A Study in Scarlet
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"I might not have gone but for you, and so have missed the finest study I ever came across: a study in scarlet,eh? Why shouldn't we use a little art jargon. 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." (p.37).
I first read this as a teenager looking for diversion and escape, I had no preconceptions and expectations, but journeyed innocently into the grimy world of late Victorian London to be dazzled by the genius of Sherlock Holmes through the naive and admiring eyes of Dr Watson. Sherlock Holmes represents my first case of hero worship, I found his cerebral eccentricity compelling and attractive, I found him plausible and his more obnoxious moments entirely forgivable. I also found his rational explanation of the inexplicable, comforting and admirable, mystery was no longer that, but rather a puzzle to be reduced by logic and the application of knowledge and mental discipline.
In this, the very first Sherlock Holmes story, Doyle introduces Holmes' scientific and rational approach to mystery, but as evidenced by the above quote the narrative also maintains a romantic tone in it's portrayal of what is a new scientific discipline. A Study in Scarlet like all the Sherlock Holmes stories embodies a Victorian enthusiasm for science and rationalism, via a manifestation of the Byronic hero and a taste for the Gothic.
I must admit I enjoyed this novel as much now as when I read it many years ago. I did find myself wondering about how p.c. the plot was, given the vilification of Mormons and structurally the narrative is perhaps a little disjointed. It is a very short novel and Holmes succeeds in catching his murderer quite early on, the middle of the novel is devoted to recounting the perpetrator's back story, exposing the motivation for the crime and reveals an abrupt shift in setting and viewpoint, but it does effectively expose motivation and is an entertaining narrative. In many respects this short novel has the tight story telling that characterises the short stories. It recounts Watson's first encounter with Holmes and his methods, beginning what is a now legendary partnership.
This is just a short post I may come back and add to this, short of time at the moment, suffice to say this is an entertaining read.