Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Study in Scarlet (1887)

Sherlock Holmes is a consulting detective, a man outside of the police force system, who uses logic, intellect, and close observation to solve the crime at hand. While Miss Marple and Avery Baker (both mentioned earlier) use gossip and eavesdropping to solve their mystery, this eccentric 19th century detective relies on scientific reasoning to bring his investigation to a close.

Sherlock Homes first appears in literature during the Industrial Age at a time when people were concerned about containing crime and maintaining order. His legacy is far reaching. He is said to have inspired and influenced the future of all literary detectives, including those we watch today on television in shows like CSI.

A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887, is presented in two parts, the first taking place in Victorian England after the body is found and the second in the American West where the transgression unfolds. In London, the sense of mystery is increased by Watson's curiosity about Sherlock Holmes but it is the action in Salt Lake City that moves the story along to its exciting conclusion.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creates an outstanding visual painting of the American West. He gives his text a great sense of open space juxtaposed against the smallness of his characters in a vulnerable landscape where protection is paramount. I quickly sympathized with the character Lucy and was concerned about her safety. While I enjoyed part one of 'A Study in Scarlet,' I approached it as I would a required reading. Part two, however, was like a good old fashioned Western with a lot of adventure and drama. I couldn't put the book down until the story was finished.

Genre: Crime Fiction
Sub-category: Early Detective Fiction

  • The brilliant investigating detective, introduced earlier with Poe's Dupin, is further developed in Sherlock Holmes and the genre becomes one still produced and read today.
  • The less intelligent assistant narrates the story.
  • The police force does not have the skill set necessary to solve the crime.
  • The solution is presented before the reasoning that leads up to it. The reader is not given the clues necessary to solve the crime. Sherlock Holmes awes his audience with the solution using information only he has been able to uncover.
  • The two-story structure, the crime itself and the investigation following, becomes a common literary framework for crime fiction. While a loss of order is introduced in the first, it is almost always restored in the second.
To find on amazon: A Study in Scarlet

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