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Old 04-22-2013, 05:06 AM   #16
orlok
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I was pleased to be revisiting Sherlock Holmes after so many years away, and it has sparked an interest in me to reread some of the other stories. It has been so long that I had completely forgotten the story and came to it almost afresh.

To those that have read their first Holmes with A Study in Scarlet and are less than impressed, I would urge you to try another, as I don't feel this is entirely representative of the full body of Conan Doyle's work (I would recommend The Hound of the Baskervilles). The departure mid-story in the US and Hope's back story was untypical - so much so that I thought the tale had ended, and we had moved onto a non-Holmes story for a little while...

That said, it was a great introduction to Holmes and Watson, and to a certain extent felt like a scene-setter whose main purpose was to introduce us to the characters for the many stories to come.

As an aside, I agree with fantasyfan that they did a marvellous job of updating this story with A Study in Pink, and in fact the scene where Sherlock is being forced to choose between the poison or a harmless pill was better played and much more suspenseful than in the original story.
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:44 AM   #17
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I also found myself less pleased with this story than in the past, certainly less then when I first read the Sherlock Holmes books when a YA. This may be in part because for the first time I was reading it with an eye to later discussing and criticizing it. Mainly though I just could not be as credulous about Holmes and his supposedly infallible logic. I just kept seeing gaps and other alternate explanations for his 'obvious' conclusions. The sudden switch in the middle from Watson's personal account, to an omniscient observer in America, and then back again to Watson did not really bother me. I recalled enough about the story from previous reads to expect that. So it was not as good for me as back when when I could believe in Holmes' deductions. Back when I dreamt of being Holmes.
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Old 04-22-2013, 09:47 PM   #18
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To those that have read their first Holmes with A Study in Scarlet and are less than impressed, I would urge you to try another, as I don't feel this is entirely representative of the full body of Conan Doyle's work (I would recommend The Hound of the Baskervilles). The departure mid-story in the US and Hope's back story was untypical - so much so that I thought the tale had ended, and we had moved onto a non-Holmes story for a little while...

That said, it was a great introduction to Holmes and Watson, and to a certain extent felt like a scene-setter whose main purpose was to introduce us to the characters for the many stories to come.
Here, here. I'd also add that this is the 1st Sherlock Holmes story ever written and that the genre was still in its infancy at the time when it was written. So it's more than possible that A.C. Doyle was still finding his proper voice in regard to his most famous creation. Hound of the Baskervilles was written yrs later (I believe after 'The Final Problem' and before 'The Empty House') by which time A.C. Doyle's writing style had no doubt matured quite a bit. Judging by how many people world wide know of the great detective through story, OTR, TV and movies there has to be something to his stories that has held up well over time. Holmes appeared in Dec. 1887 in Beaton's Christmas Annual and he's still going strong 126 yrs later in 2013.
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:10 PM   #19
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Thanks for the comments about the shift in the story halfway through, I'd given up on the audiobook after the first half because I thought the recording was scrambled or missing a section. After reading this thread I figured I might as well listen to the last couple of hours, even though I didn't actually care what happened.

This wasn't my first Sherlock Holmes and despite loving mysteries I've never clicked with this series. I find the stories overly detailed, the plots bizarre, and the characters unlikable. The manipulation of the back story to fit all the strange clues always seems too convenient and implausible and this one was one of the most extreme: polygamy halfway across the world, poison, and an aneurysm. I guess I'm unable to suspend disbelief far enough to buy into the Sherlock Holmes mystique.
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:43 AM   #20
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hm, as I didn't read this one before, I liked the introduction how Sherlock Holmes and Watson met. But it gave me the impression of reading a 'Sherlock Holmes for beginners" rather than a Holmes story of which I read, reread and enjoyed several throughout my life.
I found the second part of the story, which took part in the USA, read like an old-fashioned somewhat moral book, though I found the historical context interesting. It would have been better if this had been interwoven in the first part. I had the feeling of a 'forced' reading a second book, which perhaps I wouldn't have read otherwise.
The discoveries of Holmes and Watson have a kind of 'deus ex machina' effect on me. I find several conclusions too much a 'pop-up', too farfetched.

