure that Holmes’ brilliance will never go unrewarded. This book is divided into two parts, and the second part follows the detailed backstory of the murderer’s life, most of which takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Reading the book for the first time, I thought that the story had ended prematurely (at the beginning of part two) and went into a very descriptive narrative about Mormons in America, but soon enough, the names of characters that I recognized began popping up, and I soon figured out that part two was a backstory. This was basically the only shortcoming I found while reading the story.

Even though this book was written in 1886, I forgot that it wasn’t set in the present times until Holmes and Watson got into a horse-drawn carriage. This book, however, is not for those who weep at the sight of intelligent language and large words. This book was written in a very proper, nineteenth-century manner, so there are some difficult words in the book, but not enough to make it impossible to understand. I found the story a rather easy read. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle really has an eye for detail, and obvious knowledge about what he wrote.

This was a very well-written, interesting book that I would recommend wholeheartedly to avid readers, and anyone who loves crime shows (cut-rate or otherwise) and detective stories. A Study in Scarlet, to me, was not a quick book to read, or an intense page-turner, but a book to read with a hot cup of tea and rain streaking down the window behind your easy chair. It’s a very intricate and artful story, with an obviously fastidious author. I particularly noticed in this story, as well as the rest of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, that it is very realistic in the relationships of the characters. I liked how John narrated the story, and managed to capture Sherlock’s personality, as well as his own, and saw all of his shortcomings as well.

I began reading these books as a result of my watching of the British television show, Sherlock, on Netflix. I would wholeheartedly recommend both the television show and the books to everyone. I give A Study in Scarlet 4.5/5 stars, mainly because I didn’t understand the transition halfway through the book.

“There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.” –Sherlock Holmes