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on 5 February 2011
This is the first novel by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle and he does a rather good job. This is where it all began. Dr. Watson has returned from his military adventures in India and Afghanistan and is looking for lodgings in London. He moves in with Sherlock Holmes, who is described as someone who occasionally engages in chemical experiments. As odd as these two chaps seem to be at first they nevertheless eventually get along quite well with each other.

A Study in Scarlet is Sherlock Holmes' first case, or at least the first case recorded by Dr. Watson. What confused me completely were the first 60-odd pages of the second part of the book because it seemed to be a separate story unrelated to the case itself and I couldn't understand why the author had included it here. It also struck me as unusual that the author should go for such a distance without mentioning Sherlock Holmes. But I was wrong. This part of the book offers a lot of background and in the end, this story ties quite nicely into the overall features of the case.

All told I really enjoyed reading this book. It captivated my attention from beginning to end.
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on 3 August 2009
Well done to Headline Review for reprinting all the Sherlock Holmes stories in this superb series of volumes. Everything about them has been put together with care - from the beautiful jacket designs to the typeset (they've all been re-set in Bembo, making them a pleasure to read). Many editions - even the Penguin ones - are put together rather haphazardly, so the diligence applied to this set is a breath of fresh air.

Some might insist that the stories require footnotes, but Sherlockian minutiae is so well-served on the internet I'd argue that this isn't the case. (If you don't know what a Gasogene is, nor why you can't summon a snake with sound, you have only to Google it).

I'd only read a couple of the books before this, in an unwieldy anthology the size of a modest vicarage. Now, thanks to these, I've read them all. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 16 February 2014
...Sherlock Holmes book and after watching the TV series I thought I would give the books a go. I enjoyed the book until Part 2 where just at the point of climax it massively changes in tone and narration. I feel that when I pick up a book to read it takes a while to get in to the rhythm of it so when halfway through it completely changes rhythm right at the point of climax I felt a bit betrayed. It felt like they had glued the middle of a different book in by mistake.

Suddenly we are no longer in Watson's recollections but the middle of a desert with some Mormons for a good five chapters... I get the point, he is avenging a woman, but I'm sure it could have been told in a paragraph or two. This did completely lose my interest and any suspense that had built up. I found myself skimming through these chapters.

However, it is only a short book, so I did eventually make it out of the desert and into the concluding chapters. But I think if the book had been longer that I probably would have stopped at that point as it required effort and concentration to maintain interest.

It was interesting to read about Sherlock Holmes as he was originally created has been portrayed in so many other forms and I am glad I have read the book. However, I probably won't read any more Sherlock books based on this whole desert thing, which is a shame because the rest of the book was enjoyable. I just wouldn't trust another book not to completely deviate half way through after I have put effort into reading the first half.
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on 18 July 2013
See my review of this book, and many more, at

After serving his country in the Afghanistan war, Dr John Watson returns to his beloved London looking for a home. Permanently injured during his service and with little money, John soon realises he'll need a roommate. By chance, a friend introduces him to the world's only Consulting Detective, Sherlock Holmes - a man of great intellect and almost terrifyingly accurate observations. Thus begins their many adventures together, starting with the body of a man found in Lauriston Gardens, and the word Rache spelt in blood across the wall. With the police stumped, only Sherlock can solve the puzzle.

Sherlock Holmes is undoubtably the most well known fictional detective in the world, famed for his amazing ability to decipher clues that no-one else can. We are repeatedly told of his genius, through the adoring eyes of Dr John Watson, and the joy of this entire series is the many mysteries and trying to figure out just how Holmes was able to solve them. It is stated by Holmes several times that he is not in fact a genius, but merely able to observe tiny details that other people nearly always miss. The big reveal in A Study in Scarlet shows that it was actually a fairly simple case had the police seen all the details - as Holmes himself says "I'm not going to tell you much more of the case, Doctor. You know a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick, and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all". Since the novel is written from Watson's point of view, we are unable to notice what Holmes sees, as Watson is not an observant man - or at least, not as observant as Sherlock Holmes. The reader of this series comes to idealise Holmes as capable of solving anything because we see him through Watson's eyes as an impressive genius beyond all doubt.

