meilufay’s #CBR4 review #66 A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan-Doyle
I’ve never really been interested in Sherlock Holmes. My dad is a huge fan of mysteries and thanks to his love of British television adaptations, I’ve seen more than my fair share of Holmes movies and television shows, so I had this idea of Holmes as a really stuffy, tweedy, old-fashioned sort of character. Then Steven Moffat’s Sherlock came out. I only watched the show because one of my close friends (a person who usually doesn’t like crime fictions of any kind) insisted that I would love it. I watched it with my dad (of course) and, yeah, we both really enjoyed it. Since then, I’ve watched the Robert Downey Jr movies and I really liked them as well. When season two of Sherlock aired it occurred to me that while I was familiar with these story lines (particularly The Hound of the Baskervilles), I actually don’t know what the original stories are like. So I downloaded the complete Sherlock Holmes.
A Study in Scarlet is Arthur Conan-Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel and now that I’ve read it, I can understand what all the hype is about. I’m actually sort of astonished by how dominating the influence of these books are. I can’t imagine a single procedural television show that isn’t in some way influenced by the way Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle wrote a procedural story. This book feels fresh even reading it over a hundred years later. There’s nothing stuffy, tweedy or even old-fashioned about the original Sherlock Holmes. I was surprised because I had thought that the recent versions of the character (from Moffat’s TV show and Guy Ritchie’s movies) were reinterpretations, a freshening of the old chap. But actually, those dusty old British television shows made him a much stodgier character then he was. Here we have a Holmes who is a master of disguise, a practitioner of various martial arts, one possessed of a keen scientific brain and an impatience for conventions. I’d say the more recent Sherlocks are far closer to the original than any of the various television and film adaptations I’d been exposed to growing up. The one way in which these newer Sherlocks differ from the original is that the original is very aware of the social norms… He just chooses not to observe them. He can be quite attentive to the niceties when he wishes to be. He is aware of the impact of the words he uses. More recent interpretations of the character have made him more of an Asperger’s patient – incapable of being polite, of correctly observing social conventions in language and behavior.
This book definitely has dated elements. It was a page-turner until near the end, when suddenly Conan-Doyle transports us to the American West, to hear the murderer’s version of his story. There are definitely interesting aspects to this section of the book (the terribly written American dialogue, the demonic, fearful way in which the Mormon church is portrayed), it’s really an unnecessary and mostly boring side trip. Still, overall, I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who has curiosity about the original Sherlock Holmes.