I have adored Sherlock Holmes since I was a child. At age eight I took a book down from my parents’ bookshelf and dusted it off. It was a blue, hard-backed novel with a sun-bleached spine. The pages of it were yellow around the edges and it had that wonderful musty smell of a book that has been well loved but forgotten about for several years. The cover was simple with only the title and author adorning the front: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I cracked the book open and began reading the first page.
And so my love affair with Sherlock Holmes tales began. At first I didn’t understand all the words and sometimes had to get my father to explain things to me but the stories themselves were exciting and fuelled my young imagination. I reread The Hound of the Baskervilles many times and for Christmas when I was ten years old I received the story as a cassette audio book. I have covered many Holmes stories since my childhood but until last week I had never read the first Sherlock Holmes novel: A Study in Scarlet.
A Study in Scarlet is set out in two parts. The first is Dr Watson’s account of meeting Holmes and the first case that Watson sees Holmes work on. It is full of precise and eccentric description of the characters with excellent descriptions of Holmes and other involved in the case. Conan Doyle’s depictions of the crime scenes and the hunt for the murderer are equally as wonderful. Each word is placed carefully and plays a part in the overall solution. No detail is missed.
The second half is unusual in that, for the most part, Holmes and Watson are not in it. Instead this section is an account of how the man responsible for the crimes committed in the first section of the book came to commit those crimes. It is mostly set in America and the story that unfolds slowly divulges how this man came to be a killer. It is heart-breaking tale of love, death and ultimately revenge. At the end of this section we return to London for the summing up of the case. It ends well and I didn’t feel dissatisfied at all with the outcome.
Sherlock Holmes novels are special. They take you on a bewildering and well-structured journey from crime to resolution. These journeys puzzle, excite, engage and fill you with awe at the powers of Holmes’s mind. This first adventure did not disappoint and I would recommend this novel alongside any of its brothers.