I mostly love what Bert Coules, Clive Merrison, Michael Williams, and company have done with A Study in Scarlet. They’ve added so much more to the original, while staying quite true to the text; for instance, while much of the dialogue is more or less straight, the readings and chemistry between the actors yield another compelling dimension—Holmes is definitely trolling Scotland Yard and it’s an extra delight to listen to. There are additional scenes that weren’t present previously, but which add to the experience—such as a short scene at the very beginning, where Watson is wounded in the line of duty during a furious battle in Afghanistan; or the one where Beecher, Watson’s bull-pup (in this retelling, it’s a dog and neither gun nor temper), is given away to Stamford; or, a more vital scene, one where Enoch Drebber is thrown out of his lodgings for being a lecherous sot and which leads to Scotland Yard’s arrest of the wrong suspect.
There are changes as well, to tighten up the story where it was slacking (we don’t spend the equivalent of five chapters in Utah), and to account for things that weren’t accounted for originally (i.e., the timing of when Holmes sent his telegraph to Cleveland, and adding how Holmes and Watson account for Mrs. Hudson’s and the maid’s safety when doing things like baiting murder suspects to the lodgings). And, well, also for fun: the row that Holmes and Watson end up having is over the list of Holmes’ shortcomings that he didn’t burn up very cleanly (apparently the final item, that Holmes is good with the violin, was the only part that burned clean away, leaving the rest for Holmes to violently violin over).
There is one change, however, that raises even more questions: if Drebber and Stangerson were able to get hold of Hope all those years ago and even beat him up, why didn’t they just kill him as they did John Ferrier a bit later? Of course, they were terribly privileged and not overly bright, but still.
As regards for the problematic representation of Mormons, there wasn’t too much the adaptation could do to fix that while remaining true to the story, but at the very least they mitigated the worst, i.e., most of Part 2, Chapter 3 was excised.
If you’re going to experience A Study in Scarlet, then this adaptation is the way to go. I’d say the adaptation is even better than the original text, having almost none of its faults (save for some problematic misrepresentation left over), vastly improved pacing, consistent characterization with the rest of the canon, and well-played violins.
Here are even more changes that I love:
Better presence of secondary characters, in particular much more personality is bestowed upon Stamford and Mrs. Hudson. This is a necessity when you’re turning a written story into live action (radio or television), and I’m glad they took the particular opportunities they could here.
Better incorporation of the timeline of Enoch Drebber into the main skein of the storyline.
Acknowledgement of some kind of drug addiction (such as morphine) to account for Holmes’ “days in the dumps” when he barely moves.
Holmes’ delightful little exultations, both humorous and bitter by turns, and always eccentric. You really feel Watson’s pain when he starts to sing in the cab and, basically, doesn’t stop.
A Study in Scarlet is available at Amazon.co.uk in both CD and Audible download formats.