Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I read the entirety of this novel on the elliptical machine at the Y. Sure, I was there a while, but A Study in Scarlet is only one hundred or so pages, and is very easy to read (despite the prevalence of GRE words. Good thing I remember those). And yes, I read while I'm working out. It's the only way I can handle the monotony of standing on a machine and moving my legs for any length of time, especially since the machines at the Y do not have individual television sets on them. I learned the fine art of reading on exercise equipment when I was in college. It was either read on the elliptical, or not exercise at all. My nook really helps with this; I can make the font size larger so I can still read the text even if I'm moving. Look, Ma! No headaches!

I selected A Study in Scarlet because, despite having read a lot of the shorter Sherlock Holmes mysteries as a kid, I'd never read any of the novels. The 2011 Victorian Literature Challenge I'm participating in has given me the opportunity to go back and read Doyle's longer works, and I'm probably going to re-read some of the shorter ones as well. I'm not 100% sure I read the originals or the censored, watered-down kiddie editions when I was younger (I was sort of astonished by the unedited Huck Finn I read in high school), either.

A Study in Scarlet is the first Sherlock Holmes mystery. So, much of it is devoted to introducing the main characters, Holmes and Watson, and detailing their backgrounds, how they come to meet, and laying the framework for their interactions with one another as well as how future adventures will unfold. For those familiar with Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet unfolds in the usual way; it's simply a novel-length version of the shorter mysteries. After introductions are made an backgrounds are elucidated, Holmes and Watson find themselves recruited by the police to solve two perplexing murders involving a poisoned man, a German revenge note, and a woman's wedding ring. Once Holmes apprehends the culprit, he launches into an extended narrative of why and how he committed the murders. I liked the narrative within a narrative format, even though it was a little confusing in the way it was presented.

We'll give this one 3 out of 5 stars. Enjoyable, but sort of shallow.

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