Friday, February 21, 2014

Study in Scarlet Review -- February 21, 2014

Here is a review of A Study in Scarlet and another detective novel from the 31-March-1890 Pittsburg Dispatch.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was trying to drop the "h" at the time.  A Study in Scarlet was the first Sherlock Holmes novel, but was the second published in America, after The Sign of the Four.  Edgar Allan Poe wrote about amateur French detective C Auguste Dupin in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and two other stories. Émile Gaboriau wrote about Monsieur Lecoq, a Sûreté detective, in several novels. I know nothing about William C Hudson's Jack Gordon, Knight Errant, but I will say that is a good title.

Everybody who read "The Sign of the Four" in Lippincot's, a month or two ago, will turn with interest to A Study in Scarlet (J. B. Lippincott Co. J. R. Weldin & Co. 50 cents), another detective story by the same author. In point of time "A Study in Scarlet" precedes "The Sign of the Four," being noticed in that brilliant little story and having the same hero. Mr. Sherlock Holmes is the best detective we know of in any of the detective stories.  He has good reason for having a poor opinion of Edgar A. Poe's "Dupin," and even of Gaboriau's "Lecoq." As for Miss Green's "Mr. Brice" or Mr. Hawthorne's real Inspector Byrnes, Sherlock Holmes is still 'way ahead.  He has a genius for detecting. He has a happy faculty of seeing everything and knowing immediately what everything means. A man Is found dead in a deserted house. Mr. Sherlock Holmes is summoned in his capacity of "consulting detective." He looks about the yard and house and room, and comes to the conclusion that "there has been murder done and the murderer was a man. He was more than six feet high, was in the prime of life, had small feet for his height, wore coarse, square toed boots, and smoked a trichinopoly cigar.  He came here with his victim in a four-wheeled cab, which was drawn by a horse with three old shoes and one new one on his off fore leg.  In all probability the murderer bad a florid face, and the finger nails of his right hand were remarkably long." This was certainly pretty well for a brief inspection of an empty room. 

The plot breaks in two in the middle, after Gaboriau's fashion, and traveling from England to Utah begins over again until the second thread gets long enough to be tied to the first. Somehow, we will read detective stories. Probably they feed some mental hunger of the human race. Mr. A. Conan Doyle, with his "Sherlock Holmes," knows how to construct a most ingenious plot. The publishers have printed the story on such good paper and in such good type that an added pleasure is given to the reading. It is the most attractive and interesting paper-covered novel which has appeared on The Critic's table for several months. A capital book for the vacation satchel.

Another story of the detective order, which suffers a good deal for being read immediately after "A Study in Scarlet," but which if read before and by itself is a capital piece of work, is Jack Gordon, Knight Errant (Cassoll Publishing Co.: J. R. Weldin & Co., 50 cents.) The plot is very well done, gradually developed, arousing no suspicion, and coming to a fine climax. There is a murder at the beginning, and as in "A Study in Scarlet," the fellow who is murdered richly deserves his fate. The novelist in such a case is in a quandary. The murderer must be hunted down. That is the thread of the plot. But discovered murderers are either hung or imprisoned, and that is no way at all to dispose of a worthy hero. It is true that the remarkable story "For the Right" ends in that way. But that was altogether an exceptional case. Mr. Doyle and Mr. Hudson could not let the law have its course. It gets perilously near to it in both cases. But there is an escape. It seems to The Critic, even after a long experience in the reading of good, bad and indifferent novels, that the love business is a little hurried up in this case. Jack and Lucy have hardly been introduced before they are betrothed. Still, of course, circumstances alter cases, and in this case there was no lack of very astonishing circumstances. "Jack Gordon" teaches unobtrusively a very good moral.

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