In terms of characters, both Watson and Holmes felt a little flat, especially Watson, which is odd considering he is the narrator of this novel. Watson spends most of his time marvelling at Holmes' amazing abilities, and Holmes showing off said abilities. It seems that Conan Doyle wanted the reader to feel the same love for Holmes as Watson does, and what better way than to have the whole story narrated by a admiring (though not mindless) fan? This appears to be one of those issues with knowing the characters more through adaptations that through the source material itself. The relationship, which plays a huge part in practically all the films/TV shows, felt under developed as we were told, rather than shown, that they had become friends. This relationship is almost certainly expanded during the course of the entire series, but in terms of A Study in Scarlet, it seems to be sacrificed in favour of the mystery.

There were a few other surprises, namely that the story changes in both scenery and characters in the second half, to explain the mystery, and that the author's political views aren't exactly subtle1. On the whole, A Study in Scarlet is an enjoyable book, but I can't help but feel that people's love of Sherlock Holmes comes both from the entire series and the many different interpretations we have available.

3.5 stars.

1 Conan Doyle seemed to really hates Mormons. I wonder why?
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on 2 July 2013
It begins as part of the memoirs of Dr Watson, told as if it was real. Throughout the story, for all we know it is a true recounting of something that really happened.

Watson is back from the wars and looking for somewhere to live and takes a flat with Holmes, after being impressed by their first meeting in which Holmes deduces Watson's military experiences from the tiniest of clues. Holmes continually amazes Watson with his deductions and scientific knowledge, as well as his ignorance about culture.

Barely having had time to get acquainted with one another, Holmes is called to the scene of the murder by Inspector Lestrade, and Watson accompanies him. Holmes investigates the murder scene, formulates some theories which he keeps to himself, interviews some witnesses, and set a clever trap for the murderer. Employing the assistance of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of homeless children Holmes often employs to help him, he catches the murderer. The killer then insists on telling his story, giving his reasons for murdering. This account actually takes up the bulk of the book.

In Utah, USA, where the murderer, Jefferson Hope, had lived as a settler for some time, he had fallen in love with a girl who was part of a Mormon colony. As a result of his efforts to relocate the girl and her father so that he could marry her, they are followed by Mormon avengers. They kidnap the girl and kill her father. Hope finds the girl, but complications have arisen and she dies. In his quest for revenge he pursues those responsible for their deaths. They flee to London, where he catches up with them and kills them, putting him on the wrong side of Sherlock Holmes and a murder charge.

As the debut story of Sherlock Holmes this story introduces us to all the familiar elements: his partnership with Dr Watson, Mrs Hudson the housekeeper, his amazing detection and deduction skills, and the murders which are his bread-and-butter.

Such is the skill of Conan Doyle as a writer that it never feels like he's finding his feet. The story is mature and fleshed out, Holmes and Watson seeming to be real people with real history rather than characters created to tell a story.

The story deals in what must have seemed a very unkind way with this fringe religious sect, The Latter-Day Saints. Conan Doyle paints them as people so fiercely protective of their religion and ways that they will resort to kidnap and murder. There are stories of Mormon death squads in the 19th century pursuing those who would depart from the faith, dealing out frontier justice. Conan Doyle must have been familiar with these stories. The Mormon Church, of course, denies them. It was a bold criticism of the then small religion, but in Conan Doyle's day I suppose the Mormons were far away and seemed unlikely to even know about his story, let alone object to it. Nevertheless, for those interested in LDS lore, this book is a fascinating addition to the discussion.

A Study in Scarlet made very little impact at the time of its publication. It took Sherlock Holmes a few outings to gain a readership.

I enjoyed A Study in Scarlet immensely. It's full of fascinating deduction, surprises and twists, and a privileged look inside the secret operations of a mysterious cult. It has a lot to recommend it, and if not for this book the world might not have a Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.

Reviewed by the author of Copout.
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on 1 June 2013
This is the first time Arthur Conan Doyle introduced his readers to the formidable Sherlock Holmes and his famous sidekick (and narrator of this tale) Dr Watson and I was instantly swept up with the pair. Holmes is so awe-inspiring as a fictional character - there can't be many readers who haven't heard of him, even if they have not read the actual books themselves. He is a classic creation and yet, he is so utterly human and realistically drawn. I loved his description of his faults "I get in the dumps at times, and don't open my mouth for days on end. You must not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I'll soon be right." It reminded me of myself (except that I'm not as clever as Sherlock Holmes).

