‘A Study In Scarlet’ is one of the most popular novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The character of Sherlock Holmes was first featured in this novel. It is one of the four novels written by Conan Doyle that feature Holmes.

First Book Edition Cover (1888)

First Book Edition Cover (1888)

Doyle wrote this novel when he was 27 and it was first published, after much rejection, by Ward Lock and Co. in ‘Beeton’s Christmas Annual’ in 1887.  In 1888, Ward Lock and Co. published it as a novel which also contained illustrations drawn Charles Doyle, father of Conan Doyle. In 1890 an American version of ‘A Study In Scarlet’ was released by J.P. Lippincott Co. Conan Doyle only earned £25 from the publication, although, he did insist for royalty. Shortly after its publication, Doyle wrote ‘The Sign Of Four’ in 1890, another novel featuring Sherlock Holmes.

Initially this novel failed to make any mark and went unnoticed but who knew that in recent times, it was just the begginning of a series of short stories that will attract a huge fan club.

paget_holmes1The novel was initially named as ‘The Tangled Skein’ but was later renamed. Its name ‘A Study In Scarlet’ is derived from the engaging conversation between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in which the former is discussing his investigation methods. Holmes terms the murder investigation as ‘study in scarlet’, in his own words :”There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it”

It is in ‘A Study In Scarlet’ that both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson meet for the first time. Dr. Watson exhausted and injured from war in Afghanistan returns to London, but soon due to limited resources looks to share an apertment with someone. A friend of his, who knows Holmes as well, arranges a meeting between the two to settle things. In their first meeting, Holmes surprises Dr. Watson with his deductive reasoning, when he reveals several facts about Watson’s past life.

The story is divided in two parts, the first part titled ‘Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John Watson, M.D., Late of the Army Medical Department’  describes events of their meeting and the crime. While the other part titled ‘The Country of the Saints’  takes the reader to the deserts of United States describing events involving the Mormon community that lead to the crime. In the last two chapters, Dr. Watson continues to describe the conclusion of the case as he saw it.