|Image from Google Books|
First of all, I had no idea the MORMONS would feature so prominently in this tale, and let me tell you, they did not come off looking very well in the whole affair. (Put the search terms "Doyle Mormons" into Google; you'll get a taste of what I'm talking about.) As many others have said (this I discovered when I did the aforementioned Google search myself), whether or not Doyle had any of his facts straight about the Latter-Day Saints, his view is certainly representative of the public anti-Mormon feeling that was running quite high at the time.
The second surprise was finding out exactly how the friendship between Holmes and Watson began. I had always pictured Watson rather like the little dog in the old Warner Brothers cartoon who follows the big dog around, constantly excited about everything and saying things like, "Can we go to that real nice restaurant tonight, Alfie? Can we? Huh? Huh? Can we?" In other words, I assumed that Watson worshipped Holmes, and Holmes tolerated Watson. In point of fact, the great detective needed a friend quite as much as his side-kick did, which makes me like the whole arrangement even more. Besides the loneliness factor, Watson also proved very useful in many situations which required a doctor's services, (though I know that more from Granada's made-for-tv versions of Holmes than from this book). It was in reading the front matter of A Study in Scarlet that I learned that, in point of fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was sort of a composite of both his main characters, since he had to put the ideas into Holmes' mind and mouth, and had also once been a doctor by profession.
I'm sure my rating of this book comes as no surprise at all, except maybe in the fact that I didn't go the whole hog and give it a perfect score; after all, it's been popular this long for a reason. However, I have been known to give classics bad reviews before, and probably will do so again occasionally. This one earned its stars. The only thing that really annoyed me about this book was Holmes' trick of spying out "military men" by their "bearing." I could easily buy most of his deductions, but I still find it hard to believe that a man's "bearing" or demeanor, witnessed from a second-floor window across the street, could so easily tell the observer that he had been in the army. Even if it could, the device gets a little over-used. Otherwise, this was a page-turner, and I can highly recommend it.