I truly have a love-hate relationship with Sherlock Holmes. I even loved-hated A Study in Scarlet, the book that introduced Sherlock — apparently to little fanfare at the time — and that kicks off SHERLOCK HOLMES WEEK on the blog.
The book is written in two parts, the first of which describes how Dr. John Watson is introduced to Sherlock in his search for a place to live. A mutual acquaintance warns Watson that his potential housemate is, well, different, but we all know it’s going to turn out well in the end. Watson is initially amazed by Holmes’ ability to deduce things, yet he also notices that there are large gaps in Holmes’ knowledge (literature, politics, etc.). A very fine point, Dr. Watson.
Holmes then invites Watson to accompany him as he consults on a murder case; enter Inspectors Gregson and Lestrade, who know the identity of the victim, Enoch Drebber. Holmes wanders around with his magnifying glass and measuring tape and soon provides a detailed description of the murderer (a tall man with unnaturally small feet and long fingernails). He then tracks down the right person, but the story appears to suddenly end.
Part II takes up the tale of two American survivors of a wagon train saved from death by Brigham Young and his religious followers. I was incredibly frustrated by this leap and couldn’t see how this was going to have anything to do with Holmes, but, naturally, it does all connect not to Holmes but to the previous story: it explains the murder. However, there is absolutely no way for the reader to know what Holmes knew in identifying the murderer, which is something that bugs me in any mystery.
So, the long and short of it is that I had weird feelings of nostalgia in seeing how so many pivotal characters in the Holmes narrative and therefore in crime fiction more generally, but the story on its own only stoked the hate part of the love-hate relationship I have with Sherlock.
You can download a free copy of A Study in Scarlet from Project Gutenberg. If you’re a mystery lover and haven’t read it before, you should.