Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

"A Study in Scarlet", by Arthur Conan Doyle

I'm not sure if I've read any Holmes stories before now. I decided to read one now because Lut and I have been watching the new BBC "Sherlock" TV show. I was aware that there's a certain amount of arrogance and alienation that doesn't generally make it into the popular conception of Holmes, but I couldn't imagine that Doyle's Holmes had been a complete jerk in the mode of the BBC's latest incarnation. (Spoiler: he's not.) Also, reading Doyle seems like the sort of thing I ought to do at some point in my life.

I started the story on Thursday and didn't finish it until today, and it's only 103 pages, so not the most engaging story I've read. Part of this comes from the curious narrative structure:

Pages 1-17: Watson meets Holmes
Pages 18-52: Murder mystery
Pages 53-87: Western
pages 88-103: Resolution of original mystery

Yes, halfway through, the narrative takes a sharp right turn, ditching both London and the first person narrator in favor of a third person limited omniscient story set in Utah. For a good ten pages I was going "what the heck is this even still a Holmes story WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NARRATOR?" Then a couple of names come up that were mentioned in the "mystery" portion earlier, so I'm like "okay, I assume this will all connect EVENTUALLY." Which, in fairness, it does. But this may be the first time I've ever seriously considered that maybe the story I was reading had accidentally been concatenated with some completely unrelated tale.

The embedded Western is surprisingly engaging, although the hate-on for Mormons is frankly offensive. Holmes's methodology in solving the murder comes across as reasonable, and one can follow both how he comes to his conclusions and why the police investigators pursue the wrong ones without feeling like either (a) the police are complete idiots or (b) it's nothing more than authorial bias that makes Holmes right and the others wrong. I've read classics that I loved a lot more, but this was still a good read: I'll give it a 7 and will probably read some more. In fact, I'll go download some now, while I'm thinking about it. Because it was a lot harder than I expected to successfully download the first Holmes story, given that it's a popular series in the public domain.
Tags: book review, books, review
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