Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Study in Scarlet (or Three Cheers for Sherlock Holmes! *squeals girlishly*)

I will do my very best to keep this post from drifting into SHERLOCK HOLMES IS MY HERO territory. But...I can't...I just...*sigh* I love him.

A Study in Scarlet seems to be less about plot and more about "This is Sherlock Holmes. This is Watson. Behold their unlikely friendship, and lament their absence in the real world." That being said, Conan Doyle does not skimp on the plot.

The first time I read this I was about 10; so the Sherlock Holmes projected in the movie screen of my mind looked a little something like this:

A very fancy mouse, indeed
Reading it again as a 26-year-old who has experienced The World and has a few more pop-culture references at my disposal, my mental picture of Sherlock is a little different:

Decidedly unmousy
I think what has always drawn me to Sherlock as a character is how likable he is despite his many unlikable qualities. He is an antihero. He solves crimes, yes, but he has nary a righteous motivation for doing so; usually, it has something to do with his being bored. He is a glutton for praise (as Watson puts it, "He was as sensitive to flattery on the score of his art as any girl could be of her beauty"), he goes through periods of depression during which he scrapes away morosely on his violin, he occasionally reaches for the cocaine (this is only hinted at in A Study in Scarlet but becomes apparent later in the series). He is insufferable, really, but we can't help ourselves. We want him as a friend.

And then we have Watson. Dearest Watson. Without him, without his reasonable voice providing the narration, we would be entirely lost. Can you imagine if the story were told from Sherlock's perspective? I'm almost certain what goes on in his head borders on the sociopathic. And we would be privy to his every thought, which would eliminate his trademark Big Reveal and spoil all his fun. Besides, Sherlock's antics are far more amusing from the outside looking in. But Watson is much more than the straight man in this comedy duo. He is a hero in his own right, having served as a doctor in the second Afghan war. But he is a little sensitive, still recovering from a long illness following a serious war injury, and completely unaware of the Sherlock storm coming his way: "If I am to lodge with anyone, I should prefer a man of studious and quiet habits. I am not strong enough yet to stand much noise or excitement." Oh, Watson . . . little did you know.

Watson is still a mustachioed mouse, as far as I'm concerned.
Providing a different kind of contrast to Sherlock are detectives Gregson and Lestrade. I assume they are sometimes good at their jobs because they can't ALWAYS be calling on Sherlock to save their butts, but my goodness they seem stupid. They're always trying to one-up each other and coming to the most outlandish conclusions and taking all the credit when Sherlock solves the crime with his hands tied behind his back. They're basically Laurel and Hardy go to Scotland Yard.
We know who the killer is, tra-la-la.
So I mentioned there was a plot. Well, there's a body, found in a most unusual setting under most unusual circumstances. Everyone thinks it's MOST unusual, except Sherlock, who has nearly solved the whole affair by page 23. But because Sherlock is so delightfully sarcastic and derives much amusement from watching Gregson and Lestrade spin their wheels and bicker like "a pair of professional beauties," he doesn't TELL anyone what he's figured out. Obstruction of justice? No, silly . . . just Sherlock being Sherlock.

So that's Part I, and then all of a sudden we're in the North American desert with a bunch of Mormons. And we're thinking, what the hell is going on here? Where is Sherlock?! I'm here only because I was promised there would be SHERLOCK. But there's a point to this tangent, and it turns out to be a convoluted and incredibly complicated back story to explain what Sherlock already deduced (mostly), and he's just going to have a little nip of cocaine while he patiently waits for us to catch up.

And then, just in case we were napping for the first 84 pages, there's a conclusion in which Sherlock explains each and every step of deductive reasoning that led him to the killer. As I was reading it, I was thinking, "Yes, I get it, Conan Doyle. I'm no Sherlock, but I don't need it spelled out for me AGAIN." But then I realized, it's not Conan Doyle who is underestimating our intelligence; it's Sherlock, the cocky bastard. He just needs to make sure that we/Watson see precisely how brilliant he is.

And we do, Mr. Holmes, we definitely do.


  1. "Watson is still a mustachioed mouse, as far as I'm concerned."

    Ahahaha I don't think I ever watched that. But fantastic.

    I went through a thing like a year or two ago where I read a bunch of Sherlock Holmes. Study in Scarlet's the weird one with the big section on evil Mormons, right? Yeah, they improved from there.


  2. It's "The Great Mouse Detective," and you need to watch it immediately.

    Yes! The evil Mormons!! They put a whole new spin on the polygamy discussion going on over at Raych's blog.

    Irene Adler is in only one story in the series! And she's one of the only strong female characters, as far as I can remember. For shame, Conan Doyle.