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Sherlock Holmes, A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, summary

Updated on July 14, 2017

Book Cover


The Game is Afoot

After years of reading Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it was about time I read his first story, entitled, A Study In Scarlet.

A Study In Scarlet is a story of revenge as well as a mystery or detective story. In it, we are introduced for the first time to Sherlock Holmes and to Doctor Watson, who come together, "as a means to get comfortable rooms at a reasonable price."

We are also introduced to Detective Lestrade and Tobias Gregson his rival, as well as to the Baker Street Irregulars. The Baker Street Irregulars are young hoodlum boys on the street whom Holmes refers to as "Street Arabs." These hoodlums are employed by Sherlock Holmes, from time to time, to help him solve his mysteries.

This is the first Sherlock Holmes story which I have read that follows a unique division in the plot.

The first part is the detective story where Sherlock Holmes is engaged to help solve the murder of Enoch Drebber, and then later, the murder of Joseph Strangerson. Holmes follows the clues step by step until he solves the crime through the use of deductive reasoning.

Sherlock Holmes


The second part of the story

In the second part we are taken through a very enjoyable backstory which follows the story of John Ferrier, a pioneer who's fellow travelers have all perished. He and a small girl named Lucy, the only other survivor in his party, are on the verge of death when they see another party of travelers passing by. These other travelers are Mormons. The leader of this party, Brigham Young, only agrees to rescue the two if they will adopt the religion of the Mormons, otherwise they will be left to die. Out of desperation, John Ferrier agrees, and he and Lucy, whom he raises as his own daughter, go to live with the Mormons.

When she is grown she falls in love with Jefferson Hope, who is not a Mormon. They hope to be married, but the Mormons oppose this marriage, since they will not allow any of their own to marry non Mormons. Ferrier is told that his daughter is to marry one of two Mormons who have been chosen for her. They give them thirty days to decide. Ferrier, who has only adopted the Mormon religion against his will, is against Lucy marrying either of the two because he has sworn never to let his daughter marry a Mormon.

Jefferson Hope tries to rescue both Ferrier and his daughter Lucy by helping them to escape. He leaves the two in their camp and goes off to hunt for food. When he returns he finds that Ferrier has been killed and Lucy is gone.

He finds out that she has been taken by the Mormons and forced to marry one of the two men that they had chosen for her. He swears to get vengeance on the two men.

The story is followed up to the present day where the backstory and the murders intertwine.

A Famous Hat


The Conclusion

Finally, Sherlock Holmes apprehends the murderer and claps him in handcuffs. After hearing the murderer's story, Holmes seems to sympathize with him, though still feeling that he must pay for his crime.

The murderer, however, ultimately does not have to pay for his crime while here on earth. Before he is able to go to court, while in police custody, he suffers a ruptured aneurysm in his heart and dies with a smile on his face.

Audio Book: A Study In Scarlet


To tell any more details about the story may spoil it for you. Taken altogether, the story includes a mystery, an ill-fated love story, religious persecution, a daring escape from a deadly secret society, and most importantly, the circumstances under which Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were first introduced!

Aside from being the first Sherlock Holmes story, this is also the first story in which Holmes utters his catch phrase, "The game is afoot."

I highly recommend reading A Study In Scarlet. If you like mystery stories you will not be disappointed.

Character Poll

For those who know the story, do you believe that what the man Holmes apprehended did was right or wrong?

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