The mystery follows the pair as they become embroiled in the mystery of the murder of a mormon from America which is a seemingly unsolveable case when being dealt with by Scotland Yard. Of course, Holmes cracks the case in record time, although he doesn't get to take the glory: "What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence,' returned my companion bitterly. 'The question is what can you make people believe that you have done." (And how many times have you thought that if you've ever worked in an office and some conniving colleague gets the credit for all your hard work!) There is so much history in this book - a really fascinating portrayal of Victorian perceptions of Mormomism - but there's also so much that is relevant to modern life.

I loved this - I've got "The Complete Works" which was utterly free on Kindle and comes with an excellent introduction by some bloke called Robert Ryan (who despite obviously knowing a great deal about Sherlock Holmes also spent a good part of the intro plugging his own novel about Dr Watson). I can definitely recommend this version and I'm looking forward to reading the next mystery in the collection very soon.
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on 10 September 2012
This is where it all begins, where Dr Watson, returning from the theatre of war in Afghanistan and now in London, at a loose end and not in fine fettle, bags a small flat in Baker Street with a friend of a friend whom he meets by chance. His new room-mate is described as something of an odd fish, he is of course Sherlock Holmes, who has yet to make his name from his peculiar deductive abilities and is something of a benign mystery to Watson.

The story is a bit more convoluted then it need be, because not only do we have Lestad, the rodent-like policeman who goes to Holmes for help and takes all the credit, but another, fatter and more pompous detective rival, Gregson in tow, so the story seems a bit crowded compared to the film adaptations. What's more, just as Holmes reveals the killer, it seems the story ends and another, entirely unrelated story, told in the third person rather than by Watson, begins! Eh? Only by flicking forward did I find that this did indeed tie in with the former story and is an extensive background account. Then it does pull together. But I wonder how many folk have 'finished' the yarn thinking, 'Well! That was something of nothing!'

Study in Scarlet formed the basis of the first in the Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman; that said - whisper it - I think they made a great deal more of this story in the modern adaptation, they really played up the more sinister aspects of it and cut out most of the extensive background of the novella, which took us to Colorado in the United States and would seem rather extraneous on screen. There are oddities though; Holmes manages to procure at no notice a sick dog on which to test a potentially fatal poison - nice to have one at hand, isn't it - and also fails to detect that a visitor to their Baker Street abode is an imposter in an elaborate disguise, rather unlikely bearing in mind how extensive his detective abilities are supposed to be. Still, this introduces us to a new world, new characters and it's almost easy to forget that Conan Doyle is creating this out of nothing rather than recording real-life detective work.
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on 15 June 2012
The essential tie-in guide with the new BBC television drama series of `Sherlock' that is a must-have edition to any fans collection and bookshelf. The first debut episode took its inspiration from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work `a study in scarlet' thus introducing the reader to Sherlock Holmes from the very beginning illuminating you on one of the most memorable and distinctive characters within fiction and literature. You are taken on a journey of discovery with a concoction of murder, suspense, cryptic clues, red herrings and revenge all in one volume that you will be unable to put down. World famous characters such as Sherlock's trusted side-kick Doctor Watson and the infamous Inspector Lestrade join forces to solve cases of such magnitude and depth one would have to know the criminal mind inside out to catch the mysterious killer who stalks London's streets. As a fan of not just the new series adaptation of Sherlock but also the previous works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I for this reason was extremely keen to `go behind the scenes' and find out what makes Sherlock Holmes `tick' therefore what makes him such a noticeable character that is totally unique and utterly fascinating. It is the background detail which makes this book so intriguing and absorbing, hence I cannot recommend it highly enough alongside the first episode as it will shine a light onto what you have seen by expanding and adding to your current knowledge. With a most personal, thought-provoking and insightful introduction by Stephen Moffat this book has to be the preferred choice for all readers who love crime, mystery and detection with `the science of deduction' it is an outstanding read that proves just how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work will live on for so many years to come.
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on 6 March 2012
A Study in Scarlet by: Arthur Conan Doyle
Get ready to read one of the greatest book you have read in your life about two bloody murders, and one mind tricking mystery that has an amazing plot. It is 1878 and Doctor John Watson, leaving Afghanistan with his health damaged by his experiences with the British Army during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, is trying to find a job because he has nothing to do, finally gets help into finding a job in London by one of his friends, Lestrade,[who takes a big part in other Arthur Conan Doyle books],who has a friend who works in a hospital chemistry lab interviewing people who come to the apartment. But our main character Watson is tricked when he learns that the man he works for is a high class detective that works with the police, and other detectives.
This is the greatest book that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote, and one of the greatest classical mysteries ever written. The book is something amazing, it is a book that every reader should have in his or her library, if you like reading mysteries you really have to read this book. I believe that if you like the Suzanne Collins books, like the Hunger Games for example you will love this book. In my opinion this should be one of the best mystery books ever written. A Study in Scarlet if you read it carefully is somehow like a riddle which never gets solved in the end, but when clues on the mystery are found the novel becomes exciting and adventurous.
This book is amazing, because:

