E.J. Wagner,
The Science of Sherlock Holmes
(John Wiley & Sons, 2006)

Most people will agree that Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective who never lived. His cool, rational intellect, his formidable powers of observation and his encyclopedic knowledge of the sciences allow him to solve crimes that confound lesser men.

But just what were the sciences like at the time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing the Holmes stories? In The Science of Sherlock Holmes -- subtitled "From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective's Greatest Cases" -- E.J. Wagner answers that question.

Each of the book's 13 chapters tackles one discipline, from autopsies to ballistics to criminal psychology, discussing Victorian state-of-the-art criminology. Using both the Sherlock Holmes canon and famous cases of the time, Wagner shows how the science either helped or hindered the investigators.

The history and science Wagner relates are fascinating, and even non-Holmes fans will find the book enjoyable.

review by
Laurie Thayer

30 May 2009

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