There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is probably the only book I’ll consider as the greatest debut of any literary character yet. Sherlock Holmes, one of the most famous literary characters of all time, makes his debut in this story. While Holmes is best-known for his short stories, he is also featured in four novels, and A Study in Scarlet is the first of these novels — and of all Sherlock Holmes stories for that matter. Taking place during Victorian England, this novel is divided into two parts. The first part introduces Sherlock Holmes, the mystery, and its resolution. The second part contains a gripping and emotional tale of love and revenge which becomes an essential background to the mystery. While the majority of Sherlock Holmes stories are murder mysteries, I feel that A Study in Scarlet is the most heartfelt and gripping of them.
The story starts with the return of Dr. John Watson from the British Army in Afghanistan. While scouring for a place to live, Watson encounters an old friend who tells Watson that he knows somebody who is searching for a roommate. When he introduces the man to Watson, the man shakes Watson’s hand and asks him famously : “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive?” which completely startles Watson. This man is identified as Sherlock Holmes.
You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive?
Holmes is later shown to have a profound talent of detecting, analyzing, and assembling even the smallest of details (which Holmes calls “deductive reasoning”). As the story further progresses, this talent becomes more and more utilized. For instance, Holmes correctly reasons that one of his visitors is a retired Marine sergeant. Watson, after hearing the guest’s confirmation, is astonished by his roommate’s ability to deductively reason. This retiree is a messenger bringing news of a recent murder case. Holmes immediately agrees to help solve the case.
After the mystery has been solved, the scene shifts to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah, where John Ferrier and Lucy are the sole survivors of a group of pioneers. A party of Mormons soon rescue them under the conditions that they convert to their faith. Ferrier and Lucy accept the conditions and Lucy is adopted by Ferrier. Several years later, Lucy falls in love, and later becomes engaged, with Jefferson Hope. However, Ferrier is told that it is against Mormonism for his daughter to marry a Gentile, and she must marry a Mormon. Upon hearing this, Hope helps Lucy and Ferrier sneak out of the Salt Lake Valley to avoid marriage to a Mormom. In this part, Doyle has been criticized — often harshly — for his misrepresentation of Mormonism and lack of knowledge of American geography.
I would recommend this book to people who love mysteries, British culture and life, crime, and classic world literature. A terrific beginning of a famous literary character, A Study in Scarlet is a stupendous book which you just have to read.