Top critical review
Not one of my favorites
Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2019
In my opinion, A Study in Scarlet is one of the weaker of the Sherlock Holmes tales I’ve read. I think it pales in comparison to the likes of many stories contained in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (which, in my estimation, is brilliant) as well as the classic novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Obviously A Study in Scarlet is quite noteworthy as it tells the origins of the dynamic duo of Watson and Holmes, which launches this epic series which would produce many stories and works. By sheer happenstance, Watson’s first encounter with Holmes comes when Watson needs a place to stay and he learns from a gentleman that there is one particular eccentric gentleman who happens to need a roommate. Enter Sherlock Holmes. Enter 221b Baker Street. Watson is quite intrigued with his new found roomie, coming to first understand the sleuth’s wild eccentricities and habits.
A Study in Scarlet does not have the same appeal or brilliance of the aforementioned works. I think part of the problem is how Doyle’s main star is projected. Holmes is not as refined, clever, or intuitive in A Study in Scarlet. Sure, he can come up with these brilliant nuggets of wisdom in the blink of an eye, however here he seemingly is more focused on boasting about his level of genius to Watson or trying to outwit the two detectives (Gregson, Lestrade) from Scotland Yard so he can “shove it in their face.”In this way, the true level of Holmes' genius is never fully demonstrated or recognized. Holmes here is pompous and cumbersome and it is actually nice to get a little break from him in Part 2.
While I sort of liked the technique of Doyle in Part 2 to create a backstory into the hows and whys of the case that is set up in Part 1, the way the story is handled in rather odd and strange, with Mormons on the rampage against one of the key figures in the story. I also thought the whole revenge thing a bit odd. I found all this a little much and off putting, and this lessened the read as well.
A Study in Scarlet still has definite moments of intrigue that would become a staple in the cannon of the Sherlock Holmes series. Too bad, though, that these moments are few and far between.
Interesting to see how it all started with Watson and Holmes, but rather mediocre over all.