Is it important to read 'A Study in Scarlet' before 'A Scandal in Bohemia'? I have heard that the former is the first book by Sir Arthur Connal Doyle. And it gives initial insights into the character of the protagonists. However, I found the prose of 'A Scandal in Bohemia' more appealing as per my tastes after flipping through the first few pages of a reading app. Hence, I want to pick up this book first. So, would it be a problem if I study 'A Scandal in Bohemia' before I read 'A Study in Scarlet'?

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The two stories in question are connected to the broader Sherlock Holmes reading or story continuity as follows:

  • A Study in Scarlet devotes the first two of its fourteen chapters to describing the characters of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and their backstory.

  • A Scandal in Bohemia mostly assumes that the reader is already familiar with the characters of Holmes and Watson.

  • A Scandal in Bohemia makes a few allusions to The Sign of the Four, which takes place and was published in between, but they are not considerably relevant to understanding the story.

Therefore, if you are generally familiar with the characters of Holmes and Watson as well as the general setup of Sherlock Holmes stories (which is almost impossible to avoid nowadays), having read A Study in Scarlet does not add much to A Scandal in Bohemia. As you apparently already read a bit of it without being confused, this should not be a problem at all.

Moreover, A Study in Scarlet is not your typical Sherlock Holmes story:

  • It is rather long (four times as long as A Scandal in Bohemia).

  • Five of its fourteen chapters are a complete digression in most respects, including genre. They do not feature Holmes, Watson, or Britain at all.

  • It is not completely consistent with the characterisations of Holmes in later stories. While Doyle is notorious for continuity errors, this one sticks out most.

  • Personally, I found it unnecessarily convoluted and therefore difficult to remember all relevant events and characters. I would consider it the weakest Holmes stories I read so far – despite it being one of the few mysteries to an adaption of which I have not been exposed before (which applies to almost all other stories).

Altogether, I would say that it’s perfectly fine to skip A Study in Scarlet before reading other Sherlock Holmes stories. However, consider reading only the first chapters to get a more thorough backstory of Holmes and Watson, though being aware that Doyle does not stick to some of it.

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