The Summer of Sherlock: A Study In Scarlet–Retrospective Review

I know a lot of you probably want me to comment on this, but I’ll get to that when I get to it. For now, SHERLOCK!

A Study In Scarlet is the first of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s four Holmes novels, as well as the first Holmes story, period. Published in 1887, it wasn’t a huge hit, but today is considered a forerunner of the mystery genre.

The plot? After Holmes and Watson meet and move in together, they’re called upon to investigate the mysterious death of the American Enoch Drebber. Found in an abandoned house, his body has no outward traces of murder, so the police are baffled. Shortly after, another bdoy, that of Drebber’s secretary, Joseph Stangerson, is found in a similar matter. The story’s title comes from Holmes telling Watson that “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

What makes this novel special though is that it’s not all Holmes’ actions seen through Watson’s eyes; the 2nd half is a flashback to the Utah desert 40 years before the story takes place, which fills in the backstory of not only the 2 Americans, but also their murderer.

The real bad guys in this book are, believe it or not, the Mormons. Y’know, that thing the South Park guys made a Broadway musical out of? The religion that both Republican leading man Mitt Romney and professionally insane person Glenn Beck belong to? That thing that is deeply engrained in American culture, yet no one understands how it actually works?

They’re kinda set up as the ultimate evil cabal and, the way Doyle writes the flashback scenes with such intensity, it really does work. It is, in hindsight, a little flimsy, but it still works.

I call this a retrospective because I’ve sort of read this book before. A few years ago, I found an audiobook of it for free online and it was pretty well done. Don’t have it anymore, though. The nice thing is, the version I have also contains The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is not only a later Holmes novel, but also the first Holmes story Doyle wrote in some years before dragging the character out of retirement.

About 4 chapters in and it’s gripping stuff. ‘Till next time!

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