Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club

A STUDY IN SCARLET

by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

Tea, Tonic, and Toxin is a book club and podcast for anyone who loves mysteries and detective stories. We’re making our way through the 19th-century stories that helped the genre evolve. Next up: Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel, A Study in Scarlet.

 

The “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick, Watson — two of the most famous characters in English literature — make their first appearance in this tale, which forever changed the way mystery novels were written.

 

How to Read It: Buy it on Amazon, find a copy at a used bookstore, or read it for free (courtesy of Project Gutenberg).

 

Estimated Reading Time: 3 hours. Share your thoughts and check out the questions below!

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Knowledge Is Power: Sherlock Holmes is ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the solar system. “That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to me to be such an extraordinary fact,” says Watson. What does Holmes know, and how does this knowledge serve him?

 

The Brain Attic: Holmes says, “A man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.” What do you think about the brain attic?

 

The Consulting Detective: Holmes is the one and only consulting detective. Why does he prefer the consulting detective gig? Why not simply become a Scotland Yard detective or a private detective?

 

Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Holmes calls Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin an “inferior fellow. He had some analytical genius, but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine.”

 

The Dearth of Both Detectives and Criminals: Holmes says, “No man lives or has ever lived who has brought the same amount of study and of natural talent to the detection of crime which I have done. And what is the result? There is no crime to detect, or, at most, some bungling villainy with a motive so transparent that even a Scotland Yard official can see through it.”

 

Biased Judgment: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgment.” Sarah and Carolyn very much agree.

 

Story Structure: Part Two is a complete departure from Part One. An unnamed third-person narrator takes the place of John Watson. This new story starts in 1847, roughly 34 years before the events of Part One. We then catch back up with the ending of Part One and continue the present-day story. Does this structure work? Why or why not?

 

The Mormon Faith: There’s some controversy about the story told in Part Two. What’s your take on the way Mormonism is presented?

 

Reasoning Backwards: Holmes says that if you describe a train of events, most people “will tell you what the result would be. They can put those events together in their minds, and argue from them that something will come to pass. There are few people, however, who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result.” Is the ability to reason backward the key skill of the consulting detective?

 

Honor, Justice, and Credit Where Credit Is Due:

 

Jefferson Hope won’t kill in cold blood. He says, “[Drebber and Stangerson] should each have a draw out of one of these [pill]boxes, while I ate the pill that remained.”

 

Watson describes Enoch Drebber as “baboon-like.” He says, “If ever human features bespoke vice of the most malignant type, they were certainly those of Enoch J. Drebber, of Cleveland.” Nonetheless, Watson “recognized that justice must be done, and that the depravity of the victim was no condonement in the eyes of the law.”

 

Holmes asks the name of Jefferson Hope’s accomplice. Hope says, “I can tell my own secrets, but I don’t get other people into trouble.”

 

Holmes is initially reluctant to take the case because he knows Gregson and Lestrade will take the credit. At the end, Watson tells Holmes, “Your merits should be publicly recognized. You should publish an account of the case. If you won’t, I will for you.”

ABOUT TEA, TONIC & TOXIN

Tea, Tonic, and Toxin is a book club and podcast for people who love mysteries, thrillers, introspection, and good conversation. Each month, your hosts, Sarah Harrison and Carolyn Daughters, will discuss a game-changing mystery or thriller from the 19th and 20th centuries. Together, we’ll see firsthand how the genre evolved.

 

Along the way, we’ll entertain ideas, prospects, theories, doubts, and grudges, along with the occasional guest. And we hope to entertain you, dear friend. We want you to experience the joys of reading some of the best mysteries and thrillers ever written.

Tea, Tonic, and Toxin Book Club and Podcast - Mysteries and Thrillers

TEASERS & TIDBITS

YOUR HOSTS

Sarah Harrison - Host of Tea Tonic and Toxin (Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club)

SARAH HARRISON

HOST

Sarah loves getting to the bottom of any mystery having to do with life, love, work, play, personality, or process dysfunction.

Carolyn Daughters - Hot of Tea Tonic and Toxin (Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club))

CAROLYN DAUGHTERS

Host

Carolyn has loved mysteries ever since she and her sister started the highly successful CarMich Detective Agency when they were kids.

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