Rereading Holmes: A Study in Scarlet Ch 5-10

Previously: Chapters 1-4

Bored in class one day, I decided to find a Sherlock Holmes story online and read it. I’m pretty sure I’ve read nearly all the Holmes stories before, but it’s been so long I can’t properly remember. I don’t normally write reviews for rereads, but though I’m not sure if this is a proper re-read or not I wasn’t particularly interested in writing reviews for the series. So I thought instead it might be fun to do a sort of compilation post of the things I noticed while reading whatever, much like when I was reading The Woman in White in January.

So! I’m calling this series Rereading Holmes, and I’m starting with A Study in Scarlet, the very first Holmes story. I’m reading this online copy, though I do have a complete Holmes book somewhere. (It’s hardback, double-columned and kind of unwieldy. I tend to forget where I’ve left it for months at a time.)

This format does sort of assume you’ve already a) read the book or b) seen a movie/TV show that adapts it. I don’t know how interesting this’ll actually be, but I’ve endeavored to try and spice things up by actually talking about what’s going on with the plot, instead of just random musings.

There’s rather a lot of spoils going on now, so I’ve stuck the post under this jump (which you won’t see if you’re reading this in a feedreader):

Chapter 5: Stuff happens

  • “OUR morning’s exertions had been too much for my weak health, and I was tired out in the afternoon.” Aw, Watson is still ill. It’s easy to forget that this story takes place fairly early in Holmes/Watson’s relationship, mostly because they already work so well together.
  • Watson: “I ought to be more case-hardened after my Afghan experiences. I saw my own comrades hacked to pieces at Maiwand without losing my nerve.” Eek.
  • Holmes has gone away and found some things out, then finds something in the classifieds. That’s another thing that tends to pop up a lot in Golden Age detective novels; don’t criminals know better than to talk to each other in public, even if it is in code? The detectives always find out, anyway.
  • Watson has his old army gun but Holmes has none. What’s up with that? Were there gun laws back then? Or were guns simply too expensive? That would explain why doesn’t Holmes have a weapon except his FISTS.
  • Watson starts reading Henri Murger’s “Vie de Boheme.”– getting tips for dealing with Holmes?
  • A lot of times when I read about characters reading books I want to read those books, too. Wait! I just realized something! Does Watson speak French? Because I could swear he didn’t. But maybe I’m mixing up canon with fanon again. Gah, this is terrible. If I could blank my mind and start with Sherlock Holmes over again from just the books and then the Granada TV show (with Jeremy Brett!), I would. This mixing up of sources thing is irritating.

Chapter 6: Gregson and Lestrade make fools of themselves

  • From the newspapers: “The Socialists had many branches in America, and the deceased had, no doubt, infringed their unwritten laws, and been tracked down by them.” Did people think socialists were like a mafia, or something? Wtf? I need more history lessons.
  • It’s funny how the newspapers all take a political stance– think I learned about that in my last journalism class. They’d pick a party and stick to whatever views that party had; made for very biased reporting, I must say.
  • Gregson: “I made shorthand notes of all that she said, however, so that there should be no possibility of a mistake.” A good excuse for characters remembering every single thing that someone said, something that I certainly can’t do like the folks in the Holmes stories can. I often can’t even remember what I’ve said the day before, for Pete’s sake!
  • This brings to mind that I completely forgot about Gregson. Completely. I didn’t even remember he was in the SH stories! And in fact don’t remember him even in the TV show(s). It’s always Lestrade who gets the most coverage, which I suppose says something about him. Not sure what that something is, though.

Chapter 7: The most exciting part of the story so far

  • Something Lestrade says clues Holmes into the solution of the mystery– had this been done before? The non-detective character saying something innocuous that leads the detective character to finding the solution thing. It tends to be over done now (Poirot, House, etc), but maybe it was new in A Study in Scarlet.
  • Holmes uses Watson’s medical expertise to back up his own theory about how Stangerson died. See, he’s useful!
  • “Holmes had taken out his watch, and as minute followed minute without result, an expression of the utmost chagrin and disappointment appeared upon his features. He gnawed his lip, drummed his fingers upon the table, and showed every other symptom of acute impatience. So great was his emotion, that I felt sincerely sorry for him, while the two detectives smiled derisively, by no means displeased at this check which he had met.”
  • Just when you think Holmes might be wrong, he turns out to be right! He often is, and everyone should just get used to it (though they shouldn’t take it for granted).
  • And then Holmes stuns them all with his magnificence! Haha, that’s really one of the most fun things about the SH stories.
  • “And now, gentlemen,” he continued, with a pleasant smile, “we have reached the end of our little mystery. You are very welcome to put any questions that you like to me now, and there is no danger that I will refuse to answer them.” And BAM. Cliffhanger. Sort of.

