Listening to Stephen Fry’s superb reading of THE STUDY IN SCARLET, I realised that I have never properly read the Mormon second half of the story. At best I can be said to have skim-read it, and I’m sure there were times when I just skipped it out completely. Moving straight – and without guilt – to more Holmes at the end.
I’m surely not alone in this. Sherlock Holmes is already a compulsive character from the first chapter we meet him. There is no embryonic phase where he isn’t quite himself. And the mystery Holmes and Watson are presented with here is so compulsive and crackling, that to leave it and head off on a long digression with a bunch of people far less interesting is an annoying diversion. I guarantee that I’m not the only reader who has never given it my full attention.
Listening to it, however, I did pay attention and – no matter how good a job Stephen Fry does with it (and he does a damn good job) – there’s no avoiding that it really is a melodramatic slog. A tale of evil Mormons, a beautiful young virgin and a love story snuffed out by death. It manages to combine being both overwrought and dull. Of course, what went before was so brilliant that virtually anything is going to suffer in comparison, but the change here is particularly jarring.
We can perhaps see already the ambivalent tone Conan-Doyle would cultivate towards his most famous creation. He creates something brilliant, but would rather spend a large portion of the book writing about something completely different. As if he didn’t really know what he had, or didn’t really care.
Still, Sherlock Holmes is fantastic in this inaugural tale and Stephen Fry does do a great job narrating it. Without a doubt, this is a five star book, even with the longueurs.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!