Two American travelers have been killed--one with poison, the other with a knife through the heart--and the only clues at the scene are a woman's wedding ring and the German word for "vengeance" written in blood. The military surgeon Dr. John Watson is brought in to investigate, along with his clever, arrogant new roommate, Sherlock Holmes. Thus begins one of the most famous crime-solving partnerships of all time and the debut of one of literature's most remarkable detectives. Doyle borrowed his major elements--the detective of superhuman intellect; cases as fantastical as they are criminal; the final, dramatic resolution--from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, adding his own distinctive touches: a strong feeling for the atmosphere of late Victorian London, an interest in the methods of science, and a chivalric concern for justice and the oppressed.
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Arthur Conan Doyle's Study in Scarlet is the first published story involving the legendary Sherlock Holmes, arguably the world's best-known detective, and the first narrative by Holmes's Boswell, the unassuming Dr. Watson, a military surgeon lately returned from the Afghan War. Watson needs a flat-mate and a diversion. Holmes needs a foil. And thus a great literary collaboration begins.
Watson and Holmes move to a now-famous address, 221B Baker Street, where Watson is introduced to Holmes's eccentricities as well as his uncanny ability to deduce information about his fellow beings. Somewhat shaken by Holmes's egotism, Watson is nonetheless dazzled by his seemingly magical ability to provide detailed information about a man glimpsed once under the streetlamp across the road.
Then murder. Facing a deserted house, a twisted corpse with no wounds, a mysterious phrase drawn in blood on the wall, and the buffoons of Scotland Yard--Lestrade and Gregson--Holmes measures, observes, picks up a pinch of this and a pinch of that, and generally baffles his faithful Watson. Later, Holmes explains: "In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward.... There are few people who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result." Holmes is in that elite group.
Conan Doyle quickly learned that it was Holmes's deductions that were of most interest to his readers. The lengthy flashback, while a convention of popular fiction, simply distracted from readers' real focus. It is when Holmes and Watson gather before the coal fire and Holmes sums up the deductions that led him to the successful apprehension of the criminal that we are most captivated. Subsequent Holmes stories--The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes--rightly plunge the twosome directly into the middle of a baffling crime, piling mystery upon mystery until Holmes's denouement once more leaves the dazzled Watson murmuring, "You are wonderful, Holmes!" Generations of readers agree. --Barbara SchlieperFrom the Publisher:
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