A Study In Scarlet

“No man burdens his mind with small matters unless he has some very good reason for doing so.”

Arthur Conan Doyle

I love Sherlock Holmes stories. I adored the BBC’s updated version Sherlock. I enjoyed the Hollywood versions with the explosions and gunfights and everything else you never associate with Sherlock Holmes. I even quite like those interminable period drama ones they show on ITV3 on a regular basis. But I’d never actually read a Sherlock Holmes story, so I thought it was high time I did.

A Study In Scarlet is the very first Holmes story. It’s short, and this edition is a joy to read, with the vaguely vintage cover and a typeface that is a decent size – and believe me, that makes a difference, especially when you’re reading Victorian novels. I’m sure part of the reason people are put off by Dickens is the weeny typeface they have to use to fit it all into one book. Anyway, I read A Study In Scarlet in about a day.

What did I think? Well, first of all, aesthetically speaking Conan Doyle is a truly abominable writer. Sherlock Holmes, and possibly Watson, (who, by the way, has a delightfully sardonic narrative voice) are the only really believable characters, the dialogue is terrible and at one point Conan Doyle attempts to write a Cockney accent which is possibly the worst I’ve ever read. It’s so bad it’s funny.

And halfway through the book turns into something strangely reminiscent of The Gunslinger (although it’s possible that every vaguely desert-y thing reminds me of The Gunslinger) but with Mormons and a highly melodramatic and utterly unbelievable plot. It’s not long before you realise what’s happening, but it is unexpected.

OK, my review makes it sound awful. I did quite enjoy it, though, for reasons I am unsure of. The Science of Deduction is always interesting, Sherlock Holmes as a character is just brilliant, and…well, it was an easy, short read, although I would have preferred it if Conan Doyle had stuck to Victorian London instead of haring off to America for a tale of love and loss. But I will be reading more Sherlock Holmes, if only to find out what’s going to happen in Sherlock this year.

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