The LaTimes is reporting that the Albemarle County School Board has removed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel,  “A Study in Scarlet” from their middle school reading list. The two gory murders weren’t the problem. The trouble was the way the book portrays Mormonism.

But Sherlock didn’t go down without a fight. According to the Daily Progress, 20 former middle school students came out to oppose the book’s removal from the list. One student, an upcoming ninth-grader, even said it was the best book he’s read.

You don’t have to be a world-class detective to see that the book casts Mormons in a bad light, suggesting it’s a religion whose adherents are willing to commit murder to protect their ideals. Take this passage from Chapter 3:

“The man who held out against the Church vanished away, and none knew whither he had gone or what had befallen him. His wife and his children awaited him at home, but no father ever returned to tell them how he had fared at the hands of his secret judges. A rash word or a hasty act was followed by annihilation, and yet none knew what the nature might be of this terrible power which was suspended over them.”

Although the school board agreed to pull the book from the sixth-grade curriculum, members said they might introduce it in the high school curriculum.

6 thoughts on “Virginia School District Bans Sherlock Holmes Book”

  1. What a load of malarky. I could understand it if they had a problem with his drug problems, but they have a problem with how Mormons are portrayed? WTF?!

  2. Conan Doyle's daughter has stated: "You know, father would be the first to admit that his first Sherlock Holmes novel was full of errors about the Mormons". Years after Conan Doyle's death, Levi Edgar Young, a descendant of Brigham Young and a Mormon general authority, claimed that Conan Doyle had privately apologized, saying that "He [Conan Doyle] said he had been misled by writings of the time about the Church".

  3. Even being Mormon I don't get why they would ban this book! Religions have always been misunderstood or simply used for the author's means, but I don't think it makes the book offensive: it makes it relevant to a certain point in history and the author's mindset.

  4. You know, they could have used it to talk about critical thinking, not to believe things you read because they are only the writer's opinions, discuss how someone might look at any religion to which he or she is not a member, etc. It would make a much better discussion and teach children. And yes, middle school children are old enough to have those sorts of discussions with their teachers.

    1. Yeah…it's funny that no one minds (wittingly or not) exposing kids to things like Hemingway's anti-Semitism or misogyny, while they spring into action in a case like this — or even in that particular case in which a certain publisher decided that kids weren't ready to see the "n" word used, innocuously, to evoke a certain era's cultural attitude.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.