A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle was the first work of fiction featuring the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. During the novel length story, Sherlock Holmes meets Dr Watson for the first time, and to Watson’s surprise he is soon caught up in a world of criminality and murder. The investigation of a murder takes the two from the foggy gas-lit streets of London to a story that was born on the plains of Utah, and embroils them in the affairs Mormons as well as the street arabs of the ‘Baker Street Irregulars’.
The title of A Study in Scarlet comes from a speech Sherlock Holmes gives to Dr. Watson: “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.”
A Study in Scarlet, and its main character, Sherlock Holmes, attracted little public interest when it first appeared. Only 11 complete copies of Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1887, in which it was published, are known to exist now and they have considerable value. Although Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet is one of only four full-length novels in the original canon. The novel was followed by The Sign of Four, published in 1890.
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