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A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Ed's journal
A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I'd always figured that the Sherlock Holmes books would be worth a read - nothing holds a reputation for a hundred years, that doesn't at least in some measure deserve it.
But if I'm honest, I never really got around to it, until just now - prompted in part by having watched the recent film, and finding out that project Gutenberg has the books available in a format ideal for my ebook reader.

And of course, mention that House is also something of an homage (House -> Holmes).

So anyway. The first novel is called 'A Study in Scarlet'. (although, at 100 pages long, it's shorter than I'd usually expect by the term).
It's told from the perspective of Doctor Watson, which is elegantly done - it's next to impossible to accurately portray the kind of character Holmes is directly, but much much easier to do so from the point of view of a close friend. Watson is the person you empathize with, as you both marvel at the deductive process at work in Holmes, and the apparant ease with which he pieces together the mystery.

Anyway, the story is fairly straight forward - a mysterious murder, in which I'm sure it'll come as no suprise that Sherlock Holmes is integral to tracking him down, and an actually somewhat longer interlude that allows the 'full story' to emerge.

It's well written, well paced, good, fairly short, free, and one of the definitive works of fiction.

You should read this. (Especially if you read ebooks, because it's free)

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oftendistracted From: oftendistracted Date: February 5th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's worth remembering that the real meat of Sherlock Holmes are the collections of short stories - Conan Doyle basically wrote them all as short newspaper columns, little bite size chunks of 'oo'. It's also interesting to note he never really expected to create a sensible continuity, openly admitted to having written them to draw people in rather than produce any kind of coherent narrative. As such, most of the novels - less so Study in Scarlet, as it's got characterisations and situations galore to set up - are almost odd-men-out and certainly often feel like they're lacking a certain touch, like they've got too much space and not enough information or different topics to fill it with.

In the end Holmes is a great big Mary Sue anyhow, I suppose.

If you're interested in reading more without money I've got the Complete Sherlock Holmes tucked away, which has all the short stories and novels in a roughly appropriate order, though as a paperback tome.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 5th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not so sure he warrants the term Mary Sue. Arrogant, drug using egotist is a bit of a stretch :).

I suspect I'll read more, but will probably continue to pillage the project gutenberg collection - given the choice between free and in dead tree format, and free and in ebook format, I'll opt for the latter :)
oftendistracted From: oftendistracted Date: February 5th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's more apparent as you read the entire canon. Holmes literally never, ever puts a step wrong and wows people with deductions 100% of the time because, well, that's what the short stories were intended to do. The characters were, most of the time, more a framework for 'ooh look at this puzzle' than actually intended to have much in the way of human semblance.

Which isn't to say I don't like the stories, the book's so beat up it's almost falling apart.
erjholton From: erjholton Date: February 5th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not entirely true - there are occasions in the short stories when it doesn't go entirely Holmes' way. Usually, though, Justice is served.
phlebas From: phlebas Date: February 5th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
That doesn't make him a Mary Sue as I'd understand it - surely that's more to do with writing the author's own avatar into the story (generally into a setting which is already established, and incongruously) rather than simply a flawless hero?
oftendistracted From: oftendistracted Date: February 5th, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd call that a 'self-insert', personally - Mary Sue kind of encompasses that and flawless heroing in my mind. I'm probably wrong in any case because, really, I guess he's more of a straight-up literary device most of the time more than anything - the most direct way to present the puzzles of deduction to the reader.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 6th, 2010 01:18 am (UTC) (Link)
There's a definition and everything.

Not convince the illustrious Mr Holmes counts.
crashbarrier From: crashbarrier Date: February 5th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Holmes is good but wordy (because Doyle was getting paid by the word:))

They are pretty much eh grandfather of all whodunnits and procedural shows today and still stand the test of time..
ash1977law From: ash1977law Date: February 6th, 2010 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
ash1977law From: ash1977law Date: February 6th, 2010 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
A Study in Emerald, a sideways history look at Holmes.
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