After reading so many re-tellings of Sherlock Holmes over the past couple of years, I vowed to start reading the source material. It took until a few months ago to actually get that quest off the ground. My hesitation was partly due to the fact that I figured the real Sherlock Holmes would not be my cup of tea. The particular cup of Sherlock-y tea that I had been sipping and enjoying was via PBS, the Lady Sherlock Holmes book series and Alexis Hall’s WONDERFUL “The Affair of the Mysterious Letter.” In each of those, it wasn’t the mystery that got me hooked. It was, in order: spectrum-y Benedict Cumberbatch, the steamy sexual tension of Lady Charlotte and Lord Ingram, and the delightful shenanigans of Haas and Wyndham.
However, I was pleasantly surprised with “A Study Scarlet.” It was truly not what I expected. The strange foray into a Mormon sub-plot was odd, but one of my favorite parts of the story to tell the truth. While this second book, “The Sign of the Four,” is also a smidge bizarre, it is also truly awful. Something this short should not have taken me so long to choke down.
The plot is all over the place and littered with a gazillion mostly one dimensional stereotypes. While it is made overly complicated, the basic gist is that a rich dude has a treasure. He hides the treasure in order to protect it. People find out about the treasure. They steal the treasure. They hide the treasure AGAIN. Descendants of the treasure thieves search for the treasure. They find the treasure. Original treasure thieves try to get it back. There is a murder and, of course, a beautiful woman who hires Sherlock to solve the mystery of her father’s death which is connected to, you guessed it, the freaking treasure.
I can also sum up this entire debacle with the only three sentences that I enjoyed reading out of the grueling 157 pages:
It’s a romance! An injured lady, half a million in treasure, a black cannibal, and a wooden – legged ruffian. They take the place of the conventional dragon or wicked Earl.
Believe me. It sounds better than it turned out. Don’t even get me started on the sexism and racism in this terrible book. Even giving leeway for the time it was written, it was pretty heavy handed with white male privilege. Please tell me that the “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is better, people. The book I have from the library includes the first three Sherlock Holmes stories. As I am a completionist, I can’t help myself. I will have to read “The Hound” to finish off this three story collection. HOWEVER, my willingness to continue after that will depend on its merit. It can’t be any worse than this one, right?