A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In my quest to ready 20 classics in 2015, I finished another Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet. I will say that The Hound of the Baskervilles was a better book, but I liked that the novel discussed the beginnings of Watson and Holmes’ relationship. The mystery was not overly thrilling, however. I found the whole murder and investigation rather anticlimactic. The thing that amazed me about the novel was the discussion of the Mormons. After the mystery is solved, the reader gets to take part in the second half of the book which is about why the murder occurred.

Doyle lays out a scathing discussion of the Mormons. He details how they harassed and keep people in check by using threats and force. This is used to keep people from leaving the faith and to keep them maintaining principles of Mormonism. The idea of how cultish this religion seems in the book is terrifying.

Because of the second half of the book, I decided to research the Mormon reaction to A Study in Scarlet. What I discovered is that the LDS claim that after Doyle came to the United States, he regretted how he had portrayed the Mormons. Again according to them, he privately apologized to the leaders. This was noted as being the LDS’s official line on the issue. Apparently, Doyle’s daughter did say that the portrayal was probably inappropriate.

However, history does record some of the militant wings of Mormonism in the early days of the religion. They did have regulators that harassed locals and fought battles. There was a period of time in American history called the Mormon Wars in which the United States had active battles with the follows of John Smith.

Whether Doyle exaggerated the story of the Mormons in his book or it was close to real life doesn’t matter. What does matter is that story line in the second part of the book is terrifying. It is much better than the primary mystery itself.


Vic Kerry

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Filed under 19th Century, Classic

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