Chapter 8 (Part 2 Ch 1): The Mormons show up

  • This chapter starts off with rather depressing description of the American Midwest, and I suppose it was depressing back before people started making towns in it.
  • “There are no inhabitants of this land of despair.” Conan Doyle must hate the midwest. When did people start living there? Late 1800s? Maybe he had reason to hate it, like I said.
  • Also, if this is supposed to be Watson writing it’s no wonder Holmes keeps saying he’s sensationalistic/romantic/etc, because it IS. This whole chapter is an entirely different feeling from the rest of the book, especially since Holmes isn’t anywhere in that desert and we’re stuck with this dude and this kid who’re dying.
  • “Then mother’s a deader too,” cried the little girl dropping her face in her pinafore and sobbing bitterly.” This whole sequence is weird.
  • Then Mormons show up! This part of the story is set during their journey over to Salt Lake City, which is interesting, but Conan Doyle doesn’t exactly show them in a positive light.
  • Here they are about to die.
  • Okay, so now the Mormons have found the dude and the kid, but they refuse to help them unless the dude and the kid agree to become Mormons. Which is reasonable, kinda, but they also threaten to leave them behind if they don’t convert, which seems like a real unfriendly act to me.
  • “Better far that your bones should bleach in this wilderness than that you should prove to be that little speck of decay which in time corrupts the whole fruit.” Hardcore Mormons, yeah. Though I suppose you must have been hardcore to be willing to move across the country on FOOT. But still. You’d really let those people die right in front of you? That’s just mean.

Chapter 9 (Part II ch 2): The most boring chapter ever

  • Basically now it’s turned into a western romance. The little girl is all grown up, and she’s awesome and pretty and wild, and everyone loves her, and WHATEVER. Go back to the mystery! I don’t care about the desert flower woman, I want to know how Holmes solved his case!
  • “Then she walked back into the house, the happiest girl in all Utah.” FORESHADOWIIIIIING blah blah blah
  • I mean, obviously something bad is going to happen to her, because Conan Doyle would never let someone like her remain happy. It’s like he takes delight in causing torment to stereotypical Victorian maidens! Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing…

Chapter 10 (Part II ch 3): Creepy interlaced with boring

  • Okay, so now s. V. m. wants to get married, but to a NON-MORMON. omg, how will we all live with that.
  • The dude: “He had always determined, deep down in his resolute heart, that nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such a marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace.” Definite feelings of anti-Mormonism here, but slightly understandable since they did force him to convert and everything.
  • And now there’s a secret Mormon society in the story? Conan Doyle could be weird sometimes. Unless there really WAS a secret Mormon society stealing detractors away from their homes?
  • “The supply of adult women was running short, and polygamy without a female population on which to draw was a barren doctrine indeed. Strange rumours began to be bandied about — rumours of murdered immigrants and rifled camps in regions where Indians had never been seen. Fresh women appeared in the harems of the Elders — women who pined and wept, and bore upon their faces the traces of an unextinguishable horror.” Woah.
  • Anyway, now the Mormons are gonna force the s. V. m. to marry another Mormon. The dude doesn’t like it, and I don’t think the s. V. m. does, either. Oh, drama.
  • The dude: “I don’t care about knuckling under to any man, as these folk do to their darned prophet. I’m a free-born American, and it’s all new to me.” lol. BUT YOU AGREED TO BECOME A MORMON AND YOU’VE BEEN DOING THAT FOR 10+ YEARS. I know you wanted to live and stuff, but if you didn’t want to be a Mormon why didn’t you just run away after they rescued you? Surely that would have been preferable to living a lie for so long?

After a disappointing start to the second part of A Study in Scarlet, I’m hoping things will pick up in chapters 11-14, which’ll bring us to the end of this book!

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