Plot: One of the greatest talents of Sir Doyle as an author is that he makes amazing plots in his books. The disadvantage is that in the beginning the plot is very messy, and you don't really understand. But after a few chapters the book gets better and better. And that happens in many of Arthur Conan Doyle books, after a while you will get used to it. Also one very important thing in the novel, is that the plot is split into two times, the second part of the novel goes back to 1847. John Ferrier which is a person riding in a caravan, is traveling through an arid and repulsive desert in the wild American west when suddenly the water and food from the caravan, run out, then the two survivors, collapse and another mystery story begins. This is very interesting because the way the plot in this novel, suddenly stops. Over time the way ACD makes his novels change a lot.

Characterization: Arthur Conan Doyle does one thing that only a few authors do. He gives the exact details about the characters, from nose to nails Sherlock Holmes sees every single detail. And just by that you can remember the characters by heart. For example, this helps the reader, when Holmes finds a cigar [for example] which is the same kind of cigar that was found in the crime scene back in London . If you read this book thoroughly, and if you try to read the plot in Sherlock's point of view then you will understand the whole novel.

Setting: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle always chooses the exact part so his characters can solve mysteries, or kill each other etc. Also in the novel our main characters leave England and then they go to the United States to finish the mystery. Settings change very quickly in Sherlock Holmes novels, especially when you read "The Hound of The Baskervilles" where in almost every chapter of the book the setting changes.

As an overall I think the book deserves a 5/5 because it has everything a good book should need. The author dies to put every single detail that he has in his mind, in the book. Trust me I have read many mysteries in my life, but this is one of a kind. I believe that all the mystery lovers will love this book.
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on 16 June 2010
This is the first story concerning that most famous detective Sherlock Holmes and the doctor Watson. It concerns the first meeting of Holmes and Watson, the the case which cements Watson's desire to record Holmes' doings.

I really enjoyed this rather pulpy detective story. It is fast-paced with very little deviation from the telling of the crime and the resolution.

The main delight comes from the characters. Everyone knows of Sherlock Holmes, such as his deerstalker hat and pipe, and his ability to solve crimes. Now that I have read this story, I can appreciate his dry wit, towering arrogance and slight wistfulness that he never seems to garner the credit for solving mysteries.

Watson is often represented as being rather stupid, but I infer from this story that he is merely naive about what human beings are capable of and doesn't have Holmes' expert knowledge of criminology. I loved the way that Holmes was patient and exasperated by turns when explaining his deductions to Watson. You also get a sense of the fact that Holmes is just dying to show off his abilities, and Watson's faithful recording of the case fits this neatly.

The story loses half a star for two reasons, both of which are probably attributable to the time and manner of when it was released.

The first is the abrupt switch from the location in London to the detailed story of Jefferson Hope, who hails from America. At first I was not at all clear why this had been introduced. I believe it may have been done because of the serialised nature of many Sherlock Holmes stories, enabling both new and existing readers to enjoy the tale, but it did jar somewhat.

The second is the way that Mormons and Native Americans are dealt with, although I freely admit that this is due to modern sensibilities and an environment that now decries anything deemed not politically correct. I was a little shocked to see it, but accept that this is the peril of reading anything set in this era.

Altogether, a pacy read with lovely dialogue and an instantly unforgettable character in the form of Sherlock Holmes.
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