I rather liked the idea of reading a Sherlock Holmes novel I didn't know, but I am a bit disappointed now.
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:51 AM   #21
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hm, as I didn't read this one before, I liked the introduction how Sherlock Holmes and Watson met. But it gave me the impression of reading a 'Sherlock Holmes for beginners" rather than a Holmes story of which I read, reread and enjoyed several throughout my life.
I found the second part of the story, which took part in the USA, read like an old-fashioned somewhat moral book, though I found the historical context interesting. It would have been better if this had been interwoven in the first part. I had the feeling of a 'forced' reading a second book, which perhaps I wouldn't have read otherwise.
The discoveries of Holmes and Watson have a kind of 'deus ex machina' effect on me. I find several conclusions too much a 'pop-up', too farfetched.

I rather liked the idea of reading a Sherlock Holmes novel I didn't know, but I am a bit disappointed now.
Well as I said in an earlier post this was the 1st one written so I figure you have to expect it to not be quite as developed as the later adventures were.
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:53 AM   #22
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Well as I said in an earlier post this was the 1st one written so I figure you have to expect it to not be quite as developed as the later adventures were.
True, true.......perhaps my expectations were too high.
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Old 04-23-2013, 05:50 AM   #23
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hm, as I didn't read this one before, I liked the introduction how Sherlock Holmes and Watson met. But it gave me the impression of reading a 'Sherlock Holmes for beginners" rather than a Holmes story of which I read, reread and enjoyed several throughout my life.
I found the second part of the story, which took part in the USA, read like an old-fashioned somewhat moral book, though I found the historical context interesting. It would have been better if this had been interwoven in the first part. I had the feeling of a 'forced' reading a second book, which perhaps I wouldn't have read otherwise.
The discoveries of Holmes and Watson have a kind of 'deus ex machina' effect on me. I find several conclusions too much a 'pop-up', too farfetched.

I rather liked the idea of reading a Sherlock Holmes novel I didn't know, but I am a bit disappointed now.
I agree that this one felt a bit rough round the edges, and some of the solutions seemed a bit difficult to accept, but as crich70 says, it was the first one, and I think it sets the scene very well. Suspension of belief was required once or twice, but then that's half the fun .

I think I'm going to read some of the others soon, to hopefully remind me of how good they really can be (though maybe it's only my fond memories that are keeping this view alive. I hope not).
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Old 04-23-2013, 08:07 AM   #24
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It has been disliked by some over the years, in part due to the portrait of the Mormon's that it paints....
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It's so long since I read it that I had completely forgotten the plot, which was good. I found the sudden change to the US a bit clunky, but otherwise enjoyed it....
Although it takes up half of the book, I had completely forgotten the Mormon connection as well. But it's been about 35-40 years since I've read the book.

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What I've never been able to understand is why Watson misses the clues relating to Jefferson Hope's health. He is a Dr. after all...
But he's also the narrator. A good narrator of a mystery yarn has to be at least a bit slower than the reader.

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...I do remember reading quite few of them back in my teens, and also that I was pretty fascinated by them back then. I think the "scientific" side of them appealed much to me, and maybe today's abundance of forensic science TV series has made me "jaded". Back when they were published they must have bee ground breaking though!
I'm currently reading Maria Konnikova's Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. It offers some surprising insights into Holmes' methods and the basic assumptions underlying them.

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Asawi, do you have any opinion of the updated Holmes in the Sherlock series? I thought A Study in Pink was excellent.


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Here, here. I'd also add that this is the 1st Sherlock Holmes story ever written and that the genre was still in its infancy at the time when it was written. So it's more than possible that A.C. Doyle was still finding his proper voice in regard to his most famous creation. Hound of the Baskervilles was written yrs later (I believe after 'The Final Problem' and before 'The Empty House') by which time A.C. Doyle's writing style had no doubt matured quite a bit. Judging by how many people world wide know of the great detective through story, OTR, TV and movies there has to be something to his stories that has held up well over time. Holmes appeared in Dec. 1887 in Beaton's Christmas Annual and he's still going strong 126 yrs later in 2013.
Very few literary templates were available at the time. One was was Poe's C. Auguste Dupin, who could hardly be called a detective proper as the term had yet to be coined, but even so, in the book we just read, Holmes appeared to have only a small respect for him.

Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. "No doubt you think that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin," he observed. "Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends' thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour's silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine."

As for Gaboriau's creation Monsieur Lecoq, Holmes had this to say:

"Have you read Gaboriau's works?" I asked. "Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?"

Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. "Lecoq was a miserable bungler," he said, in an angry voice; "he had only one thing to recommend him, and that was his energy. That book made me positively ill. The question was how to identify an unknown prisoner. I could have done it in twenty-four hours. Lecoq took six months or so. It might be made a text-book for detectives to teach them what to avoid."

I have to confess here that I've never read any of the writings of Émile Gaboriau, but he was very popular in the day in which Doyle began writing.

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Old 04-23-2013, 08:22 AM   #25
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I do have to wonder if maybe A.C. Doyle is stepping forward for a moment when Holmes gives his opinions on Dupin and Lecoq. Maybe it was his way of saying "I can do better than that, and here it is."
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Old 04-23-2013, 08:41 AM   #26
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I've been wanting to read a Book Club selection for some time, and finally jumped on the bandwagon with this one. I wanted to practice summarizing my opinion of a book beyond a star rating. I don't think this was the book to practice on. Like others have said, the abrupt story jump had me thinking the book was improperly formatted and someone had pasted an excerpt of an entirely different story. It was my first Sherlock Holmes book by Doyle. I enjoyed the introduction of Holmes and Watson because I have read a few of Laurie King's Mary Russell series, but beyond that, I found the plot too choppy to develop any suspense.
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Old 04-23-2013, 09:37 AM   #27
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So, an amusing story but faulty as a detective story and as literature.
I agree with Issybird, but then so would have A. Conan Doyle. His later stories are more polished. It is because of Holmes' popularity in those days before movies, television, and radio, as well as his later mythological status that he is worth reading.

There is no way to deduce the killer before Holmes exposes Ball which violates a cardinal rule of mysteries, but a rule that did not exist at the time A Study in Scarlet was written.

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As an aside, I agree with fantasyfan that they did a marvellous job of updating this story with A Study in Pink, and in fact the scene where Sherlock is being forced to choose between the poison or a harmless pill was better played and much more suspenseful than in the original story.
I thought Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal in the BBC series caught the spirit of Holmes more successfully than anything I've ever seen set in Holmes' historical time.

Holmes is a fascinating character. He is concerned with solving puzzles, but has no interest in the great questions that have always plagued humans since he sees no way of solving them. He is obsessive about solving problems that can be scientifically proven. When no problems come to him he attempts to cure his boredom by shooting cocaine into his veins. Even when he eventually kicks his habit he never deals well with monotony.
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Old 04-23-2013, 09:58 AM   #28
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Were the seeds of the cocaine habit placed in A Study in Scarlet? One could argue fom the folllowing scene that Holmes was subject to some mental malady, perhaps bi-polar disorder.

...Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night. On these occasions I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.

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Old 04-23-2013, 03:11 PM   #29
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Were the seeds of the cocaine habit placed in A Study in Scarlet? One could argue fom the folllowing scene that Holmes was subject to some mental malady, perhaps bi-polar disorder.

...Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night. On these occasions I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.
Or maybe Holmes already had the habit and Watson just didn't see what was right in front of his face.
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Old 04-23-2013, 03:48 PM   #30
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My first impressions of the book were that it must have had two authors and stories. I was totally confused when the second part started and went nuts going back and forth on my readers trying to figure out what happened. I even started the audio book to see if that section was there and yes it was. Once I finally continued to listen and reached the continuing part to the first section, I understood what was going on with the back story being the reason for the murders.

Then I checked online to find out more about this story.

I did enjoy reading this first encounter of Watson and Holmes, but felt as if the two parts could have been separate books; a western romance and the Holmes mystery (that should have had parts of the murder's thinking sprinkled within to give us the murder's rationale).

This was not one of my favorite books to date, but I did enjoy reading it and will read more of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
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