Throwback Thursday ~ A Study in Scarlet

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Checkout today’s Throwback Thursday link up for details on the TT giveaway!

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

In the debut of literature’s most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes. (via Goodreads)

This is another multiple bird post, A Study in Scarlet being the 7th book I’ve read this year. I read the original and skimmed a “remastered” version by Leo Zanav. Also, I realize. Holmes…again.

It’s been a very long time since I read A Study in Scarlet. I had forgotten that it starts slow. There’s a lot of Watson background. It’s also a ways into the narrative before we really see Holmes at work. But, if I were reading this for the very first time, especially if I didn’t know who Sherlock Holmes was, his off-stage introduction would be very intriguing. The “remastered” version cuts pretty much to the chase, leaving Watson firmly in the background. I’m not going to cast too many judgements of this retelling for that, most of the language in the story is Doyle’s, though I am going to roll my eyes at the perceived need to quicken it up for a modern audience. Doyle’s original is pretty compelling even without Sherlock on stage all the time. Doyle’s sort of left-field switch to an American west flash-back (curtailed in the retelling) serves a purpose, to firmly set up the killer’s motives. But again, every Holmes story has been told and retold in so many ways that it’s difficult to be overly upset about it if you’re accepting of most adaptations.

The thing that did bug me is the sanitation of a few things in the “remastered” version. The Criterion is no longer a bar, but a bookstore. The subjects of the postmortem bruising experiments are dead animals when I’m pretty sure that Doyle meant to be rather sensational in suggesting that they were human bodies. There is of course some changing of tone concerning Mormonism and the “Avenging Angels” but far less than some of the reviews of the rewritten version would have you believe. In all, these changes just seem pointless. Read the original, it’s better.

The one thing that stuck me during this reread is how young these characters seem. Sherlock is overly enthusiastic about his hemoglobin reagent experiment and vital in his mannerisms. Watson isn’t returning from being a career soldier; he’s only old enough to have been through med school and briefly seen action before getting shot in the shoulder. When he returns to England, he’s pretty much a late twenty-something trying to figure out what to do with his life. (Doyle was 27 when A Study in Scarlet was published.)

Speaking of adaptations, I was also surprised at how many elements of the originals that the current BBC Sherlock incorporates into its episodes. I’d forgotten the importance of the cabby and the pills in this story. Both elements are used in a pretty creative way by the show’s premier episode “A Study in Pink.” I’ll leave you with the iconic moment of Holmes and Watson meeting, 21st century style.

Genre: Mystery
Why did choose to read this book? I do not tire of Sherlock Holmes.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes.
Craft Lessons: Is it really necessary to start with a bang? Hinting at a character’s character is maybe more interesting than purely showing.
Format: Kindle ebook.
Procurement: FREE at Amazon.com (though I can’t find it in their catalog now…)

Mystery/Crime Challenge

5 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday ~ A Study in Scarlet

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