Conan Doyle, Detective: The True Crimes Investigated by the Creator of Sherlock Holmes

Written by Peter Costello
Review by Bethany Latham

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the legendary detective, didn’t confine his interest in criminology to the pages of his fiction. Though much has been made of Joseph Bell, one of Doyle’s medical school professors, as the real-life inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, Costello illustrates that Conan Doyle, while being part the plodding, faithful Watson, was also part Holmes—he possessed a keen intellect, deductive skills, and a passionate interest in solving crimes.

Holmes fans will enjoy reading about Doyle’s deductive exploits and searching for traces of their appearance in altered form in the Holmes stories, but there is more here—a panoramic look at crimes and criminals famous in the 19th and 20th centuries. Conan Doyle applied his theories and skill to everything from the Dreyfus Affair to Jack the Ripper to the disappearance of Agatha Christie. Costello’s tale is well-researched and written in a down-to-earth style which makes for quick reading. Since this is reality and not a detective story, Doyle is not always right, not all the cases have a pat solution, and the malefactors, even when known, are not always brought to justice. Though Holmes would find this state of affairs intolerable, it still makes for an entertaining, informative read.