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donnae

A Study in Scarlet - Finished!

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I have finished A Study in Scarlet, and because I bought the Wordsworth copy through the Amazon link, I am now part way through The Sign of the Four.

I have to confess that I am enjoying the Sign of the Four more than Scarlet. Scarlet feels very much like two different stories sandwiched together, although the second half of the book is the explanation for the events of the first half.

I preferred the second half of the book although I know that isn't really the Holmes part of the story. I really enjoyed the writing and character development in the second half. I wanted to read more about what had happened in America.

I found Sherlock Holmes a difficult character to like. He seems to regard himself as superior to everyone around him (I know he probably is though). Perhaps Conan Doyle felt he hadn't developed a very human character in Scarlet, because I feel that more facets of his personality are being revealed in the Sign of Four.

As forensic science must have really been in its infancy then, A Study in Scarlet from that point of view, is a clever tale.

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It's not the most gripping of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but it seemed a good idea to start with the origins of the Holmes /Watson partnership, and then people can attempt the other 'cases' as they feel like it. Perhaps tackling a short story next. (The Speckled Band is my favourite, I think)

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As forensic science must have really been in its infancy then, A Study in Scarlet from that point of view, is a clever tale

 

I'm about half way through but the thing that struck me about this was the forensic science aspect. I wondered how developed the skill was at the time Conan Doyle was writing.

 

I've read the Sherlock Holmes books before and I've always found the character rather arrogant but somehow likeable. I think that probably has to do with the fact that Watson likes him. He finds him frustrating and infuriating at times but generally holds him in high regard.

 

Does anyone have any thoughts about the use of Watson as the narrator? I think this works because Watson is painted as the more 'normal' character. I don't think the stories would have been as readable if Holmes were narrator.

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Scarlet feels very much like two different stories sandwiched together, although the second half of the book is the explanation for the events of the first half.

 

I found Sherlock Holmes a difficult character to like. He seems to regard himself as superior to everyone around him (I know he probably is though). Perhaps Conan Doyle felt he hadn't developed a very human character in Scarlet, because I feel that more facets of his personality are being revealed in the Sign of Four.

 

As forensic science must have really been in its infancy then, A Study in Scarlet from that point of view, is a clever tale.

 

I think its part of Holmes' appeal that he isn't immediately likeable, especially considering the favourable portrait Watson often paints of him. He genuinely doesn't care what other people think of him. The case is the thing, all else is secondary. As with so many aspects of the Holmes stories, its a characteristic that's been echoed throughout detective fiction ever since - think of the ever grumpy Morse, for example.

 

As for character development, I assume even the vainest author doesn't sit down to write fiction believing he will be writing about the same character for the next 30 years, as Conan Doyle (much to his chagrin) wound up doing.

 

I believe Conan Doyle did experiment with Holmes as narrator and perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn't really work. Watson puts a human sheen on the almost inhuman and coldly logical Holmes and also, of course, provides a device for asking Holmes all the questions readers are supposedly asking.

 

I wholeheartedly agree that "A Study in Scarlet" feels like two short stories joined together. I don't think its one of Conan Doyle's better efforts and, as meg says, Holmes is often best consumed in short story format.

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I found this an interesting and engaging read. Like others, I didn't particularly like the feeling of two stories welded together and found the solving of the mystery unsatisfying. However, I think the first part did create a real sense of suspense and the scenes in America were fascinating. I must admit, I didn't know much about the history of Mormonism and hadn't realised its origins are in such vigilante groups. I don't know how far Doyle exaggerated this for effect. It did get me thinking about Victorian representations of America as a wild and untamed place, completely contrasting with the rationality of England represented in Holmes himself. Dickens was criticised for a similar representation of America as primitive in Martin Chuzzlewit. I also find it interesting that the sympathies of the reader lie with Jefferson Hope, yet he has to be brought to justice. However, again like Dickens in Great Expectations, he dies before this happens, almost an escape from due legal processes and commitment to a higher justice.

 

Issues of legality are fascinating in the book as, of course, Holmes himself acts outside the law while the detectives are represented as rather slow and stupid. I think while the plot and story creak at times, the central theme of vengeance and justice is the most engaging part of the book - Jefferson Hope, Holmes himself, the strict British society against an American world of vigilantes taking the law into their own hands, even Watson's background against the Afghan war and another world of colonial power and the law. The Book of Mormon itself also represents another legal viewpoint - and polygamy, endorsed by Mormonism, is of course rejected by the British legal system. These contrasts make the book for me because they raise such interesting and far-reaching questions.

