December 30, 2012

Review - The Scientific Sherlock Holmes (James O'Brien)

One of the most popular and widely known characters in all of fiction, Sherlock Holmes has an enduring appeal based largely on his uncanny ability to make the most remarkable deductions from the most mundane facts.
In The Scientific Sherlock Holmes, James O'Brien provides an in-depth look at Holmes's use of science in his investigations. Indeed, one reason for Holmes's appeal is his frequent use of the scientific method and the vast scientific knowledge which he drew upon to solve mysteries. For instance, in heart of the book, the author reveals that Holmes was a pioneer of forensic science, making use of fingerprinting well before Scotland Yard itself had adopted the method. One of the more appealing aspects of the book is how the author includes real-world background on topics such as handwriting analysis, describing how it was used to capture the New York Zodiac killer and to clinch the case against the Lindbergh baby kidnapper.
Sherlock Holmes continues to fascinate millions of readers and movie goers alike. The Scientific Sherlock Holmes is a must-read for the legion of fans of this most beloved of all fictional detectives.

With The Scientific Sherlock Holmes James O'Brien brought out a book for those who've been as spellbound by the fictional detective as I've ever been.
On first glance the book seems to focus on Sherlock's scientific tools of deduction, yet it also offers a substantial introduction to characters, influences, and stories themselves. On one hand I found this to be a good idea as it offers a more rounded picture, on the other hand the title is a bit misleading with its promise of a scientific emphasis. This probably makes the book more suitable for Sherlock Newbies while those who already know a fair share about Sherlock's world might skip the first part.
About two thirds of this small volume delve deeper into the world of forensic science and mostly chemistry, which Sherlock certainly knew most about. His methods are being illuminated by examples from the stories and brought in correlation with modern-day methods. Especially the discourse by Isaac Asimov, himself an avid Sherlockian, who is a notable critic of Sherlock's scientific knowledge, was quite captivating. Sadly though the two domains of fictional story and science feel cobbled together in a rather dry manner, without much care for a fluent reading experience.
All in all I am torn about this book as I found the topic itself highly fascinating, but the execution lacking. Either way, those genuinely interested in the subject should definitely give this book a try.
In short: The little book of Sherlock trivia!

3/5 Trees

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

1 comment:

  1. I think I have a similar book somewhere hiding in my TBR. I should hunt for it, was planning on a Sherlock week to mark the publication of Mastermind.