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I still haven't gotten around to finishing this since getting back from the US! :o Never got to the part where they went to America, so can't comment on the accuracy of the descriptions (which, over here, often seem wildly skewed). Will try to 'get the lead out' and finish reading this soon so I can make a real contribution to this thread! ;)

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I have finished A Study In Scarlet, and was pleased to re-acquaint myself with the beginnings of the Holmes and Watson partnership. In it we see a little of the Holmes character that is developed in future stories; the enthusiasm for a new discovery or interesting case to study, and the extreme lethargy into which he sinks when his intellect is not fully engaged.

I wonder if he suffers from Bipolar Disorder?

 

The first readers of this story would not be aware, as we are, of Holmes' use of cocaine and heroin, and even Watson dismisses his suspicions on that score, being misled by 'the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life'. I am intrigued by the violin playing, as Holmes refuses to clutter up his mind with anything that is not of use to him in his pursuit of criminals.

 

We are also introduced to the main cast of characters supporting Holmes in his work. His biographer, Dr Watson, his landlady, Mrs Hudson, who takes care of his domestic arrangements, the bumbling policemen who show his brilliant mind to advantage, and the Bow Street Irregulars, Holmes' eyes and ears on the streets of London. Only two are still waiting in the wings...his arch-enemy Moriarty, and his brilliant brother Mycroft Holmes. You will have to delve deeper into Holmes' cases to meet them!

 

The stumbling block to this book is the American section. We go suddenly from a first-person narrative about an exciting murder mystery in England, without warning to an impersonal third-person adventure story set in America. It is enjoyable enough as a Victorian western romance, but as the 'back story' to the murder it should be more directly connected to the relating of events that followed in England.

Conan Doyle does something similar in 'The Valley Of Fear', which has a section set in America telling the history behind that case . In that book, however, the 'back-story' is told to us by Dr Watson, which at least gives some continuity with the rest of the adventure, and from Watson's introduction to that section it would appear that Conan Doyle was aware that he hadn't handled it well in 'A Study In Scarlet'.

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I have finished A Study in Scarlet, and because I bought the Wordsworth copy through the Amazon link, I am now part way through The Sign of the Four.

 

I have to confess that I am enjoying the Sign of the Four more than Scarlet. Scarlet feels very much like two different stories sandwiched together, although the second half of the book is the explanation for the events of the first half.

 

I preferred the second half of the book although I know that isn't really the Holmes part of the story. I really enjoyed the writing and character development in the second half. I wanted to read more about what had happened in America.

 

I found Sherlock Holmes a difficult character to like. He seems to regard himself as superior to everyone around him (I know he probably is though). Perhaps Conan Doyle felt he hadn't developed a very human character in Scarlet, because I feel that more facets of his personality are being revealed in the Sign of Four.

 

As forensic science must have really been in its infancy then, A Study in Scarlet from that point of view, is a clever tale.

 

I'm afraid that all I can add is . . . Ditto! :o

 

I do think that a good editor, today, would have placed the American back-story in a more advantageous position. But it was the most interesting part of the book, and the most well written (though, I do doubt its authenticity, as the Mormons, as a wholly different religious group, did suffer a lot of prejudice and 'bad press' in their day!)

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This was my first foray into Conan Doyle.

 

I hadn't even realised it was his first Sherlock Holmes story when I chose it at the library. It was interesting for me therefore to find out how the whole Holmes/Watson/Baker Street thing started.

 

Watson is not such a staid item as portrayed in the old films I've seen. For example, he is reading La Vie Boheme ! and frequenting the Criterion bar off Piccadilly. This piqued my interest.

 

Writing with a London milieu also holds a special fascination for me. I thought this a good line: (Watson) "Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained".

 

The other great line near the beginning is of course when Holmes is introduced to Watson and says "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." Well, we know the sort of thing we're in for with that sort of perception.

 

I wonder if contemporary readers thought Part Two was a lot of padding on Conan Doyle's part? Still, it was an easy race through. Good plain prose, as with Part One, makes the story very accessible.

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